The Playbook Q&A: Top NBA prospects
June, 28, 2012
By Nick Creegan | ESPN.com
ESPN.com IllustrationFrom left, Tyler Zeller, Austin Rivers, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Thomas Robinson and Harrison Barnes.The top prospects in Thursday's NBA draft carry a lot of pressure.
They've waited and wondered: Where they will be drafted? How will they prove themselves? Do they have what it takes to be the next star?
Aside from the athleticism they share, they all have different interests, memories and senses of humor.
Five of the projected top 11 draft picks were in New York on Wednesday to talk about what it’s like being in their situation, which is deeper than their college stats could show.
Playbook eased that pressure, talking to Thomas Robinson, Harrison Barnes, Austin Rivers, Tyler Zeller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist about important issues such as their video game ratings, their pregame music and what they'll buy with that contract money:
What are you going to miss most about playing in college?
Thomas Robinson: The games for sure. The intensity of the games were always high, especially the big Monday night games.
Harrison Barnes: The free meals. Getting those five-star meals four times a day on the road. I don’t know if I’ll be getting that at the NBA level.
Austin Rivers: I guess that whole spirit thing, with the crowds into it, the tailgating, people just into it each day. Those are the little things you take advantage of in college because you’re used to it, but that’s stuff that really doesn’t happen at the next level.
Tyler Zeller: Probably just the college atmosphere. You get to be in class with the people who just watched you play last night, which was cool. So I’ll miss that.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: The atmosphere of it. The fan base and my teammates. Stuff like that.
What are you most looking forward to in the NBA?
Robinson: To get to test my skills against some of the best players in the world.
Barnes: Having 82 games, being able to play all the time. Your body will get tired, but it’s something you love to do.
Rivers: Playing at the highest level and getting to compete against the best in the world. Being able to go in and get better by playing against those guys is going to be fun.
Zeller: Just going to all the different cities, being able to play in a huge atmosphere and then playing against the world’s best players. It’s going to be a huge challenge, but I look forward to it.
Kidd-Gilchrist: I don’t really know yet. I don’t know if I’m looking forward to it.
What was the craziest moment you shared with a fan?
Robinson: That’s tough, man. I really can’t pick one. I was at Kansas, so pretty much all our fans are great, and I’ve seen so many crazy things that I couldn’t believe happened. But you know, our fans are the best out there.
Barnes: A woman asked me to sign her chest. I couldn’t do it, though. It was inappropriate, and the setting I was in was not the place.
Rivers: The craziest stuff is when people would come to the games wearing your jersey, they have the sleeve on and they have all types of signs and the Fatheads. That stuff has always been cool, so when they did that at Duke, it was pretty cool.
Zeller: Actually, there was a guy yesterday who followed me for six blocks trying to get my autograph. He was kind of creepy, but at the same time, he was very dedicated.
Kidd-Gilchrist: I was at a mall, and fans followed me into every store.
Who was your role model growing up?
Robinson: My AAU coach [Dwight Redd]. The fact that he made it, and we’re from the same area. He came back to help kids out, so I look up to him for doing that.
Barnes: Michael Jordan. Just the way he approached the game, prepared for the game and obviously the way he played. Those are pretty big footsteps to follow, but I definitely look at the blueprint he made and continue to push myself and get better.
Rivers: My dad [Celtics coach Doc Rivers] and my older brother [Jeremiah Rivers, who plays basketball overseas]. My older brother’s work ethic was crazy, so it showed me what it would take for me to get here. My dad, because he’s done everything I want to do and more. The biggest is my mom, though. My dad wouldn’t be where he is, and I know I wouldn’t be, either. She’s great.
Zeller: I loved watching Tim Duncan play, but my parents [Lorri and Steve Zeller] did a great job raising me, so they’re the two people I look up to.
Kidd-Gilchrist: My mom [Cindy Richardson]. She’s my biggest fan in life.
What's your go-to pregame music?
Robinson: MMG [Maybach Music Group]. Rick Ross ... yeah.
Barnes: [Lil] Wayne. Old Wayne, though; not that new stuff. I like "Tha Carter II," "Da Drought 2" but not that “I’m Not a Human Being” stuff.
