NBA training camps and the 2022-23 season are right around the corner, and players and coaches are set to preview their team’s upcoming campaigns with their respective media days this week.
For some teams, this year’s media day will be the first introduction of some of their big offseason additions. These include the Atlanta Hawks‘ new shooting guard Dejounte Murray, the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ new shooting guard Donovan Mitchell and the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ new center Rudy Gobert. Each of which will meet with reporters for the first time as a member of their new respective squads.
This year’s rookie class will also make their NBA media day debuts. First overall pick Paolo Banchero will get some facetime with Orlando Magic beat reporters fresh off his Summer League performance as he prepares for his first NBA training camp.
The same goes for Jabari Smith Jr. of the Houston Rockets, Keegan Murray of the Sacramento Kings and a handful of other coveted rookies that will be expected to help their teams right away this year.
Then there are some veteran teams that will have some serious questions and concerns to address heading into the season. The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, who bear the pressure of being serious win-now contenders this year, got plenty of the media’s attention last year for all the wrong reasons.
LeBron James and Russell Westbrook will have to explain to Lakers reporters why they will bounce back from last year’s losing campaign.
Meanwhile, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will have to answer for their spree of off-the-court distractions and offseason of near departures in their first media appearances since their first-round playoff exit last season.
Here’s what players are talking about as media days kick off across the league:
Did we just become best friends?
Back in November 2019, after years of on-court run-ins, Russell Westbrook attempted to bury Patrick Beverley — suggesting that his defensive reputation was more branding than actual execution.
“Pat Bev trick y’all, man, like he plays defense,” Westbrook said at the time. “He don’t guard nobody, man. It’s just running around doing nothing.”
Beverley later revealed on JJ Redick’s podcast that Westbrook’s barb “damaged my career.”
That’s what made Beverley’s comments about Westbrook at Lakers media day Monday so jaw-dropping.
“You can’t really take everything you do in the game and put it in real life,” Beverley told ESPN. “Since I’ve been here … if I was to have a best friend on the team right now, for sure it’d be him. We spend the most time together. We’ve been locked and lift weights together and all that stuff. So I’m super excited.”
Whether Beverley and Westbrook have truly let bygones be bygones or if this was just an orchestrated effort by the pair of point guards to throw a wet blanket on their fiery past in front of the media remains to be seen.
During Beverley’s news conference, he was asked to elaborate on how his relationship with Westbrook has grown since he was traded to L.A., causing the 11-year veteran to launch into a facetious fairytale.
“We went on this boat ride, you feel me? It was just us two. It was real intimate,” Beverley said. “It was 2,000 candles, you feel me? He landed in a helicopter. I came in one of my underwater vessels. We talked three hours over wine. He had a two-Michelin-star chef come pull up, cook some steaks. I had my chef pull up and make the desserts. And that’s how we got to where we are now.”
Beverley did share a legitimate story with the Lakers’ regional television partner that he and Westbrook have spent time together during pregame chapel services over the years and that Westbrook once gifted his sister courtside tickets.
“I look at my sister, she’s on the floor, he gave her her seats,” Beverley told Spectrum SportsNet. “[Didn’t] know me from a can of paint. … From that point on [the relationship improved].”
The Lakers plan to use Beverley as their primary wing defender and hope he can convert from the outside as a career 37.8% 3-point shooter, sources familiar with the team’s thinking told ESPN, rather than use training camp as a battle for the starting point guard spot between him and Westbrook.
However, there will be others on the roster — namely Dennis Schroder, Kendrick Nunn and Austin Reaves — that Westbrook will have to separate himself from in order to secure a job with the first unit.
— Dave McMenamin
Durant, Nets GM address offseason drama
The Brooklyn Nets had an … eventful summer. But after Kevin Durant‘s surprising trade request — and subsequent rescinding of said trade request — the Nets are whole again and have the roster to contend for an NBA championship.
Durant and Nets general manager Sean Marks addressed their tumultuous offseason during Brooklyn’s media day.
