Lights! Camera! Action!
Media Day doesn’t tell much. It doesn’t predict team chemistry or who’ll start at what position or whether the defense will improve. Heck, the guys haven’t even had an organized practice!
But you can get a general vibe of the team during the annual Media Day festivities. And the vibe on Monday said: confidence.
I know. Every team feels buoyant on Media Day. