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.
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.
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:
Mavericks have a plan for newcomer Christian Wood
Coach Jason Kidd confirmed that during Monday's 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," Wood said, 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."
-- Tim MacMahon
Did we just become best friends?
Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook have been known as rivals dating to the time when Beverley, then with the Houston Rockets, aggressively defended Westbrook as he was calling a timeout during an Oklahoma City Thunder playoff game. The play resulted in a torn meniscus for Westbrook, damaging OKC's hopes of returning to the NBA Finals.
The two have traded words ever since, but now they find themselves teammates with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Beverley says all the history between them is exactly that. History.
Patrick Beverley told ESPN that Russell Westbrook has been his "best friend" on the team since being traded to the Lakers this summer. Says they both come in to train before 7 a.m. and spend time in the gym together— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) September 26, 2022
The James Harden weight loss plan
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
"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?
Embiid shows soccer skills at 76ers media day
Joel Embiid shows his talent as a soccer player with some slick moves.
A fiesta in San Antonio
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 Monday 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.
Popovich wouldn't put money on the Spurs to win the title
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'
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."
-- Jamal Collier
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."