“No,” Durant said when asked if he was surprised he’s still a Net. “I know I’m that good that you’re not just going to give me away. That’s one thing I did appreciate about Sean and [Nets owner] Joe [Tsai]. …
“I know who I am.”
Sitting next to Nets coach Steve Nash, Marks addressed KD’s trade request and the adversity facing Brooklyn this season.
“If [Durant] wanted out, and still wanted out, he wouldn’t be here,” Marks said.
“You want people who have the conviction to be here.”
KD: “We fu**** up as a team … I got faith moving forward that we all want the same things.”
— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) September 26, 2022
The Lambo is back for the Pels
Zion Williamson is a Lamborghini and needs to treat his body as such.
That was New Orleans Pelicans forward Larry Nance’s message to his star teammate as Williamson prepares to return to the court for the 2022-23 season after a long injury layoff.
“You don’t put the cheapest gas in a Lambo, you know?” Nance said at Pelicans media day on Monday. “You go to the pump and you put the 93 to 95, whatever that is, you put that in there ’cause you don’t want to be on the highway driving and hear your engine. No, you don’t want that.”
Williamson missed all of last season with a broken right foot. A year ago at Pelicans media day, the Pelicans announced the injury, and it seemed that Williamson wouldn’t miss much of the regular season, if any games at all. Instead, Williamson suffered numerous setbacks and never was able to step foot on the court.
This year’s media day was different, however. Williamson was all smiles all day.
“I feel like I’m at my best right now,” Williamson said. “I feel like I’m moving faster, jumping higher. I feel great.”
— Andrew Lopez
Goran Dragic on the D-Rose dunk: “This is my nightmare”
When a reporter began to bring up the time Goran Dragic, then in only his second season in the NBA, was on the wrong side of a dunk by Derrick Rose, all Dragic could do was smile and laugh.
“This is my nightmare,” he joked.
The clip went viral for Rose’s ferocious dunk and Bulls commentator Stacey King‘s animated reaction — “What are you doing Dragic? Did you not get the memo?” — but Dragic, now entering his 15th season in the NBA, is able to laugh looking back on it.
“The funny thing is this was the only time somebody dunk on me in my whole NBA career,” Dragic said. “It’s fine. I even talk to Derrick. We were together in Zagreb when we had an Adidas campaign and I came to him and I said ‘You had to do it like that?’
“At least I’m on TV all the time.”
— Jamal Collier
Patrick Williams on training with DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan leaned back in his chair and laughed when asked about putting Patrick Williams through his offseason workout plan.
DeRozan had been plotting for Williams, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft entering his third season in Chicago, to join him in Los Angeles during the offseason ever since the end of last season when he proclaimed at his exit interview that “Pat is my main victim.”
“The workout starts at 5 on the dot, not 5:01, not 4:59 — 5 a.m. You can’t be pulling in the parking lot at 5 a.m.,” Williams said. “He puts himself through every situation he can possibly be in in the game — every double-team, triple-team. It’s different. One-on-one, one-on-three — it’s just different. Then of course he has a family. He goes home and tends to them, be with them, still be a father. … Then we go back in the afternoon for more.”
After missing most of last season with a wrist injury, Williams’ development will be one of the biggest storylines to watch this season in Chicago.
“Even before the season ended last year, I was telling him how important this summer is for him,” DeRozan said. “Coming into his third year, so much experience and understanding what needs to be done is gained your first two years. You kind of let it all out going into your third year.”
Bulls give an update on Lonzo’s knee
The Chicago Bulls did not have a firm timeline for Lonzo Ball‘s return when they met with the media Monday at the United Center.
Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas said the team and Ball’s representatives reached a crossroads over the summer with Ball’s recovery from a left knee injury suffered in January before electing to have another surgery, which is scheduled for Wednesday in Los Angeles.
“First of all, we gave him every opportunity to rehab and get back on the court without doing the surgery,” Karnisovas said. “So that was our thought process, obviously with the thought in mind of what’s best for the player. … We need to do something else.”
Ball is expected to be reevaluated in four to six weeks following the surgery, which will sideline him for training camp and at least the start of the regular season.
