Media Day Superlatives

I understand that it's cool to hate Media Day.  It's scripted, it's mechanical and it feels kind of dirty because of all the television cameras and stilted dialogue. Personally I love Media Day. But I'm the same guy that used to spend part of my game recaps transcribing random Media Guide notes.  

Media Day is an interesting test of personalities and quick-wits. Media Day sucks when a writer walks in with a story already pre-written, fishing for quotes. Media Day has serious potential if you go with the flow and see what happens.  Media Day can be amazingly fun and spontaneous although most of the time it drags on and on and on, cliches piling up in the corner next to the buffet table.

To boil it down: Media Day is awesome for a combined 15 minutes or so out of the 2 hours that it lasts.  

This post aims to give you those 15 minutes and a few thoughts that they provoked. I sifted through all the tape, gave it roughly 48 hours of reflection and came up with this list of superlatives.  You already know my favorite moment and my MVP.  Here's the best of the rest. Some of the quotes you might have already seen in other places but hopefully some of them are brand new too. 

Best Compliment

Andre Miller "makes passes I know I'm afraid to make. He threads the needle." -- Brandon Roy

A storyline that's starting to develop is a perceived preference for Steve Blake over Andre Miller on Brandon Roy's part.  The Point Guard position battle remains unresolved and I don't think the many compliments from Roy for Blake should be turned into evidence of a preference. Throughout last season, Brandon backed Blake and he backed Blake hard.  Blake misses 4 free throws to cause a loss?  Brandon had his back.  The two players have a chemistry and there's no denying that.  Without question they will share the court for stretches this season, no matter what. 

Brandon is a man who draws heavily on his own experiences and memories when sizing up other players.  You might have noticed when I asked him about Dante on Tuesday, his answer was brief, he stuck directly to the facts that he's personally seen and he asked for more time to evaluate Dante's play.  Same thing goes for his feelings towards Andre.  Almost in writerly fashion, Brandon appears to be collecting information to add to his profile of Miller. 

But if for some reason (loyalty to Steve Blake, perhaps) you think Brandon isn't approaching Andre's addition to the team with a completely open mind, you're crazy. And you're insulting Brandon's will to win.  

The line quoted above about his first impression of Miller jumped off the tape for its sincerity and for the comparative.  It's hard for NBA guys, especially All Stars, to compare themselves negatively to a teammate.  The opposite mentality is drilled into their psyche: get better, be the best. It was a nice show of respect from a younger (albeit more talented) player to a veteran player.  An olive branch and a gift basket simultaneously.  

SB Nation is calling again to remind me about exceeding the "Praising Brandon Roy Quota" again, so I'll stop there. 

Biggest 180 Degree Spin

My, my, my... Brandon told us the $80 million dollar deal wouldn't change him but it turns out that he's the biggest flip flopper on the team.  Why, it feels like just weeks ago (it was, in fact, just weeks ago) that Brandon was down in the dumps, looking at his contract negotiation as a business and expressing a teensy-weensy bit of resentment and frustration towards the organization.  But by Monday?  He's advising LaMarcus Aldridge, who is facing a more drawn out negotiation process, not to do the same.

"We've talked about [LaMarcus's lack of a deal]. Not a whole lot. I just told him of course everybody knows how important he is to this team. Try not to look at it as a business but more as a process that you have to go through. These are really tough times economically and the Blazers are going to try to do their best to make sure that LaMarcus is here for a long time. I know I want him here. I just try to help him understand how important he is to this team. That's all I am to him is a teammate. I'm not the owner. I'm not the General Manager. He's important to me as a friend and a teammate." -- Brandon Roy

In the end, I'm not complaining.  The above was great advice when Lorenzo Romar gave it to Brandon Roy and it's still great advice when Brandon Roy gives it to LaMarcus Aldridge. What a difference a few weeks and a signed deal makes, eh?

Best One Liner

"I told Pau [Gasol] the Lakers never win here in Portland; I think it's great." -- Rudy Fernandez

No commentary necessary. Go ahead. Make it your signature. I won't stop you.

Most Meaningful Words of Encouragement

Just like you need to earn playing time from Coach McMillan you need to earn specific praise from Brandon Roy.  He might give a generally positive assessment of any random player in the league if you asked him (he is, after all, a pretty nice guy) but he won't go out of his way to praise players that haven't earned it.  Keeping that in mind, here's B. Roy's take on Oden.

"I've always walked away and said he's physically so dominant. This time I walked away and said 'he's stepped up his skills a lot. When we play pickup now, he's not just beasting guys anymore. He's doing little shimmies. Jump hooks with the left hand, jump hooks with the right hand. The biggest thing I was most impressed with is he's facing guys up now. He's shooting this little touch shot. If he can continue to add that touch to his game, he's going to be dominant. I always go back to: Greg is going to be as dominant as Greg wants to be. There's not much you can do to stop a guy like him.  Once he fully realizes that, he's going to be a monster." -- Brandon Roy 

There were times last year where getting Brandon to talk about Greg was difficult.  You can speculate as to why that might have been.  This quote flowed from him and is chock full of specifics.  

