Every year around this date, every NBA team reassembles (for the first time of the season, in some cases) for Media Day. Media Day is a mandatory session of fan-player virtual interaction through social media, the usual prerequisite platitudes and cliches (trust me, every single player every year returns from the offseason in the best shape of his life), and team-specific undercurrents of continued player contract negotiations and trade-block related back-room drama. Of course, with the Warriors, it was more the former than the nonexistent latter this year.
Without further ado, let's parse through the empty-calorie surface-level fluff Media Day is mostly composed of and try and extract the visceral pulse of the Warriors and a few of the other squads vying for the crown this season.
Oakland, CA: Black Falcon Black Friday
Harrison Barnes, whose greatest stat in his young NBA career may well be the average number of comments under any GSoM article about him, held an amusing 10-minute live stream off of his Facebook account. Perhaps some of you saw it live; for those that didn't have the time, you can check it out here. A few interesting interactions:
- Draymond Green (to the viewer): "...the big money man, Harrison Barnes! Y'all lucky to have him. I'm honored to be in his presence..." Salutes, bows out. Sarcasm, probably. The two laughed it off. Green drawled it like he does with, well, everything he says.
But it's not really the off-season unless someone analyses everything a player says and tries to calculate the implied meaning behind it. At the very least, Draymond is aware of the ongoing negotiations.
- Larry Biel (to Barnes, talking about Barnes' lack of the newest iPhone): "...maybe when you get the new deal."
Barnes: "Maybe I'll have a couple dollars."
Biel: "Yeah, I think you're gonna do alright!"
The salient point behind these innocuous jibes is that there is still a lighthearted positivity and optimism behind the negotiations--one rejected deal doesn't mean things are sour. The point of negotiations is to, well, negotiate. That's reinforced behind a few tweets by Rusty Simmons:
Barnes said the goal is ink extension before deadline, "but things don’t always happen that way. I do know that I love it here in Oakland."— Rusty Simmons (@Rusty_SFChron) September 28, 2015
Harrison Barnes on contract extension talks: "Things are going well. I’m obviously confident that everything is going to work out."— Rusty Simmons (@Rusty_SFChron) September 28, 2015
- Maybe the biggest moment of all: at 2:31 in the video, I basically fell out of my chair laughing. As soon as Biel starts an informal interview Barnes' face glazes over, his voice gets locked and loaded, and he's in full midseason post-game interview mode.
Seriously, it's almost freaky how quickly he shifts between laughing and being normal and a groomed professional. If he could make changes of pace that quickly with a basketball in his hands, he would be asking for $2 M more a year in his negotiations.
Also eminently noteworthy is that Andre Iguodala went to Germany to receive a knee injections for the tendonitis he has been battling for the past few seasons, per Diamond Leung. It's unclear whether this is the same experimental plasma injection Kobe Bryant received a few years ago.
There a number of more comprehensive reviews of the Warriors' Media Day and if you're thirsting for some empty-calorie entertainment, it is a nice opportunity to see some interactions between the guys as people, not as lunatics on the hardwood screaming with primal elation. Y'know. If you're into that.
Now, however, I'd like to fly a reconnaissance drone over enemy territory and wire tap into the propaganda some of our largest roadblocks to repeating are sending out.
Houston, TX: Bombastic Beard
We'll start out with the team closest to uprooting the Warriors, the Houston Rockets. There is the usual fairly uninteresting "great shot" dribble that every team spouts. Here's the Universal Law of NBA Cliches:
- If your team finished with between 0-29 wins last year, you say "We're really looking to establish a culture."
- If your team finished with between 30-39 wins last year, you say "We're looking to build and gain momentum as a franchise."
- If your team finished with between 40-49 wins last year, you say "We have an opportunity to make something really special this year."
- If your team finished with between 50-59 wins last year, you say "If we stay healthy and do all the little things, I think we have a shot."
- If you finished with between 60-82 wins last year, you say "Everyone's doubting us because [we lost in playoffs/don't think we can do it] but if we stay focused we can win it all."
Basically, locate where the Rockets fell on that spectrum and you'll instantly be cognizant of 70% of their Media Day (I'm not saying the Warriors didn't also have similar predictable ratios, I'm just saving us all time). The interesting stuff:
- Dwight Howard brought up an important factor: Daryl Morey actually kept his finger off the trigger for the most part this offseason. Morey roster spots #3-12 usually have a higher turnover rate than Colin Kaepernick after getting off a Tilt-A-Whirl.
This means Harden and co. will be coming out of the gates with synergy and better dynamics as a group. Josh Smith has moved on to Clipper-ier pastures, sure, but overall this is a rare instance of internal growth/stabilization for a Morey-managed team.
- Chandler Parson's vacated role as secondary playmaker has finally, Houston hopes, been filled by Ty Lawson. Lawson made his first appearance as a Rocket, stating "I [can be] another playmaker, James doesn't have to make every play down the stretch."
Lawson added he sees the magnitude of this season, "This is a huge turning point. It's 'what type of player are you going to be, Ty?' If you don't win a championship as a point guard, you're not really one of the best point guards out there. So this is my chance to prove it."
Saying and presumably doing all the right things--but that is the beauty and tragedy of the NBA Media Day. Inevitably some promises fall flat. From a human perspective, one can't help but hope this is one personal story that ends without failure.
Cleveland, OH: Contracts and Regret
At the Cavaliers' Media Day, LeBron James, a 30-year old vet on the roster bubble that the Cavs signed to a 14-day contract, reiterated his controversial stance he boldly stated at last year's Finals: he's not sure if he'd've rather just been eliminated from the playoffs at the end of the regular season than go through the heartbreak of a Finals loss.
There's a whole world of words I can write about the competitive spirit and playing basketball for the sake of playing that I have neither the time nor space for.
More pertinent to on-court logistics, David Blatt said he would be looking to work with James about lowering his minutes this season (after a career low 36 MPG last year), only for James to state later he'd rather keep those talks between Blatt and himself. Thus reawakens the undoubtedly season-long undermining of Blatt's authority.
Hey, it's not like he didn't know what he'd be getting into when he took the job. Oh wait, he actually didn't. Oh well.
Hey, Kyrie Irving's doing well! He won't be on the court soon--no timetable, still--but he's bringing a new look to the game. Per Marla Ridenour, "For me it would be a lot more rage and a lot more emotion going out there. There won't be too much smiling or anything like that from our team. We know the mentality we have to have."
Kevin Love echoed those sentiments of increased focus and seriousness.
In other news, Tristan Thompson was absent from Media Day as he continues to negotiate for the other half of Dan Gilbert's left arm and leg.
All in all, another Media Day has came and went and left us with as many questions as before. We got a closer look at player interactions off the basketball court (though the observer effect is unquestionably in play here), we heard some posturing and empty promises and, though we won't know which is which quite yet, some prescient words of wisdom today.