Chicago remained optimistic about its chances to compete while noting how improved the Eastern Conference would be this season, pointing to guards Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White, as well as new addition Goran Dragic, as players who will pick up the slack in Ball’s absence.
“Anytime you lose a good player, it’s always challenging,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “I think we’ll have to see how these guys gel and mesh once training camp starts and we start practicing. I think we have enough back there that we can get the job done.”
Clippers take the throne — the kicks throne
The LA Clippers have several stations where players stop by to take pictures at media day. One is a kicks station, complete with an elevated throne. Paul George stopped by to show off his latest “PG” model and talk about his favorite kicks growing up — the first shoes he loved were the Nike Huaraches worn by Michigan’s Fab Five. Marcus Morris Sr. stopped by to greet George, who saw Morris wearing several gold chains with his uniform and said he should’ve worn his gold chain as well.
Kawhi coming over to check out John Wall and kicks at Clippers media day pic.twitter.com/I6BsaRQpbX
— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) September 26, 2022
John Wall unloaded a bag of sneakers while Kawhi Leonard stopped by to look at all of Wall’s kicks. Wall shouted, “Hey Klaw!” to ask what he thought. Leonard said Wall could use some New Balances — his shoe sponsor — but added, “You got some Kobes in there.”
— Ohm Youngmisuk
Jaylen Brown addresses KD trade talks
While the focus of media day in the Boston suburbs was on the suspension of coach Ime Udoka, and the fallout from it, Jaylen Brown also addressed one other lingering storyline from the offseason: his inclusion in trade discussions for Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant.
“Yes and no,” Brown said when asked if he’d talked to the front office about the trade discussions. “I’ve talked to my teammates, I’ve talked to ownership, organization, etc. I keep those conversations between us. All I can say is that now that I’m here, I’m ready to play basketball. I’m in great shape, probably the best shape of my life, so I’m excited to start the journey. Things have gotten to the start that we wanted it to go, but that’s life sometimes, so put our best foot forward and do what we gotta do.”
Brown, who will turn 26 next month, has blossomed into one of the NBA’s top wing players, and he and Jayson Tatum are among the league’s elite wing combinations. But it also isn’t the first time his name has come up in such a scenario, as it did when superstars like Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard were available in the past.
Brown alluded to that when asked how it felt to go through that this summer, hinting that it’s not the first time he has had to do so.
“I don’t know how to answer that,” Brown said. “It’s been the same since I’ve been here, so it wasn’t surprising or it wasn’t not surprising, it didn’t make me feel some type of way or whatever.
“It is what it is. I talked to my teammates, organization about it and now I’m just ready to play basketball.”
— Tim Bontemps
Keeping Luka fresh after a busy summer
Luka Doncic will likely get a lot of time off during training camp. The Mavericks want to proceed with caution when it comes to their MVP candidate, who spent his summer starring for the Slovenian national team, including playing in seven EuroBasket games earlier this month.
Unlike the past two years, Doncic reported to training camp this month in game shape. However, he took a beating during EuroBasket, playing through injuries to his shooting wrist, ankle, head and back.
“We’re going to start a little light, but as we all know in this room, Luka loves to play basketball,” coach Jason Kidd said. “He’s ready to go, but we want just to start slow. This is a marathon. He just got done playing, but anytime he sees the practice game plan and sees scrimmage, he’s ready to play.”
Doncic, Kidd and Mavs director of player health and performance Casey Smith will discuss the superstar’s involvement in practice on a daily basis. Doncic, whose EuroBasket run ended prematurely when Poland pulled off a stunning upset over Slovenia in the quarterfinals, said he feels “fine” physically.
“I’m probably not going to do everything, but I’m going to do a lot,” Doncic said. “I don’t know. We’re still trying to figure out a plan.”
When will Robert Williams III be ready?
When the NBA Finals came to a close a little more than three months ago, both the Boston Celtics and starting center Robert Williams III said they anticipated rest — and not surgery — would be the thing to fix his left knee that caused him problems throughout the playoffs.
