During a chat earlier today with the father of Kings second-round draft pick Patrick Ewing, Jr., I got a kick out of teasing Patrick Ewing - the Hall of Fame center - about the fact that his son is a much more engaging interview than he ever was during his early years in the league. Ewing, who is a delightful man, immediately cracked up ... and wholeheartedly agreed. For the longest time, he was just very uncomfortable conducting interviews in anything other than small, informal media gatherings.
That all seemed to change, though, during his travels with the original Dream Team in 1992. He became increasingly less guarded, and began to open up around everyone, colleagues, coaches and media members alike. Not that he had much choice. He was surrounded by quipsters and pranksters, foremost among them Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Karl Malone, and often the target of the verbal darts because of his easy nature and playful, gentle spirit.
Covering that team for the Atlanta Constitution during that summer of 1992 was a blast. Though we all cranked out the copy, it never felt like work. The training camp was held in La Jolla, the qualifying tournament in Portland, followed by another week-long training session in Monte Carlo before heading to the Games in Barcelona. Only about six or seven American journalists (mostly longtime NBA scribes) accompanied the team for the duration, and in Monte Carlo, we all stayed at the same swanky seaside hotel. The access there was absolutely incredible. You were always bumping into the players or coaches in the lobby, in the restaurants, in the bars, in the casino ...
If Bird wasn't grousing about the $8 cost of a beer, Barkley was regaling us with stories about dinner with Prince Rainier and Prince Albert, or longtime friends Ewing and Chris Mullin were working out in the fitness center or sitting by the pool. Once, while strolling through the casino to people watch - I grew up in Las Vegas and hate gambling - I happened upon Karl Malone. He admitted to being overwhelmed by the sudden attention and said that, basically, for the first time in his NBA career, he was starting to receive numerous endorsement opportunities.
While Ewing and I were reminiscing Saturday about the good time of '92, I was reminded that I actually met his son - who must have been about eight years old - at the pool in Monte Carlo. I also shared a shuttle with Patrick's nephew, Tony, from the Nice airport to the hotel.
"Now I'm starting to feel old," Ewing chuckled.
Like several of his former Olympic teammates, he confessed, he is also on a diet.
Great expectations ...
While Kings officials think Ewing, Jr., the later of their two second-round selections, could make the roster as a defensive specialist, they seem even higher on point guard Sean Singletary, who was drafted one spot earlier. Among other things, he has huge hands, a la John Stockton.
Further evidence that Ewing is an exceedingly loyal guy. His son is represented by David Falk, the agent the former Knicks star (and No.1 overall draft choice in 1984) made famous.