CHICAGO — In describing the desire to win that he hopes to bring to a NBA team, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist called on Kentucky reporters to become character witnesses.
"I just hate losing," he said to a throng of reporters at the NBA Combine Thursday. Then Kidd-Gilchrist pointed to several familiar faces and added, "Why don't you ask these guys? Ask those guys from Kentucky. They know."
Yes, Kentuckians on and off press row know how intently Kidd-Gilchrist competes. In his one UK season, he breathed life into one of Coach John Calipari's pet phrases: Will to win.
That label stuck to Kidd-Gilchrist as he and 60 other prime prospects for the June 28 NBA Draft met with pro teams and reporters this week in what the league calls its combine.
As Chad Ford of ESPN noted, Kidd-Gilchrist won a high school state championship as a sophomore, a gold medal as part of a USA team the next year, and then provided much heart to the recent Kentucky national championship season.
"Michael is a flat-out winner," Calipari told Ford earlier this month. "Not because he's one of the nation's best scorers, but because of his intangibles, intensity and passion."
Yet, the talk of intangibles can irritate, especially when NBA Draft analysts such as Ford throw out the question of whether a team can use one of the first picks on a player not perceived as a big scorer or rebounder.
When asked about the focus on intangibles (and the implied questions about tangibles like shooting and ball-handling), Kidd-Gilchrist said, "Good to know at times."
Of his reputation for bringing intangibles to a team, Kidd-Gilchrist said, "I love being me."
Clearly, there's a limit to the appeal of intangibles.
"But I like to shoot the basketball," he added. "I have something to prove, I think. I have something to prove to everybody next year, so that's what I'm going to do."
Among the teams that have interviewed Kidd-Gilchrist are the Charlotte Bobcats, who have the unenviable — and highly second-guessable — task of picking the second player in the draft. The first pick seems one of the most obvious in recent years: Kidd-Gilchrist's UK teammate Anthony Davis.
"It went well," Kidd-Gilchrist said of speaking to the Hornets. "I like the organization there. It went well. I like it a lot."
Interestingly, Kidd-Gilchrist cited one of basketball's most famous second bananas when asked about a role model.
"I like (Scottie) Pippen," he said of Michael Jordan's junior partner with the Chicago Bulls' championship run. "I like Pippen's game a lot. That's old school.
"I'm only 18," he added. "That's old school to me. No offense."
Kidd-Gilchrist acknowledged that NBA teams asked about his age.
"I'm not worried about it, actually," he said. "I'm not worried about my age at all."
Nor is Kidd-Gilchrist concerned about going to, say, Charlotte, which set a record for poorest winning percentage in NBA history this past season.
How might the prospect of an avalanche of losses play on Kidd-Gilchrist's mind.
"I'll make it work if I go there," he said. "I'll make it happen."
That said, Kidd-Gilchrist acknowledged how losing most games might be troubling.
"I might cry some nights," he said. "But it is what it is at this point."
Kidd-Gilchrist, a 6-foot-7 wing with a wingspan measured at 6-11, averaged 11.9 points for Kentucky. He made only 25 percent of his three-point attempts. He's worn the defender label well the past few years, but he averaged just one block and one steal per game at Kentucky.
Asked about his shooting ability, Kidd-Gilchrist said, "Oh, it's there. It's there. I'm working on it each and every day. It's definitely there. Trust me."
Ford reported earlier this week that Kidd-Gilchrist made 85 percent of his shots in a recent workout for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Perceptions aside, Kidd-Gilchrist pooh-poohed the notion that he's in some kind of competition with Davis to be the first player taken in this year's NBA Draft.
"I just want to be picked, to be honest with you all," he told reporters. "One, two, 10, 11, 30. It doesn't matter to me. I just want to get picked."
One other thing.
"I want to win games," he said. "That's what I'm all about."