Beno Udrih is a ribs and potatoes man, a man who speaks three languages and has no kids other than the chocolate lab that counts as a family member.
Speaking of which, the doggie delay is what put us back a bit for our dinner/interview on Sunday night at Chris Webber's "Center Court" restaurant. His pup didn't do so well on the plane ride from San Antonio to Sacramento on Saturday night, and Udrih had to run home after practice to check on his pet. Finally, though, we sat for what was a fascinating chat with a guy who so many fans have been asking about.
Here's the emptied notebook from today's piece for you Kings fans who want to get know him a little better...
* What Beno calls style, Brad calls something else. Kings center Brad Miller has been giving Udrih a hard time about his fashion, and his ridiculing became public on Sunday.
"He's a typical, goofy European with tight pants, tight clothes - pretty standard," Miller said with a laugh.
A metrosexual, one might say?
"Definitely a metrosexual," Miller said. "He has the nice accent. He's telling us, 'This team was loaded with lots of Europeans before (in the days of Peja Stojakovic, Hedo Turkoglu etc.), so everybody knows what's going on."
And who said Beno couldn't play defense? He did just fine defending himself against Miller.
"I told (the guys who give him a hard time), 'Don't be jealous that you can't wear these pants," Udrih said. "I mean, where I come from is close to Italy, where there's so much fashion. Something comes out (in the fashion world) here like it's brand new, and we had it a year before."
On the serious side, the two teammates have been talking nonstop since Udrih signed in late October and hope to hone in on the two-man game that made Miller and Mike Bibby so dangerous.
* Beno is the curious sort, which is a good thing in any profession.
At the moment, his curiosity stems from his past experiences in San Antonio and his current situation in Sacramento. He has been asking all sorts of questions during Kings practices, trying to understand the nuances of coach Reggie Theus' system (mostly the defensive material) to see if he can add anything from what he knows of the Spurs. Theus has said his defense is fashioned after the Spurs and a few other elite teams, and Udrih would obviously know a thing or two about that.
"He asks a lot of questions - some warranted, some not," Theus said. "But he has a definite thought process going on....I think that he has a lot of good thoughts about how he sees the floor, what he sees that will help him.
"He's got to pick and choose a little better time to ask questions. He's slowing practice down. It's like, 'OK, we'll talk after practice.'"
Overall, Theus said he envisions Udrih doing nothing but improving from here on out.
"He's not played his best basketball yet," Theus said. "He's a few weeks from playing his best basketball. He's probably not in tip-top shape yet. Emotionally, he's getting better. Physically, he's a little banged up."
I asked Theus to explain his comment about Udrih's emotions.
"I think when you've been sitting a long time, when you're in a bad situation for you, when the coach (that being San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich) has had his thumb on you, and all of a sudden you get a chance to play, it takes time to get past that and for you to be comfortable," Theus said.
The player and the coach have agreed that Udrih has been somewhat safe with his decision making thus far, so look for Udrih to get a bit more creative in the games to come.
* NBA Finals 2005 - Anyone within and around the Spurs organization knows that the beginning of the end for Udrih in San Antonio came against the Pistons in those Finals.
He struggled against Larry Brown-issued double-teams in Game 4 (with all of the pressure plays involving a relentless Lindsey Hunter), and was benched for Games 5, 6, and 7. What Udrih said he never talked about was that he wasn't physically right even before the Finals began. The day before Game 1, he was defending Manu Ginobili in practice. Manu went up for an alley-oop thrown by Tony Parker. Udrih jumped, but had his legs knocked toward the ceiling as he fell square on his back on the floor. He said the back bruise remained until the end of the Finals, and described it as an orange and yellow mark that went from his lower back to his tailbone.
"I couldn't walk the next day, and I was still playing," Udrih said. "My steps were shortened like three feet. I was running like a mouse instead of taking long steps. That bothered me a lot."
Much was made of one particular turnover (Read "Play of the Game"), and Udrih still insists a whistle should've been blown.
"I saw that (situation) differently than (Popovich) did," Udrih said. "I saw it like - I lost one ball in Detroit, got double-teamed. And not that I'm trying to make an excuse, but I did get fouled. I got hit in the face and the arm. I lose the ball, they laid it in."
* Speaking of "Pop," he predicts good things for Udrih in the future.
"We've always maintained that he was one of our very best shooters and one of our very best passers," Popovich said. "I really believe that he's going to have a really good NBA career, and I hope it's in Sacramento. He's a very talented young man, very intelligent, and we hope for the best for him."
"He's a very willing passer, a clever passer, and he really understands the game. He's a natural at the position."