Concern. Of any kind.
With 24 hours to reflect on yesterday's Media Day I keep coming back to a single, relatively simple observation: nobody present seemed the slightest bit nervous or worried about any aspect of this team. At all.
I'm not saying the coaching and management staff is over-confident or cocky but it was a brand new look since I've been watching this group.
Let's haul out an old analogy: the coming season is like a college exam. At last year's media day, there was a positive, excited, anxious vibe. The feeling then was, "I've studied so hard I know I'm going to do well. I'm in a difficult class so I'm doing my best not to get my hopes up too far, but I'm secretly kicking my heels in glee because I know I'm going to rock this thing."
This year's vibe was more like: "I was a TA for this class last semester, I studied every night for 2 months straight and I helped proof-read the test questions last night. Bring. It. On. I'm ready to fill 2 blue books on every question and I'm bringing only permanent ink pens to send a message (no pencils or erasers needed, there won't be any second-guessing). I'm challenging myself to complete the test in less than half the allotted time and I look forward to nodding confidently towards the professor as if to say, 'yeah, I just owned that,' before strutting out of the classroom, shoulders set back, hips rolling."
The following are not direct quotes from anyone in particular but the general sentiment that seemed to be floating...
- A new point guard? Why, he's already directing things and training camp hasn't started yet.
- Greg Oden's slow development? He's better and we're happy about that -- but does it even matter that much? We have 10 other guys that can play.
- The potential for not one, not two, but three new starters? The word jumbles in the morning comics present a greater difficulty than this.
- Too many players, not enough minutes? You must be kidding, too many good players is suppose to be a problem?
- Defense? It was better than you thought last year and it's an even bigger focus for us this year.
- The West is stacked again this year? Sure, it's stacked... below us. We'll really start worrying about everybody else when the second round of the playoffs rolls around.
Of course: one expects a fair bit of bluster at any Media Day. Indeed, If bluster and optimism weren't allowed to attend, Media Day would be cancelled. What would be the point?
But things were different this year. Way different. Even compared to just a few months ago, when the team entered the playoffs with its collective head spinning thanks to a downtown rally, back-and-forth flights, new shootaround schedules and extra media sessions (not to mention a tough, veteran opponent).
At that time, the attitude seemed to be, "we're taking things as they come." In hindsight, it was more like "we don't know what's coming but we're prepared to roll with whatever is thrown at us." Faced with new surroundings, the team winged it a little bit.
This team was not winging anything at Media Day. If yesterday is any indication, internal expectations -- not just fan expectations -- are sky-high: The regular season is a prelude to getting back to where they feel they deserve to be and where they feel they have something to prove.
Coaches and management presented themselves yesterday as prepared, focused, and, yes, more bored than usual with the questions being thrown at them. On Monday we'll see whether the players share in this sentiment. For now, realize that if you're feeling pretty solid entering the 2010 season, you're in good company.
-- Ben (email@example.com)