Wall, Davis return to Rupp Arena for NBA preseason game



By Boyd C. M. Hayes | Assistant sports editor

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A day after celebrating the beginning of college basketball season at Big Blue Madness, Cats fans were given a chance to celebrate former UK stars in an NBA preseason matchup between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Washington Wizards on Saturday at Rupp Arena.

John Wall’s Wizards faced off against Anthony Davis’ Pelicans, and New Orleans emerged victorious, 93-89. The game played out in front of 14,980 fans as Wall lost his first game in Rupp Arena.

“It was my first time losing on that court, so that doesn’t feel great,” Wall said. “But it was just exciting to get out there and see those fans and Big Blue Nation and have an opportunity to see (Big Blue Madness).”

Davis also appreciated the opportunity to return to Lexington.

“I would love to come back here and play again,” he said. “This state and this school did a lot for us, so to come back and sign autographs and play a game in front of them means a lot to us and them. I would love to come back next year or the year after.”

In a game full of lead changes, Wall registered a double-double with 16 points and 11 assists, while Davis also chalked up 16 points, adding four rebounds and two blocks.

Davis’ second block was made in the closing minutes of the game to preserve the Pelicans’ lead.

“It was a great block by Anthony. It’s nice if you can keep it inbounds,” Wall said. “Most guys block out of bounds, but he kept it inbounds.”

The block was reminiscent of Davis’ game-saving swat against the University of North Carolina at UK on Dec. 3, 2011.

Davis, however, said he wasn’t thinking about the past during the game.

“You can’t think about college. You got to think about the NBA and that game that we’re playing right then and there. I wasn’t out there thinking about what happened at North Carolina. That’s not what was going through my head,” he said. “We still had to knock down free-throws, and we ended up turning the ball over after that, and we still had to come back and get another stop, so I was just focused on the game.”

Though Davis’ second block may have had the biggest impact on the game, it was his first that elicited the largest crowd response. He got a hand on the ball as Wall was going up for a fast-break dunk, bringing the crowd to its feet.

“I thought I was going to get a foul, but it didn’t work,” Wall said. “I was trying to go off of one foot, but I was too tired. I didn’t know he was going to come block it.”

Another moment of excitement for the fans was the introduction  of New Orleans guard and former UK star Darius Miller by the public address announcer. Miller did not play due to injury.

Miller, Wall and Davis were all present at Big Blue Madness on Friday. The former Cats looked on as this season’s UK team commenced its first intrasquad scrimmage of the season.

Davis and Wall have high hopes for UK head coach John Calipari’s team this season.

“They’re going to be great if they play together and share the ball and want to play for each other,” Davis said. “(They must) put their egos aside and realize that if everybody plays hard and plays together and they win, then everybody benefits. I’m pretty sure Coach Cal’s going to tell them that and stress that to them.”

“I think they’re very exciting, especially with those two twins. I really like Julius Randle, and James Young can really score the ball,” Wall added. “If they all buy in, I think they have a great chance to win it.”