I'm still a rookie at this, so this is another fly-on-the-wall type of write-up. Eventually we'll reach a point where I'm doing some cool interviews left and right, but for now I'm just soaking it all in (and trying not to get lost from locker room to locker room). Baby steps.
This was my second time. My first time was a win -- I guess I'm now a good luck charm and they'll have to keep having me back, haha! -- last year against the Los Angeles Clippers where I described what it was like to have a media credential.
I happened to arrive right after Ric Bucher strolled into the arena. As I stopped to show my id, it seemed all he had to do was merely make eye contact with the security guard and he was clear. Soon thereafter I lost sight of him and, once again, got lost in the bowels of The Oracle. One of the ushers pointed me in the right direction to the Press Room, where Coach Mark Jackson would give his pre-game interview. Owner Joe Lacob, his lady, and some friends and family walked by.
Sure enough, there was Michael Wilbon to greet the rookie NBA head coach. They were clearly buddy-buddy and shared a joke or two before Jackson sat down at the podium. The questions were pretty standard fare.
I actually use Twitter as a note-taking device, but the cell reception in The Oracle's annals is spotty, so I don't remember anything profound from the conference. Later, as I would tweet, the Warriors staff would provide a one-page hard-copy overview of the interview, and the most notable point was that with smaller lineups such as those seen in the Clipper loss last night, Jackson would "pick and choose...I wouldn't do this against LaMarcus Aldridge or Pau Gasol." The SF Chronicle's Rusty Simmons also asked about Brandon Rush's increase in minutes and the corresponding decrease in Dorell Wright's, but Jackson said it was a non-issue, praising both Rush's and Wright's contributions.
After that, we were told that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau would be giving his pregame interview within a few minutes. Yet, I saw Tim Kawakami head to the Warriors locker room, so I followed him and we waited around for several minutes while nothing was happening with any Warriors. So I decided to go check out the Thibs conference.
I had some trouble finding the visitors' locker room, but figured out that you had to go all the way to the court then through the center tunnel around to the back.
When I got there, there was a small crowd of reporters, including Wilbon, Bucher, ESPNChicago, Chicago's CSN affiliate, and Warriors.com staff. I think I was probably the only blogger there. Thibs was pretty even keel like he always is, and wasn't wearing his jacket or tie yet, indicative of the casual approach prior to the game. There was some light talk about the Bulls' slow start against the Lakers and last year's disappointing performance here at The Oracle, but as you'll see later and especially with hometown beatwriters, media these days generally don't get too scathing, not that there was anything controversial to talk about.
It's starting to get cliche, but Thibs once again mentioned how much of a leader-by-example Derrick Rose has become.
When I got into the locker room, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson were doing some stretching, as Kyle Korver walked by presumably on his way to the court to shoot around, but people started congregating around Luol Deng. Meanwhile, Warriors beatwriter Marcus Thompson said hello to and chatted with CJ Watson. I didn't see Matt Steinmetz or Simmons, as they were probably in the Warriors locker room.
This can be said of most players these days, but what a class act. Deng was very accommodating, especially to the younger and seemingly more passionate CSN reporter, who simultaneously videotaped things on a Flipcam. One of the more interesting things Deng mentioned was that instead of the Bulls being the team looking up to catch opponents, they'd become the hunted, a role reversal he certainly didn't mind having. However, he humbly added that with the NBA's elite, they're still the ones looking up.
Eventually one of the Chicago press asked him about his hair and how that has affected how opponents have approached defending him. Rather than mock the silliness of the question, he joked politely.
I was hoping Rose would come out, but that never happened. Instead, Brian Scalabrine stomped by, in a sweaty grey Bulls practice t-shirt. My guess is, he had just finished some intense pregame ritual during shootaround. With the inevitable post-game responsibilities to answer the media, it was understandable that Rose might want to avoid pre-game distractions. Pretty soon one of the Bulls team reps said, "That's probably it," and with my tummy giving me hunger pains, I headed back to the media room for some grub.