Rivers: I listen to anything that pumps me up. Right now it’s Meek Mill and Drake. They get me going and put me in basketball mode.
Zeller: I listen to Drake, but I also like Christian rap.
Kidd-Gilchrist: Anything with Drake on it.
What will be your first purchase after you get your pro contract?
Robinson: Probably find a place to live.
Barnes: Probably take care of my mom and sister. My mom’s favorite car is a Jaguar.
Rivers: Somewhere to live. Maybe a nice condo. Just a good place for me and my friends and family to live at.
Zeller: Probably an apartment where I’m going to live and then help my parents in some way.
Kidd-Gilchrist: Food. Nah, I’m joking. I’m not sure yet.
Who is your current celebrity crush?
Robinson: Teyana Taylor and Rihanna.
Barnes: Hayden Panettiere.
Rivers: I’m trying to think of her name. I saw her the other day and was like daaaamn. It’s Victoria Justice. Oh my God … the one.
Zeller: I don’t know if I have one. I don’t pay attention to celebrities, so I don’t think I can help on that one.
Kidd-Gilchrist: Rihanna. I keep seeing her pictures on billboards everywhere. She’s bad.
Where will your next vacation be?
Robinson: Somewhere out of this country.
Barnes: I’m not sure yet. I might take my family out to Los Angeles or overseas. They need to get their passports first.
Rivers: Maybe Miami or the Bahamas. Somewhere like that and just go relax.
Zeller: Probably Bahamas since I’ve never been there.
Kidd-Gilchrist: I think Miami. I’ve never been there, so that’s the next stop.
What are you doing when you're not playing basketball?
Robinson: If I’m not playing ball, I’m usually chillin’ with my friends or at the mall.
Barnes: Taking long walks on the beach with the sand going through my hair on a jet ski.
Rivers: Hanging out with my friends and family.
Zeller: I love to watch movies. My favorites are the action movies and the suspense ones with a twist at the end.
Kidd-Gilchrist: Eating, shopping. I’m like a little kid man, so I like playing video games, too.
Who will be this year's NBA Rookie of the Year?
Barnes: Whoever has the best season.
Rivers: That’s a good question. It’s going to be tough, you know? I’m just going in there trying to win, work hard and get better, so if I do all those, I should have a good chance in getting rookie of the year.
Zeller: I hope it will be me, but we’ll see what happens. It all depends on your situation and how good your team is.
Kidd-Gilchrist: I’m hoping it’s myself.
What is something even your biggest fans don't know about you?
Robinson: That’s kind of hard. I was about to say the junk food thing, but I post pictures on Twitter of all that, so they already know. I would have to say I’m pretty funny. I’d like to say I’m pretty funny.
Barnes: I love brownies.
Rivers: I love music. I follow like every new song to see if I like it. I listen to pop, R&B, rap. I listen to everything from Adele to Jay-Z. And I love cars too.
Zeller: I used to play the piano when I was a little kid.
Kidd-Gilchrist: I like artwork. I’m into that.
What do you think your rating will be in "NBA 2K13"?
Robinson: I want to push for mid-70s or close to 80.
Barnes: If they put me at a 60 … 62, I would be happy with that because some starters are a 62. And if they give me some good bounce, I would be happy with that.
Rivers: Well, I just went out to San Francisco for the 2K thing, so considering I did that … I hope it’s a good rating. I’m aiming for high 70s and then work my way up.
Zeller: I actually don’t play it, so I don’t know what a good rating is. Let's say 70.
Kidd-Gilchrist: Probably like 85.
What fashion statement do you plan to make at your first postgame news conference?
Robinson: Oh, I’m staying sharp. I don’t know, but I’ll be sharp.
Barnes: I’m going to keep it conservative. I’m not going to go over the top with a white suit and bowtie or anything like that. Just going to keep a clean look.
Rivers: Well, we know Anthony has the unibrow. My goal is to just always stay sharp. I don’t want to try to hard, so I’m just going to stick to my fashion sense and stay sharp.
Zeller: I don’t think I’m making any fashion statements. Westbrook is too over the top for me. You’ll never see me in that. I might have a pair of sunglasses, but that’s as far as I’ll go.
Kidd-Gilchrist: My watch. Probably get myself a gold Rolex.