But then came last week, when the team announced Williams not only had surgery on that same left knee, but that he wouldn’t be able to resume basketball activities for another 8-12 weeks.
“I just feel like it never got back to what it was,” Williams said when addressing why he chose to have surgery. “That’s the bottom line.
“So, we want to do 100 percent of rehab and do things the right way.”
The injury was the second significant blow to Boston’s depth in the past few weeks, after free agent signing Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL in a World Cup qualifier for Italy in late August.
But Williams, who had a meniscectomy in late March and came back in less than a month to play in the first round of the playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets — and ultimately missed seven playoff games as he shuttled in and out of the lineup as the knee flared up — said repeatedly he had “no regrets” about playing through it.
“I’m solid, for sure,” Williams said. “I played in the Finals, homie. You win some, you lose some, but I don’t regret my decision at all. I was 24 years old and my dream was to play in the Finals. I don’t regret that s—.”
How do you do, fellow kids?
“Y’all rate his griddy” pic.twitter.com/5WgCq6dhdL
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 26, 2022
Mavericks have a plan for newcomer Christian Wood
The Mavericks‘ plan for Christian Wood, their most prominent offseason addition, is to use him as a sixth man.
Coach Jason Kidd confirmed that during media day, but it might have been news to Wood, who was acquired from the Houston Rockets in June for the No. 26 overall pick and four end-of-bench players.
“This is my first time hearing about it,” said Wood, who was straight faced at first and then laughed, somewhat uncomfortably.
Wood averaged 19.1 points and 9.9 rebounds as the starting center for the rebuilding Rockets the past two seasons and is entering the final year of a three-year, $41 million deal. JaVale McGee will start at center for the Mavericks, as the 34-year-old lob threat and rim protector was promised during the free agency recruiting process.
“I’m motivated either way — off the bench or starting, either way,” Wood said, noting this is the first time in his career that he has had an opportunity to contribute to a winning team. “It’s something I could figure out. I’m not really worried about who’s starting the game, more so concerned about who’s finishing the game.
“If people are asking like, ‘How would he feel about coming off the bench?’ I’m not too worried. It’s something that most likely will [be discussed] in talks with extensions and talks with free agency, but during the season, it’s not going to get me off of my pivot.”
Wood profiles as a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate if he embraces the role. He has proven the ability to score efficiently, is a threat to roll or pop after screening and figures to get a lot of good looks around the rim and at the 3-point line when paired with MVP candidate Luka Doncic.
“I want C. Wood to be himself,” Kidd said. “I don’t need him to be ‘The Microwave.’ I just need him to be C. Wood.”
The James Harden weight loss plan
Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden has been criticized at times in his career for appearing out of shape, so he had a message for those critics at media day.
James Harden says that he lost 100 pounds this offseason 😳 pic.twitter.com/1GnEEAvJeU
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 26, 2022
For the record, Harden’s listed playing weight is 220 pounds. It seems very unlikely that he ballooned to 320 or dropped to 120, but the number the 76ers are more concerned with is 40. That’s how many seasons it has been since they last won an NBA title.
Kawhi is back… and so are his giant hands
Believe it or not, this is a normal size microphone… pic.twitter.com/kWsa7ZpWav
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) September 26, 2022
Is Mike Conley the last man standing?
After an offseason of change in Utah that saw Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale all traded away — not to mention Patrick Beverley, who didn’t even have time to get settled after being acquired in the Gobert deal before being shipped off to the Los Angeles Lakers — there’s plenty of speculation swirling around the future of point guard Mike Conley. However, the veteran is focused on Utah as he enters his 16th season.
“At this point, I’m just trying to concentrate on being all-in,” Conley told reporters at Jazz media day. “I figure if I was going to be traded, it would have happened at this point.”
Of the 11 Jazz players who started more than five games in 2021-22, only Conley and Udoka Azubuike (six starts in 17 games) remain on the roster.
Conley is coming off a season in which he averaged 13.7 points, his lowest since 2011-12. He did shoot 40.8% from 3-point range, his second consecutive season knocking down at least 40% of his 3s.
