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Why NBA Players Turn to Cliches With the Media

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Tim Cato of The Athletic speaks to players about the difficulty in answering questions, whether they’re good or bad.

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NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

“You’ve got to tip your hat to the other team. They wanted it more. It all starts on defense.”

NBA players, and often coaches, are known for giving canned responses during the postgame or post-practice media scrum. Tim Cato of The Athletic speaks to NBA players about the reasoning for such activity. Here’s former Blazer Wesley Matthews:

We could all conduct an interview,” Matthews said. “There’s not that many questions to ask about a basketball game. Every team goes on runs, you miss free throws, you get offensive rebounds, you don’t get offensive rebounds, you score more points than the other team. You know.”

Matthews is 32 and in his 10th professional season. He has spent a full decade answering questions after practices, after shootarounds, after games, and sometimes before them, too. The NBA mandates media availability in each of those settings, and that means starters like Matthews often talk several times per week, answering literally thousands of questions per season.

“A lot of these answers we could give you while watching TV,” he said. “Because we’ve heard the (question) before.”

According to Evan Turner, players are also leery of being portrayed inaccurately:

The jokesters stand apart, too, like Evan Turner, whose many instances of amusing answers are so comprehensive that r/NBA compiled them into a master list. “After a while, I just started having fun with it,” Turner said.

Turner’s a funny individual, clearly, and his wit helped beget his interview approach. But that’s not the real reason he has leaned into humor. In Philadelphia, Turner grew unhappy when he felt serious answers were portrayed in the wrong way, or when he was painted as a bad guy despite good intentions. “If an interviewer doesn’t like me, then he can make me seem like an (expletive),” he said. “I’d much rather be represented as a happy, nice guy.”

Turner realized he has little power over how reporters portray interviews.

“I could make a valid point against you, embarrass you in front of your peers, but the rest of the world won’t ever see that,” he said of the media scrum. “We don’t have the power of the pen.”

That’s why, Turner said, so many players turn to bland cliches.

Click through to read the entire piece.