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:
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.”