I got a text message tonight from an out-of-town league source teasing me for "slurping Oden" in today's practice report.  I pointed that source in the direction of the above quote: "You want to see some slurping!"

Most Detailed Workout Rundown

One of the go-to staples of Media Day: ask the guys how they spent their summer vacation.  Usually one or two questions about the offseason regimen suffices.  But for Greg Oden?  He got roughly 10 questions.  Here are his answers, strung together so you can hear, in his words, how he spent a quiet summer almost completely off the media radar.

"I lost some weight this summer.

Coach Bayno was out in Ohio all summer, really every week. We worked on a lot. It was just me and him. We worked on a lot of offensive moves. For me to have the confidence to do it all summer. So I been doing it in these pickup games.

He pushed me really good. It was good for me, it was something I definitely needed. We worked on a lot of offense but we also did a lot of defensive drills. Blocked shot drills. Running up and down. Blocking shots. Movement across the court. He put me through a lot of stuff.

Offense is not the only thing I've been working on. Defensively, rebounding more, losing weight, being quicker on my feet to help me get more blocked shots and rebounds."

How things are different from last year: "I was just doing things differently. You come in and you're like, 'I really don't know what to do. I really don't know where I need to be at.' This year I know I need to put some work in and do it this way.

My attitude is that I put the work in this summer so I'm going to put it out there on the court this year. 

As I get lighter on my feet, I want to be the guy to protect the basket. I know I'm going to be able to do that a lot better. This summer at the USA thing I tried to focus on being the best rebounder and the best defender out there. Getting a lot of blocked shots and being active. 

I've always been one to really think about basketball. Even when the games over I'm thinking about this one play that I messed up on. For me, it's like, look, go out there and play the game you love to play. Don't worry about anything else. I feel good now because I know I put some really, really hard work in this summer. There's no problems now just go out there and play." -- Greg Oden
What's that sound? It's Assistant Coach Bill Bayno printing off this post and mailing it to Kevin Pritchard along with an invoice.
 

Best Indication of the Pecking Order

"You gotta be at Brandon Roy level to get your own shoe." -- Greg Oden

We already knew this was Brandon's team.  It's nice to hear Greg Oden is truly a part of it.  Don't misconstrue that as a knock.  Ok, fine, it was supposed to be a subtle knock but not a real knock.

Prettiest Music to Everyone's Ears
"[Starting] is very important for me. I love Joel to death but I want that starting spot." -- Greg Oden
Certainly you've read that quote by now.  It was stunning to hear Greg deliver that line.  My hands were shaking so hard I almost couldn't tweet it.  Kidding. The forcefulness, the confidence, the moxie.  The pent-up frustration that we all assume is there inside his head released in two shorts sentences that drew chuckles, smiles, and "Did he just say that?" looks.  Back like he never left?  Hopefully.

Przyiest Music to Everyone's Ears

Boil Joel down into a paragraph and this is what you'll get.  Asked for his thoughts on Oden's desire to start...
"I've been here before. I know what to do. I'm going to be ready. It's a long season. I don't mind coming off the bench, whatever. Of course I want to start too. But I'm just going to be ready to play." -- Joel Przybilla
Exactly what you expect to hear. Exactly what you want to hear. Nothing flashy.  An offensive rebound in paragraph form.

Best Product Placement
"I go to Whole Foods every now and then." -- Greg Oden
From the man that's been known to hit Chipotle and slug Red Bulls at night, this was a bit of a shocker.  Hearing Bayno drop the term "Gluten Free" on last week's Courtside during an interview with Mike and Mike?  My mind blew up!

What's that sound? It's Whole Foods's Marketing Department printing off this post and attaching it to the invoice I sent them. 

Biggest Crisis of Confidence

LaMarcus Aldridge isn't quite sure how to react to the fact that he still hasn't received his contract extension.  

"I didn't think it would be this hard. Maybe I didn't do everything they wanted me to. But I felt like I did. Maybe there's more to it from their end... Like I said, I didn't think it would take this long. Like I said maybe they see something else that I don't see. Maybe I didn't do everything that they wanted or something like that." -- LaMarcus Aldridge 

You wonder if there are some closed-door conversations where Aldridge is saying "Just get it done!" and his agent is saying, "You're worth more than that, man, come on!"

I'm mostly kidding about the "crisis of confidence" tagline but still: could the flashes of skill and huge biceps we've seen from LaMarcus contrast more with the sentiment above?  I don't think so. More on LaMarcus later this week.

Best Honest Self-Assessment

"Every year I sit down with you guys saying I want to be an All Star. I can say every year I've gotten closer. Last year I was one guy away. The previous year I was like 15 guys away." (extended laughs)

"Hopefully this will be the year I'm not a guy away, I'm in the [All Star] Game." -- LaMarcus Aldridge

This makes up for the last one.  I was starting to get worried about him and then he drops that line and makes the whole room cut up.  You know it. He knows it.  A brilliantly self-aware joke. 