Pascal Siakam has lofty goals
After earning third-team All-NBA honors a season ago, Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam has loftier goals for 2022-23.
“I want to be a top-5 player in the league,” Siakam told reporters at Raptors media day. “I want to be one of the best and I’ll do whatever it takes to get there.”
Siakam, who checked in at No. 30 in this year’s edition of NBArank, averaged 22.8 points while playing a career high 37.9 minutes a night in 2021-22, helping the Raptors finish fifth in the Eastern Conference.
If Siakam were to repeat his All-NBA selection from a season ago, he could be eligible to sign a supermax extension next summer. He could also choose to sign an extension now, though that would only be worth an additional $125 million over three years, significantly less than a potential supermax deal.
Joel Embiid, two-sport star?
Joel Embiid shows his talent as a soccer player with some slick moves.
A fiesta in San Antonio
San Antonio Spurs rookie Jeremy Sochan endeared himself to the fanbase, showing off a new hairstyle inspired by the team’s “fiesta” colors of the 1980s and 1990s.
🔥 @JeremySochan 🔥 https://t.co/ftvrZJraYM pic.twitter.com/5WtlOEGYtI
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) September 26, 2022
Dorian Finney-Smith on Jalen Brunson’s departure
Dallas Mavericks wing Dorian Finney-Smith, who signed a four-year extension in February, says he doesn’t blame former teammate Jalen Brunson for signing a four-year, $104M deal with the New York Knicks this offseason.
“Man, you saw how much money they gave him?” he said. “I’d have been mad if he stayed here.”
Elsewhere, Tim Hardaway Jr., who played just 42 games last season, commented on the Mavericks’ infamous bench decorum last postseason, which cost the team $175,000 over three violations.
“The NBA made a rule after us,” he said, “so we must have been doing something right.”
Popovich gives an insider’s tip
Gregg Popovich has never been one to mince words, but the longtime San Antonio Spurs coach gave the media a little bit of sports betting advice.
“I probably shouldn’t say this,” Popovich said. “Nobody here should go to [Las] Vegas with the thought of betting on this team to win the championship.”
The Spurs are clearly headed for a rebuild after finishing the 2021-22 season with a 34-48 record, and trading their leading scorer, Dejounte Murray, to the Atlanta Hawks for three future first-round picks and a swap.
Popovich admitted that Murray’s presence will be missed, but more on a personal level than what he brought to the court.
“I miss him more as person than I do as a player,” Popovich said.
Gregg Popovich says he is excited to coach the young players but wouldn’t bet on them winning a title this season.
Jimmy Butler on winning a title and making ‘the internet mad’
Jimmy Butler has always been an ultracompetitor, and he reiterated that during the Miami Heat‘s media day.
The Heat were on the cusp of an NBA Finals appearance before falling to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals last season, but Butler is ready to move forward and contend for a title again this season.
“I think that’s why I play this game — to win a championship … ” Butler said. “I really really love what I get the opportunity to do every single day.”
Butler averaged 27.4 points during the 2022 postseason for the Heat but understands that it will take everyone for the team to be successful — including from longtime veteran Udonis Haslem. The team, Butler said, values Haslem’s presence just as much as any coach on the staff.
“The No. 1 thing that he brings is legit, real leadership … He knows what it takes to win,” Butler said about Haslem. “He’s been a champion, and he wants everybody else to feel the same championship-caliber ways.
“New season, new year. I’m excited, I know all the guys are excited … we’ll find a way to get done what we want to get done.”
Speaking of all things new, Butler went viral during the offseason for his new hairstyle — when his hair seemingly “grew” several inches in a few months as he debuted his long locks.
When asked about the response to his new look, Butler said it was exactly what he wanted.
“I’m just messing with stuff to make the internet mad,” he said. “That was my goal this summer and it worked.”
Giannis says Steph is ‘the best player in the world’
For Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, the debate about the best player in the NBA is simple.
He doesn’t consider himself the current best player in the league because his team fell short of winning the championship last season. So, he was ready to cede that accolade to Warriors star Stephen Curry instead.
