I's no secret that I'm not a big fan of Media Day. Aside from what it represents -- that is that NBA basketball is close to returning -- it's kind of a waste of time. But that's fine -- something has to officially kick off the season, and beyond saying "Hey we're back" I don't know what else one could expect from the exercise.
The Los Angeles Clippers Media Day today was very different than it's ever been for the team, and indeed different than any media day I've experienced or even heard about. Media Day usually features a few brief statements, followed by a bit of a free for all of various scrums with players and media milling about together. In Playa Vista today it was a completely different story. There was no one-on-one access to players or coaches, with all of the interaction occurring press conference style with Brian Sieman filling the role of host. In groups of one to three, first Doc Rivers and then most of the players were brought to the dais to answer questions.
It was fine -- but it was also a bit sterile. It may or may not say something about the new era of the Clippers as an organization. Joe Safety and Rob Raichlin, the top two guys in the Communications department for the team for something like 20 years, are both gone, and clearly the new team is doing things differently. Whether it's better or worse remains to be seen -- but the immediate impression is that they are going to try to keep things pretty tight. It's not as if a reporter is going to get a great interview at Media Day -- if the players are on their game, you're only going to get platitudes, whether from the podium or in the scrum. But as one reporter said to me, you'll ask different questions one-on-one than you will in the press conference -- the off the wall type questions simply aren't going to get asked in this format.
The other impact is that the collected media were pretty damn bored as the day wore on. By the time Reggie Bullock took the stage, there were barely any reporters left to ask him questions. I don't know who was left to interact with Antawn Jamison, because I was no longer among them. As I said, I'm not a big fan of the old-school media day, but one thing is clear: two hours of press conference is too long.
The day did include a few worthwhile nuggets, which I'll list here and expand on in subsequent posts:
- Doc Rivers is pretty amazing, at least in this environment. To contrast him to Vinny Del Negro, VDN certainly was comfortable with the media and quite charming -- but he rarely said anything truly worthwhile. As is the case with so many coaches, he was incredibly guarded in what he said, which reduced most of media comments to talking points that I could have written before he even opened his mouth. So you're stuck with the infamous "We're going to play the right way" cliche. Rivers is polished and charming and engaging -- but he also SAYS something. Meaningful and surprising words actually come out of his mouth. I'm really not used to that from an NBA coach.
- The Clippers are putting DeAndre Jordan front and center. Everyone seems fully aware that a lot is riding on DJ this season, and they seem to be embracing the challenge. Rivers continues to sing his praises and to set the bar incredibly high for Jordan -- "All Defensive team" and "Defensive Player of the Year candidate" were heard in association with Jordan more than once. And where the Clippers in years past have almost always stuck Blake Griffin and Chris Paul together on stage, this year they were joined by a smiling, goofy seven footer. Does it mean anything? I think so. At the very least it's a process of building DJ's confidence -- where it seemed that VDN was always tearing him down.
- The big "surprise" at Media Day (which was of course no surprise at all) was the unveiling of the new uniform. The leaked NBA 2K14 video seemed to get it right for the most part. I've already explained that I'm not a fan of powder blue in uniforms -- not least because of the UCLA association -- but that's a completely personal and subjective opinion. Whether you like the T-shirt style is another personal preference. A couple of things I do like -- the connection to Clippers/Braves history (light blue unis were worn both in San Diego and in Buffalo) and the Lima-Alfa-Charlie (LAC) maritime flag symbols on the shorts. It's been decades since the Clippers embraced or even acknowledged the seafaring origins of their team name -- it's about time they included something nautical in their iconography, and it is easily my favorite part of the new uni. In fact, it should be added to every Clipper uniform.
- For what it's worth, while the Clippers may not win a championship this season, this collection of players will almost certainly lead the league in "grammar error to interview ratio." Griffin and Paul were already two of the most well-spoken players in the league and arguably 1-2 among the marquee players. Jamal Crawford is an articulate and thoughtful young man, Matt Barnes is incredibly polished belying his tough guy image, and DeAndre Jordan makes up in charm and enthusiasm what he lacks in erudition. To that group the Clippers have now added J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, a couple of guys that spent four years at some pretty decent colleges (Duke and BC), and sound as if they could have qualified for admission even if they hadn't been basketball players. It's not worth anything in the win column, but this team is a marketer's dream. You can put most of these guys in any situation and they will thrive.