There, I had another fun talk at the dinner table with someone random: legendary Chronicle and then Examiner writer Art Spander, who has been a sportswriter for over fifty (50!) years. Just as his Wikipedia reads, we talked about his graduating from UCLA in 1960, the same time Jerry West graduated.
Spander would soon work for the Santa Monica Outlook and said that they'd pay him five extra dollars to drive in a bit more and cover the fledgling Los Angeles Lakers. At the time, only 5,000 or so people attended the games at the LA Sports Arena and the NBA was "a new sport". So, anyways, yeah, Spander has known West for, like, five decades.
I asked what kind of players West and Elgin Baylor were. Spander played basketball in high school, so he was able to give me an analytical response.
He said Baylor was a graceful player, albeit in an era that was played mostly below the rim. Spander commented how "players these days fly around in the air". Now, "graceful" to me means Michael Jordan (please go watch young pre-first-retirement Jordan on YouTube and see for yourself) and maybe Kobe Bryant has flashes, but I'd be hard-pressed to classify any player I've seen since MJ as truly graceful. So I had to challenge Spander on that.
He admitted that Baylor was more herky-jerky in that he had this really effective neck-and-shoulder fake. Spander had it down to a T.
As for West, he said that two-guards back in the day had to do everything because there really weren''t any point guards as we know of today. Shooting guards not only had to shoot, but also dribble and pass. Not to mention, there was no three-point line, so positions were less specialized.
I asked Spander which player today most resembles West. You know what he said? Derrick Rose.
By this time, we were close to tipoff and hurried off to our places at Press Row. Along the way, I bumped into rookie NBA referee Tre Maddox, who has reffed some of my Dream League tournaments in Vegas. He made the show, folks. Full-time salaried referee, baby. He promised me an interview this summer about his path to the NBA.
I was sitting next to the Warriors.com guys, who are journalists by trade, but surely do a lot of HTML coding to make sure your favorite NBA team website is up-to-date with the latest and greatest. Oh, and twitter too, of course, with the @Warriors account.
There were also three reporters from a Turkish television station. Apparently they are based in Northern California and do an occasional show on all the players in all sports in the United States who are from Turkey. There are currently 5 or 6 Turks in the NBA. So obviously they were here to report on Omer Asik (pronounced Ah-sheek).
While the Warriors were building their big lead on the Bulls, I got to chatting about professional basketball in Turkey and how their success with that has directly correlated into their success with the national team. Their league has twenty-two teams! If you've ever studied some of the pro leagues from other countries, you know that sustaining 22 teams, especially in a country that's not really that big, is pretty impressive.
Each major city has about two teams that are "club teams", meaning that each is backed by a sports organization that has, among others, a soccer (#1, of course) and a basketball squad (other sports might include wrestling, for example). There's league revenue sharing and each club has its own television contract. Usually the soccer and basketball teams are profitable.
One thing I noticed while going off on tangents with the Warriors.com crew and the Turkish TV reporters was, in soaking everything in, and being inside the zoo otherwise known as The Oracle, it was very difficult to give full attention and focus on the game itself. The Turk reporter I spoke with had visited quite a few NBA arenas and said that The Oracle easily had the wildest crowd.
Here are some of the very general observations I mentioned on Twitter:
- Bulls fans were out in full force, including the red jackets.
- The Warriors are still playing a helter-skelter offense and the Bulls were not ready for this helter-skelter style.
- Rose was deferring too much in the first half.
- The Warriors were hustling on defense and coercing the Bulls to play a freelance style too.
- Kwame Brown channeled his inner Larry Smith (oh my, if this could just happen all year?!).
- Jackson seemed to have the Warriors switching effectively on the Bulls' baseline off-ball movement.
- Jackson's timeouts were called at opportune moments.
- The crowd's buzzing concern with Stephen Curry's ankle re-roll. And it looked pretty bad at the time.
- Thibs took out Joakim Noah in favor of Taj Gibson to close things out. Bad choice.
- Monta Ellis driving left side then baseline on Rose -- in the NBA as a defender you force penetrators baseline, which btw is the opposite of what you're supposed to be taught in high school -- who expected help from Gibson but never got it as Monta converted a nice finger roll.
After the game, I figured it would be way more interesting to go to the Bulls locker room, considering all the Warriors would be on Cloud Nine of sorts after that thrilling victory and probably have nothing terribly profound to say. Sure enough, outside the doors, Thibs was ultra-somber and we could barely hear what he was saying.
Everyone was really respectful of the mood after a loss, as I found the reporters speaking in a very low tone, as you would expect. But if I'm speaking frankly, it was all kind of really over the top. Thibs kept things pretty basic, just repeating the bad defense and lack of scoring. Then when everyone was done, Wilbon and Bucher stuck around to ask their own questions. Wilbon suggested that the loss was probably a good thing for the bigger picture.
Inside, you could find the small group of reporters had gathered around a very upset-looking Joakim Noah, who quietly said, "That was bull****" and "f***ing frustrating". I can imagine. I literally know the feeling from high school and rec league when you're on the bench late and, for some reason and probably without explanation, you're sitting on the bench while the guy who replaced you (Gibson in this case) is screwing up.
But everyone was really waiting to talk to D.Rose. After he got dressed, the small crowd formed around him. As you would expect, he was very ultra-mature about the loss and certainly showed less frustration than Noah had -- that's just how D.Rose is. After everyone was done asking the requisite questions for their recaps, Wilbon gave him some words of encouragement and it looked like Rose was really taking them to heart.
That's what I meant when I tweeted that Wilbon is THE MAN at the arena. I saw Wilbon a lot and he was greeted warmly at every step of the way, from minimum wage usher to mega-million superstar athlete.
I even got my chance to ask Rose a question. I asked about the 1-for-8 three-point shooting, especially since he had shot the ball so well at Staples the night before against the Lakers, "Your attempts were a little short, was it fatigue?" He answered that it wasn't fatigue and that maybe his release point and arc just weren't there.
I've actually had the privilege of watching him work out two summers ago on his three-point shot under the tutelage of Rob McClanaghan, and it comes as no surprise that Rose could be so detailed about his mechanics.
At that point I thanked him for his time, wished him luck, and rushed to the Warriors locker room. However, PR head Raymond Ridder said that they had all left. I was a tad surprised because in my first experience at the Clippers game last year, the players had remained for quite some time to do one-off interviews here and there. But I can't regret choosing the MVP's locker room over our Dubs'.
One thing I realized was, in the losers' locker room, there's little to no chance of asking about tangential tidbits. For example, I had wanted to inquire more about Rose's experience training with McClanaghan, but that just wasn't really called for in the surrounding somber mood. Or at least I haven't yet developed the skill to convince a player to put the bigger picture on the backburner and talk about something else in the meantime.
Furthermore, the team bus was about to leave. In such an atmosphere, I also completely forgot to ask him about the new NBA commercial which at the end, features him and Jordan giving each other a pound. (Heck, that gives me goose bumps!)
The real thesis of this blogpost is that there is tremendous opportunity for bloggers like myself and some of you, I'm sure, to really enhance the experience of the fan even further with these opportunities, especially pre-game, to interview players. For example, and I'm thinking of these after-the-fact, I know...
- Scalabrine, what's up with the painted-on scowl?
- Boozer, someone on Twitter said Carl Landry has your game. What do you think?
- Monta... Wait, Monta!!! (reference to last week's TweediaDay report)
- Steph, so there was this article about your ankles...
- ...and so on and so forth...
So I encourage other GSW bloggers out there to inquire with the Warriors. Meanwhile, now that my feet are wet, next time I'll be looking forward to memorizing rosters and having some offshoot questions, especially through my interactions with NBA followers on Twitter in the days leading up to the game.