This is the time when everything is happily, vaguely defined. In most cases, anyway. The Celtics are probably displeased to have to let reporters into their building. Picture a wet-haired Brad Stevens at the double-doors of a gym in a bathrobe, buying time. But everyone else is eager to claim their free publicity, as their project is certainly in its ascendancy. They're excited about the young talent they acquired in the draft. That rotational forward they overpaid, well, it's not ideal but he will give the second unit some juice. People are feeling charitable. Most of the players are in shape and not yet annoyed at having to field questions from beats they will soon remember they sort of hate, the way bleary-eyed workers regard the morning bus as it appears over the horizon three blocks to the north. There's no need to make this unpleasant, on the first day.

The staff and executives, who carry their fatigue more obviously than 25-year-old athletes do, have shed the jowly paunch that accumulates over the course of a long swing through the south, a Charlotte evening dissolving into early morning Atlanta. By the time you check into your hotel in Orlando, you forget where you are. They are looking forward to the season, looking forward to competing. This is not a lie. Even if you know the team's going to be ten games under .500 by January, you don't internalize that feeling before it arrives. Your masochism doesn't run that deep.

NBA Media Day, which is not a specific day but a range of days, different for different teams, which is also called Media Week… There is no established purpose for it. The NFL, aided by its permanently restless press and broadcast partners, has turned even the release of its schedule into a full-fledged multimedia event, to the point that news about it leaks out beforehand, but that overblown spectacle does at least have a nugget of information that fans might want to know about. (We play the Patriots in Week 12. Cool.) NBA Media Day, by contrast, is pure content generation, which has its limits, excitement-wise. You stick Klay Thompson in front of a microphone, he says it was nice to have two functioning legs this past summer, and the news consumer does with that what they will. Most importantly but not really importantly at all, their eyes register a logo for Chase Bank in the background. A Google ad from an athleisure outfitter they bought joggers from six months ago interrupts a blog post that houses the quote. The reporter who asked the question can be said to have done his job. We all go on living, technically.

The NBA's site claims that "the 2022-23 season tips off with NBA Media Day." The page that makes this claim is a running compendium of tweets, depicting dismal moments like the Klay Thompson one. The season has indeed tipped off. Before I buy a ticket for a movie, I make sure to review the press junket appearances from all the hungover-looking actors, the director who at this point is amusing herself by making up influences. This film, in which Earthworm Jim averts the apocalypse, was made in the tradition of Ozu and Bresson. Because that too is the movie. You're not getting the full cinematic experience, if you skip that stuff.

Perhaps there is real, if low-wattage, fond feeling here, and I've gone nose-blind to it over the years. There is a warm sense of relief to some of the coverage, a not-remotely-weary slant on events that is probably important to have at this pre-outset stage, if you are going to commit yourself to nine months of reporting on professional athletes, who are complex in their way but not always interesting public speakers. Sometimes you see a friend who's been away for a while and nothing much happens, except the sublingual crackle of renewed familiarity. And that is something.

Here is a picture of Donovan Mitchell at a video shoot, silencing invisible detractors. The Cavs' Twitter account posted it. I imagine he's performing for the hype video that will run on the jumbotron before the pregame player introductions, or maybe a ticket package commercial. These are the sorts of boring obligations Donovan Mitchell is fulfilling, as he enters a stage of his career that is genuinely exciting, forming what might be the most dynamic backcourt in the league alongside Darius Garland, as Evan Mobley continues to reveal the full extent of his talents. You want to see these three running together right now, you wanted it fifteen seconds after the news broke that Mitchell was headed to Cleveland. And what you get instead, because it's not quite time yet, is Mitchell doing something vaguely basketball-like. He is wearing the jersey, he is making a gesture that he might make on the court, though you would hope he's running down to the other end of the court to play defense and not sitting on a stool. Donovan Mitchell, perched just so under the hot lights, is a reminder that Donovan Mitchell the basketball player will soon activate. If there is an honest form of advertising, one that speaks to your already extant interest rather than seeking to manufacture it, this is it.

Sometimes I browse old beer ads that ran in magazines like Esquire and Playboy and Life, back when those publications ran important work. Ah, there it is, I think. But it's only a facsimile of the feeling I'm looking for.