Media Day always feels like an incredibly strange construct.
To paint a picture of it, the Golden State Warriors and most other NBA teams have the event in their practice facility, which consists of a series of courts and some staging area. Different stations fill the entire space as the team uses the same time to shoot many of the promos with players they will use over the course of the season (yes, you do get to see players in Santa hats and other interesting things).
Apart from those things, they also have a social media place where the players interact with fans and the spaces for them to talk to the media.
In the case of the Warriors, they put 3-5 players at a time at their own tables for about 30 minutes before they switch up the people. This format gives the players a set period of time to be “on” for the media, yet also opens the door for lots of repeat questions since the members asking questions shifts over the course of the half-hour.
Instead of doing player-by-player notes, the most logical way to recap Media Day has to be more general and abstract since so many guys touched on the same themes.
The biggest takeaway from the day was the reminder that this is a much, much deeper Warriors team. Over the last few years, the Warriors were one injury to a starter or lower-end rotation player from sending everything out of whack. That should be different this time around since so many positions actually have three functional players, especially point guard and the wing spots. While injuries to starters will still cause problems, having a rotation player go down in a game or for a few should not derail things like a few times last season.
Having depth marks a good step and the bigger movement there has to be an increase in top-end quality as well. The addition of Andrew Bogut makes Golden State a more well-rounded team than they have been in at least a decade and likely much longer. Player after player (especially David Lee) talked about how Bogut has made an impact on the team even while he continues to recover from the injury that has kept him out of NBA games since January. Having Bogut on the floor will mean that the Warriors have a meaningful piece on both ends of the floor and a true anchor defensively.
The other major change I noticed centers around leadership. Any team with Monta Ellis (at least the Ellis we have seen thus far) as their best player will have some leadership issues both on and off the floor. Since last year, the front office has added a bevy of new players, all of whom are overwhelmingly positive people from a chemistry perspective. Guys like Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry add character, talent, and a track record of success on an individual level to a team whose bench seemed filled with newbies during recent seasons. Even a rookie like Draymond Green brings more to the table in this regard than most young players and could end up being the kind of off-the-court glue the youngsters need.
One interesting dynamic for this team is that they got meaningfully older this summer while still being insanely young. Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and Bogut ratchet up both the experience and maturity quotient of the team quite a bit even though the team added three rookies as well. This should allow the team to ride the highs and lows a little bit better and give each of the guys on rookie deals a positive role model playing a similar position, which I like.
With all of that said, chemistry and good feelings matter a whole lot more if the team actually can succeed in the standings. While I will write substantially more on this in the next few weeks, the big takeaway here actually was not that big at all- this team has a chance of the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference. I would have them on the outside looking in for right now, though their depth allows them to weather the inevitable storms of injury better than some of their competitors for the first time in a long time. At the least, the team should be playing meaningful games into the last full month of the season, which would be a welcome change.
Other notes on Media Day:
-A majority of the team has been practicing together since shortly after Labor Day, which is one nice benefit to not having a lockout this summer.
-Andrew Bogut would like to make it back in time to play in 1-2 preseason games so that his opener is not Halloween against the Suns. He said he is “feeling good” and “getting there” and is running up to 10 miles per hour on a treadmill.
-In the most insightful quote I heard Monday, David Lee talked about how the team no longer has to play “trickery basketball” thanks to adding guys like Bogut. The ability to succeed in both conventional and unconventional schemes gives Golden State an advantage they have not possessed in a while and a new challenge for Mark Jackson.
-When asked who the team’s class clown would be, Klay Thompson immediately answered Draymond Green. I asked Green about Thompson’s comments and he laughed and eventually said that his choice would be Jarrett Jack. Side observation: this unit seems to get along very well on a personal level, which could be useful down the road.
-Brandon Rush talked about playing with Roy Hibbert when asked about whether he had experience with quality passing big men. Hopefully the Warriors coaching staff can use that to get some good ideas. Stephen Curry said that having two bigs who can pass will make his life much easier and talked about how it could make things more “fluid.”
-Both Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes showed a huge amount of humility when asked what they could contribute to this team. It was easy to tell that both desperately want the chance to make an impact and will work hard to earn that shot.
-Because of media movement in the groups during his session, I got to spend a few minutes one-on-one with Klay Thompson. His maturity and honesty was genuinely refreshing for a player who had an impressive level of success in his rookie season. When I asked him where he saw himself in a few years, he said that he wants to be an All-Star yet still has lots of work to do. He talked about how he wants to grow his game by getting to the free throw line more (citing Kevin Durant and other high-level scorers) while also improving his ability to impact the game both with and without the ball (singling out Manu as his favorite example of this). It will still take a while to see if Klay’s vision for himself becomes a reality but his insight and maturity certainly can help him get there.
As always, media day feels more optimistic since that is pretty much the goal description for everyone involved in the Warriors’ organization, yet this year felt like the first time that the team has both realistic expectations of success and a meaningful chance of getting there.