NBA Stars and Coaches Speak as New Season Officially Kicks Off
It was that time of the year again on Monday as NBA stars, coaches and front office heads spoke to the media to kick off the new season.
Media Day is always fun.
It’s laid back, it’s a way of bringing new and old faces together, and of course, it’s also a time for some silly and controversial questions. And in the case of fashion icon Russell Westbrook, it’s a time to make some reporters nervous.
“Like I said before, man, this is a place I want to be,” Westbrook said at Oklahoma City Thunder media day when things got slightly more serious and his contract negotiations were questioned. “I love being here. I’m excited about the season, obviously, with a lot of new changes…I love being here. I love the fans. I love the people here. I’m back now to get a chance to simmer down and get everything situated. Obviously now with a few changes, I’m good. I like where I’m at. I like where our team is.”
It was an especially fun day in Oklahoma City, where the franchise welcomed their two new superstars, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
“It’s Year One,” George told USA TODAY. “And [the Thunder have] proven – and I haven’t even gone through a season yet – and they’ve already proven everything on my check list [that] I can check off. That’s what feels good. That’s what makes me feel like, ‘Hey, this can be a landing spot for me, and somewhere I can call home for years.’”
As far as the Thunder’s newest star, Hoodie Melo took charge of his usual media day duties.
“… It’s a different energy, a different focus, a different motivation that myself have, Paul has and Russ has,” said Anthony. “Being that we haven’t won a championship yet in our career, and we see that, and that’s our ultimate goal.”
Looking forward to moving on from New York, the decision for Anthony to waive his no-trade clause for the Thunder was really a simple one.
“Russ don’t really do the convincing,” Anthony said on Monday. “He came to New York and played pickup at my gym. I saw him in Paris at fashion week. Me and Russ became closer and closer over the years. He was a big part, he was a big reason why I wanted to come here. To see his loyalty to the city, to this organization, what he was able to do on the court — I wanted to be a part of that.
“Adding PG was just another reason why I wanted to come here,” Anthony continued. “Our relationship, our friendship, our respect for one another as basketball players was the reason that I wanted to play alongside him and have an opportunity to compete for a championship and kind of just bring some more energy — not like this city needs any more energy, but it’s a different energy, a different focus, a different motivation that myself have, Paul has and Russ has, being that we haven’t won a championship yet in our career, and we see that, and that’s our ultimate goal.”
Advice for Kyrie? …Not happening. pic.twitter.com/F3cQojzLj0
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) September 25, 2017
Shifting focus to the East, LeBron James had a chance to speak out on Cleveland’s dramatic offseason, discussing his feelings towards the Kyrie Irving mess, the recent comments he has directed towards President Donald Trump, and of course his thoughts on the upcoming NBA season.
“I reached out to him because I just wanted to get a little insight on why he felt like he wanted to move on,” James said on Monday during Cavaliers’ media day. “He basically just let me know that that was the direction that he wanted to go in. And I was OK with that. And it’s a business. I understand that. It doesn’t stop me from leading this franchise and leading this team and going on about it.
“But I definitely just wanted to go right to him and ask him and he clarified it for me so I was at ease.”
Kyrie "don't even care." pic.twitter.com/qAFQNESB8C
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) September 25, 2017
Irving faced similar questions over in Boston, answering each one similarly to how he did on his appearance with ESPN First Take.
Elsewhere around the league, Media Day had some great sound bites which included some from San Antonio Head Coach Gregg Popovich who had his usual fun with the media. Outside his typical ‘Pop’ humour, the Spurs coach also had some very critical comments towards President Trump.
“Our country is an embarrassment to the world,” Popovich Said. “I’m still sick to my stomach, and not basically because the Republicans won or anything, but the disgusting tenor and tone and all the comments that have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic and I live in that country where half the people ignored all that to elect someone. That’s the scariest part of the whole thing to me.”
A day overshadowed by the always-controversial American president, Media Day was a great day of basketball, which undoubtedly has gotten everyone excited for the new season – everyone but New York Knicks fan – because yeah, this will be another one of those years.
Here are some more sound bites from the big day around the league:
Chris Paul received his welcome to his new home of Houston, while Joel Embiid spoke about it being time for the Philadelphia Sixers to turn ‘The Process’ into winning.
All in all, just typical, annual NBA Media Day.