“I think the best player in the world is the person that is the last man standing,” Antetokounmpo said Sunday afternoon at Bucks media day. “It’s the person that takes his team to the Finals, the finish line and helps them win the game. … that’s how I view it. I believe the best player in the world is Steph Curry.”
Antetokounmpo, who was named the No.1 player on ESPN’s NBArank, acknowledged that he is one of the best players in the league and could have made the claim for the top spot after the Bucks won the 2021 NBA Finals. But after Milwaukee lost in the second round of the playoffs last season in a seven-game series against the Boston Celtics, he fell short of the claim.
Antetokounmpo also finished third in the voting for NBA MVP after averaging 29.9 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists last season, but he pointed out how individual awards failed in comparison to the thrill of winning the NBA Finals.
“The feeling I felt, it was a nice feeling,” he said. “I got jealous of Golden State, seeing them in the parade and the ESPYs. You know that feeling now. You know what is getting stripped away from you.”
Can the Warriors run it back? ‘They want to experience that again’
Following their 2021-22 NBA championship, the Golden State Warriors repeated several times that this title felt different because of their journey through the hardships of the past three seasons. Their fourth championship in eight years was a statement: The dynasty wasn’t over.
Now, the champs are prepared to prove themselves all over again.
“I don’t think it’s the same chip [on our shoulders]. I’d be lying to you if I told you it was. But there are chips. There are chips. There’s no shortage of chips, I can tell you that,” Draymond Green said Sunday. “It may not be quite, ‘Oh, man, people don’t think we can do it again.’ That opinion is as far from relevant as it can possibly be.”
Added Steph Curry: “It’d be dumb to try to naysay us and actually think people are going to take you seriously. But we also know a lot goes into winning a championship and it’s not a guarantee every year, no matter how much of a chip on our shoulder we have. You just kind of embrace the work and the motivation.”
The Warriors feel they still have plenty to motivate them: For the first time in three seasons, they are starting the season fully healthy. They want to show their 2022 title wasn’t a fluke. Perhaps most importantly, their star core knows its championship window won’t remain open forever.
“I mean, the guys coming back who have won it for the first time, I just know they want to experience that again,” Klay Thompson said. “And, I mean, for me personally, and probably Steph and Andre [Iguodala] and Draymond, you think of the players who have won five championships, it’s such a short list. And to have the opportunity, just the opportunity, to be able to do that is so special.”
— Kendra Andrews
Can Murray and Trae take the Hawks to the next level?
The Hawks are hoping that pairing Murray with their franchise point guard Trae Young can push their backcourt to a championship level. Murray, coming from the San Antonio Spurs, will be playing a major role on a postseason contender for the first time since 2019 when the Spurs made a first-round exit.
Murray and Young know their chemistry will be key to Atlanta’s success, and Murray weighed in a bit about what the team’s approach will look like when he’s on the floor.
“You’re gonna see the ball moving. I think that’s the No. 1 thing — playing the right way. A lot of excitement, playing defense, and like I always said, I love defense and I believe the best offense is getting a stop and getting out and running,” Murray told reporters.
“I’m just excited. We’ve got a lot of weapons around us, dudes that can do a bunch of things. It starts on the defensive end and it will translate to the offensive end, and it will be exciting.”
Porzingis is motivated by his NBArank fall
The Wizards are coming off their fourth straight losing season, but the trade for Kristaps Porzingis at last year’s trade deadline at least gave the franchise a potential franchise piece to build around going forward. Porzingis was on a statistical decline the last few years ever since tearing his in 2018. But had a productive 17-game stint with Washington at the end of last season, in which he averaged 22.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists, which were reminiscent of his lone All-Star season in 2017-18.
Porzingis came in at No. 86 in this year’s ESPN NBArank, which was his lowest since his rookie season in 2015, and admits that he is using the ranking as motivation this year.
“Especially this year, I’m coming in with a chip on my shoulder because of the ESPN rank.” Porzingis told reporters. “I use it as gasoline, as energy. I’m looking forward to reminding everybody what I can do on both ends of the floor.”