I'm not really sure what there is to be learned from Media Day. You know, intimate conversations with a player and 20 other reporters. About all you can tell is how well the guys handle themselves with a bunch of digital recorders in their faces. And actually, the Clippers are pretty good in that regard. Baron Davis and Chris Kaman would definitely make the all-interview team, Blake Griffin is first team all-rookie interview and Eric Gordon may be Most Improved Interview. But how many games will they win?
So, did we learn anything at all? Here are the things that I felt were mildly interesting:
You've no doubt already seen the comments from Vinny Del Negro that Baron is not in shape, or at least not in as good a shape as they want him to be. "Baron isn't in the shape that he needs to be to reach the standard that we've set here, but he knows that." Here's what's most interesting to me about that answer - no one asked the question. VDN offered it up himself. He also then began putting some caveats on the statement: "He's put in a lot of work in the last month or so, but he started later than maybe needs to. Overall, I'm pleased with it, but he's not where we need to be." I'm pleased, but I'm not pleased.
Speaking with Neil Olshey a little later, Neil let it be known that Vinny had told Baron in advance what he was going to be saying. So in the end, it was an interesting bit of choreography. The new coach, calling out the highest paid player, then protecting him a bit. I must say, I'm not sure I understand the the logic in it all, but I have a theory. Could it be lowering expectations? Baron certainly didn't look overwieght to me, though I can't assess his conditioning standing next to him. There was a dance going on there, that much I know. I'm just not sure I know whether it was a softshoe or a tango.
Eric Gordon is indeed much better with the media than he was a year ago. Whether it's the additional practice he got this summer, or increased confidence that resulted from his Team USA experience, it's noticeable. The big question is whether this confidence translates to the basketball court as well.
When asked that question, Olshey used a word to describe Gordon's first two seasons in LA that we've used frequently around here as well: deferential. EJ will sometimes, one might even say oftentimes, defer to teammates on the court. The fact that he's a team-oriented player is not a bad thing, but the next step is realizing that there are times when the best thing for the team is for him to take over. The moment when Coach Krzyzewski explained to him that all of his Team USA teammates want him to take shots may be a turning point in EJs ongoing development. As you might imagine, Gordon was a major attraction at Media Day today - which in and of itself tells you something about his increased visibility on the team.
As has been reported elsewhere, Blake declared himself 100%, no restrictions on his activities. I don't have much more to say about him other than that his hair is getting a little shaggy.
I'm no expert on Clippers' media days, but I will say that I have never seen the training facility in Playa Vista as crowded as it was today. The 'auxilliary parking lot' (really just a dirt patch on the hill above the regular lot) was overflowing - a far cry from most days when it's my car sitting next to Lisa Dillman's car alone up there. There seems to be some interest in this team, at least for the time being. As well there should be - there is no shortage of stories here, not to mention a decent opportunity to do something. The belated rookie debut of first overall pick Griffin, the return of the newly respected Gold Medalist Gordon, the new coach, the new GM, the veteran Davis, the returning all star Kaman.
As for Baron, he handled the press with aplomb, as he always does. Andrew Kamenetsky of ESPN LA was there and posted a nice piece on Davis as the key. I'm not going to cover that same territory - I think AK handled it well. My issue is that we know that Baron is articulate and self-aware and even self-deprecating with the press. In short, he talks a good game, even a great game. He takes responsibility for his shortcomings in the past, and promises better things in the future. He doesn't deflect; he answers questions honestly. And he's really, really good at it. His words don't sound empty at all - he seems really, really sincere and dedicated.
But in the end, how good he sounds saying the things he's saying has as much to do with how good he is with the press as it does with how sincere or insincere he is. He might be completely sincere - he still has to deliver on the court. Seeing how he plays is the only thing that really matters with BD.
I liked the new unis close up. They're obviously not a major departure, but seem to be a very good combination of some new styling with some classic themes. The blue cursive Clippers is no doubt a matter of opinion, but from a graphic design standpoint, give me blue on white over red on white any time.