CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Hornets are gambling Kelly Tripucka can return to All-Star form, and the seven-year pro from Notre Dame says he is anxious to play after two years of 'sore buns' from riding the bench at Utah.
Tripucka was traded to the Hornets Thursday after the NBA expansion club drafted Mike Brown of Chicago and dealt him to Utah.
Tripucka, 29, said he was 'thrilled' and 'delighted' with the chance for a fresh start.
His eagerness may have much to do with Utah as Charlotte. As soon as he was traded to the Jazz two seasons ago, Tripucka and Jazz Coach Frank Layden were involved in a personality conflict. He spent most of the time on the bench.
The 6-foot-6 guard-forward was driving near his offseason home in Roseland, N.J, when he heard the announcer on a New York all-sports station say the Hornets had obtained him in the draft.
'When I got home the coach of the Utah Jazz called,' Tripucka said. 'What's his name? Layden, oh, yeah. He told me what happened, I said thank you and goodbye.'
Tripucka admits the sour relationship and slim playing time have left him bitter.
'Nothing happened at Utah,' Tripucka said. 'I got sore buns for two years at Utah after five great years in the NBA. It's been very frustrating. For two years I kept my mouth shut and took abuse and never found out why. It got worse and worse.
'I'm very happy to be going where I'm going. Now I'm just looking forward to playing. It sends chills up and down my spine even thinking about playing 40 minutes a game again. I hope I can be my old self again.'
Tripucka began his NBA career with the Detroit Pistons in the 1981-1982 season. He averaged 21.6 points as a rookie, then had his professional high of 26.5 the next season. He was selected as an All-Star in 1982 and 1984.
His 20-point average the last season with the Pistons dropped in half his first season at Utah.
Tripucka expects the fresh start and more playing time will restore confidence in his game.
'I had lost some of the ability because of inactivity and not playing in game situations,' he said. 'It affects your confidence. But I'm not afraid to believe it will all come back.
'Of course we're not going to win the NBA championship next year, but I can provide some leadership and direction. I think I can instill that in the rest of the team. It can be a lot of fun for the team and the city.'
Tripucka's salary is reportedly $971,000 a year, but the Charlotte Observer reported the Hornets are not picking up all of it, leaving part of it on the payroll of the Jazz.