Frenchiest Self-Health Diagnosis

"My shoulder is OK. And away we go." -- Nic Batum

Someone make this your signature.  Please and thank you. Merci.

Most Hilarious Piece of Revisionist History

Over the summer, Martell Webster decided to change his number from #8 to #23.  He was originally prevented from wearing #23 because Darius Miles had already claimed it when he was drafted.  Webster waited the requisite number of years according to team policy and made the switch official.  Here's his explanation.

"It's the number I wanted when I got drafted. It's the number I've always worn. Darius Miles had it before I was here... It's my favorite number... [Michael Jordan] is the reason I initially got the number... after I got comfortable with the number, it's just the number I love. I've had it since 6th grade." -- Martell Webster

Every team -- college, intramural, high school -- has this guy. The guy who took 23 because it was MJ's, fell in love with it, tried to re-write history and claim it as his own, got called out by everyone who said it was really just MJ's, and then admitted that, yeah, it was originally MJ's because MJ is that awesome.

This scenario has played out on multiple teams I've been a part of.  If you get enough Sugar Free Red Bulls in me you might even get me to admit that I'm this guy.

Most Heartwrenching Statement

"I don't think anybody is hungrier than me.  After taking a year off. Experiencing what I experienced. Watching your team go to the playoffs. That's probably one of the hardest things as a professional athlete no matter what sport you're in. To be there when things weren't so great.  And then now that it's taken that turn and gotten to that goal -- which is to the playoffs, and you weren't part of that, that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. I'm definitely hungry and ready to get there again." -- Martell Webster

Man. Man. Man.

Longest "Three Months" Ever

Remember when Rip City Project broke the Jeff Pendergraph injury story and said he would miss almost the entire year with his hip injury.  And then later that day the team issued a Press Release confirming the injury and surgery but with a recovery timeline of 2.5 - 3 months.  Here's what Jeff said on Monday...

"I'll be able to do on the court stuff, work out, probably by December or January. So I'm not sure how long it will take me to get back to playing shape, I'm thinking like February maybe." -- Jeff Pendergraph

The Blazers timeline put Pendergraph back in action in Mid-November or December.  Pendergraph mentioned the word February.  It's October and he cannot walk without crutches. For the conspiracy theorists out there who think the Blazers sometimes cook the books when it comes to injury timelines, this should be an interesting one to track as it develops. File it away now.

Least Convincing Answer

"I'm excited for this season." -- Jerryd Bayless

Although Andre Miller got the attention for being standoffish (more on that below), Bayless went through the motions just as blandly as Miller, if not worse.  Monotone.  Curt.  Bayless Face to the nines.  A staring contest with the space of air directly above your head.

Before I completely abandon Team Bayless -- Whoa! My Team Dante Membership Card just arrived in the mail! -- I will say this: I am utterly amazed that he hasn't exploded yet.  If stewing in silence at Media Day knowing that you're set up for a bunch of DNP-CDs while your buddies and draft mates are playing heavy minutes around the league is what passes for composure these days, then I'm impressed by his composure.  But I'm dubious about how long it lasts.  

After awhile, wouldn't you get sick of being known as the "hardest worker"?  That line worked last year.  This year he would settle for any title that involves playing time, such as, I don't know, "backup point guard."  Anything less than that? Very difficult to swallow.  

For the record, I was kidding about the "abandoning Team Bayless" thing.  

Biggest Dose of Reality

"I don't know what my role is." -- Jerryd Bayless

See what I mean?

Biggest "Call Oprah In For Help" Situation

Blazersedge: Have you talked to Nate at all about your role yet?

"Nope." [Shakes Head] -- Jerryd Bayless

[Staff conveniently ends interview]

If I was Jerryd (or Nate) I would start that conversation sooner rather than later.

Biggest Headscratcher
"Don't put anything crazy in the papers. I'll find out who you are." -- Andre Miller    
Oh ****! Did he just say what I think he said?

Predictably, Andre Miller's off-putting behavior and attitude at Media Day drew immediate criticism.  It's clear he dances to his own beat.  Assuming he wins the starting spot and his teammates and the assistant coaches continue to show him the respect they have up to this point, I'm willing to give him a pass for what felt awfully close to a threat.  The remaining media members at the table included a team employee who stated, "Sounds like he's been burned before."  

In light of that quote, you've got to wonder how a veteran like Miller feels about his Coach blasting the team's conditioning results to the media.  For a guy who has worked hard to maintain his privacy over the years, he is probably feeling a little bit exposed right about now.  

Without a doubt, Miller's successful integration into this team is just as important to its longterm success as almost any other factor.  If Andre does Andre that's going to be a problem.  Surrounded by so many intelligent, dedicated-to-winning personalities, I don't think that it's very likely it will play out like that.  

There's too much at stake. 

-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)

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