Gleaning The Draft's Media Day
The pre-draft media day on Wednesday gave me an opportunity to communicate directly with the Green Room players. The experience allowed me to get a feel for their personalities and where they are mentally 24 hours ahead of the most important day in their professional lives.
Here are the players in order I spoke with them:
Meyers Leonard- Direct, honest, and very down to earth. While Leonard acknowledged that the decision to leave Illinois was a difficult one, he was 100% certain it was the correct decision. He spent time talking about how both Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler were players he admired, which are quality choices for what his initial role will be in the NBA. As ended up being the case with many players, Leonard said he needs to grow his game in every facet.
Damian Lillard- I can see what impressed so many teams in the interview process. Lillard conveys both confidence and humility in a way that works incredibly well. He spent a fair amount of time talking about his comparatively unusual path to the NBA and how he had to react to a broken foot during his time at Weber State. He also said he is excited to play every point guard in the league and that he would like to add strength over the next few years. As a player from Oakland, he said both Brian Shaw and Gary Payton have reached out to him as fellow Oakland NBA point guards.
Anthony Davis- Davis stood out as a #1 pick for a few different reasons. First, he is incredibly soft-spoken and deferential for a guy with his talent and hype. He said he has not slept much recently and did not expect to before being drafted. Interestingly, Davis said that he did not ask the Hornets any questions about their ownership despite one of the few people who could actually do that sort of questioning. I asked him how he sees himself defensively in the league and Davis described himself as a “combo” big man who could guard whoever his coach asked him to handle. He also said that developing at those different positions would be a challenge and he acted ready for it.
Austin Rivers- With Rivers, you can see the impact of being around the NBA for his entire life. Rivers brings a level of swagger to interviews without losing sincerity. His responses to numerous questions about his father (including my favorite “I’m not financially secure. My dad is financially secure.”) showed a desire to create a separate identity. He also at least acted more willing to play under his father than I expected though he looked excited to be “the man” in his house when whatever team he ends up on beats the Celtics.
Andre Drummond- Shockingly mild-mannered, it was somewhat easy to see the passivity that bothers organizations despite his prodigious athletic gifts. Fortunately, he talked at length about working on his shooting (both free throw and general shot) which he desperately needs. Like Davis, Drummond was totally willing to defend both big man positions if the team needed it. That seems unlikely considering where his defensive skillset lies, yet it was nice to hear.
Dion Waiters- As was astutely pointed out to me by another media member after both of us spoke with him, Waiters has that Philly swagger. He seems eternally confident in a largely positive way, but has a little more surliness than other guys in the class like Austin Rivers. That said, it is easy to see how that can translate into on-court success. One fascinating point that Waiters made when I asked him about defense is that while Syracuse played zone in games, they played man in practice and he felt he did a great job on the strong guards Syracuse had last season. I am not sure if he can actually defend NBA-quality PG’s, yet the confidence there cannot hurt.
I was around many of the other media players, yet did not spend enough time with them to get this level of understanding. Fortunately, my colleague Andrew Perna hit on many of these guys in his recap.
My favorite answers of the session:
3. Dion Waiters referring to himself as a “mommy’s boy.” Never heard it said “mommy’s boy” instead of “momma’s boy.”
2. Andre Drummond saying that his mom will live with him “whether I like it or not,” likely for the duration of his rookie deal. He later talked about how this was a good thing for him, but it got a few hearty laughs.
1. When asked about it, Austin Rivers talked about how Tony Parker was an influence on his career, noting that Parker came into the league as a scoring guard and then eventually became a lead guard. While not the only career path for Rivers, it showed a level of understanding and sense of Parker’ career arc that impressed a great deal.