Former University of Kentucky stars Anthony Davis and Darius Miller will get another chance to play in front of the state's fans when the New Orleans Pelicans face the Miami Heat at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night in the KFC Yum Center in Louisville. It is the NBA's preseason opener.
The Pelicans played an exhibition game in Rupp Arena last season, but Miller missed out because he was sidelined with a foot injury. The former Mason County star is eager to play in front of family and friends.
"Those are the people who support me," Miller said in a report on the team's website. "Just getting a chance to see them, it's always exciting. I get to play in front of my family. I don't get to do that too often, so I'm really excited about it."
This year's crowd might favor one of Davis and Miller's teammates a bit more. Former University of Louisville star Russ Smith signed as a rookie free agent by the Pelicans during the offseason. Miller wondered just how much the Louisville fans will embrace the former UK stars.
"Hopefully (they see me as) just (a) Kentucky (native)," Miller said, grinning. "I'm not sure. Hopefully just a Kentucky guy. Hopefully I don't get booed or nothing like that."
Miller expects a lively crowd for the game.
"They really love basketball in the state of Kentucky and they don't really have a pro team, so when they get opportunities like that, it's always a good atmosphere, a good crowd to play in," Miller said. "I think all of the guys will enjoy it. It's like that everywhere in Kentucky. They love basketball. They will definitely come out and support you. The just enjoy watching."
A sellout crowd of more than 20,000 is expected.
"Two Wildcats and a Cardinal on the same team," Davis said. "I think it will be cool. I know everybody is going to come down and support us — all the guys from Lexington and UK and even the fans of Louisville. It's always fun to go back to the state where you've played college basketball."
Davis said he has joked around with Smith about the UK-Louisville rivalry, including reminding him that Kentucky has won eight national championships compared to Louisville's three.
"I mean the facts are there, so he gets mad, but it's all fun and games," Davis told The Times Picayune newspaper.
■ Smith is wearing No. 9 for the Pelicans, a nod to former UK point guard Rajon Rondo, WDRB-TV in Louisville reported.
"I got a chance to know Rajon and follow him my sophomore year. I'm a big fan of his game. When Coach (Rick Pitino) asked me to watch film of point guards, he was one of the first people that I watched, along with Steve Nash, to help me prepare for my senior season. ...
"The summer before my senior year, he helped me out a lot when he was around. I always asked him questions and he was always cool about it."