NBA training camps and the 2022-23 season are fast approaching, and players and coaches are expected 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 to some of their big off-season additions. These include new Atlanta Hawks shooting Dejounte Murray, new Cleveland Cavaliers shooting Donovan Mitchell and new Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert. Each of them will meet journalists for the first time as a member of their respective new teams.
This year’s rookie class will also debut on NBA Media Day. First overall pick Paolo Banchero will have a one-on-one with the Orlando Magic reporters who just beat the reporters after his Summer League performance as he prepares for his first training camp NBA.
The same goes for Jabari Smith Jr. of the Houston Rockets, Keegan Murray of the Sacramento Kings and a handful of other coveted rookies who are expected to help their teams this year.
Then there are veteran teams who will have serious questions and concerns to resolve before the start of the season. The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, who are under pressure to be serious winning contenders this year, garnered media 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 series of off-court distractions and near-departure offseason in their first media appearances since exiting the playoffs in the first round 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 NBA’s best player debate is simple.
He doesn’t consider himself the current best player in the league as his team failed to win the league last season. So he was willing to cede that accolade to Warriors star Stephen Curry instead.
“I think the best player in the world is the person who’s the last man standing,” Antetokounmpo said Sunday afternoon at Bucks media day. “He’s the person who takes his team to the final, to the finish line and helps them win the game. … that’s how I see 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 he was one of the best players in the league and could have claimed 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 to the Boston Celtics, he failed to claim.
Antetokounmpo also finished third in NBA MVP voting after averaging 29.9 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists last season, but he highlighted how individual awards have failed compared looking forward to winning the NBA Finals.
“The feeling I got, 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’s being taken away from you.”
– Jamal Necklace
Can the Warriors roll him back? “They want to relive that”
Following their 2021-22 NBA championship, the Golden State Warriors repeatedly said this title was different due to their journey through the trials of the past three seasons. Their fourth championship in eight years was a statement: The Dynasty was not more.
Now the champions are ready to prove themselves again.
“I don’t think it’s the same chip [on our shoulders]. I would be lying to you if I told you. But there are fleas. There are fleas. He’s not running out of chips, I can tell you,” Draymond Green said Sunday. “It might not be quite, ‘Oh man, people don’t think we can do it again . This opinion is as far from relevant as it gets.”
Steph Curry added: “It would be stupid to try to contradict us and think that people are going to take you seriously. But we also know that winning a championship and that’s not a guarantee every year, no matter how many a chip on our shoulder we have.You just embrace hard work and drive.
The Warriors feel they still have something to motivate themselves: for the first time in three seasons, they start the season in great shape. They want to show that their 2022 title was no accident. Perhaps more importantly, their all-star core knows their championship window won’t stay open forever.
“I mean, the guys coming back who won it for the first time, I just know they want to relive that,” Klay Thompson said. “And, I mean, for me personally, and probably Steph and Andre [Iguodala] and Draymond, you think of players who have won five championships, it’s such a short list. And having the opportunity, just the opportunity, to be able to do that is so special.”
Can Murray and Trae take the Hawks to the next level?
The Hawks are hoping Murray’s pairing with franchise point guard Trae Young can push their backcourt to championship level. Murray, coming from the San Antonio Spurs, will play a major role in a playoff 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 has given some thought to what the team’s approach will look like when he’s on the court.
“You’re going to see the ball move. I think that’s the #1 thing – playing the right way. Lots of excitement, playing defense, and like I’ve always said, I love defense and I believe the best offense is to get a stoppage and get out and run,” Murray told reporters.
“I’m just excited. We have a lot of weapons around us, guys who can do a lot of things. It starts on the defensive side and it will translate to the offensive side, and that will be exciting.”
Porzingis motivated by his fall in NBArank
The Wizards are coming off their fourth straight losing season, but the trade of Kristaps Porzingis at last year’s trade deadline at least gave the franchise a potential franchise element to build on going forward. Porzingis had been in statistical decline in recent years since tearing his own in 2018. But had a productive 17-game stint with Washington late last season, in which he averaged 22.1 points , 8.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists, reminiscent of his only All-Star season in 2017-18.
Porzingis came in at 86th in this year’s ESPN NBA rankings, which was his lowest since his rookie season in 2015, and admits he’s using the rankings as motivation this year.
“Especially this year, I come in with a chip on my shoulder because of ESPN rank.” Porzingis told reporters. “I use it as an essence, as an energy. I can’t wait to remind everyone what I can do on both sides of the floor.”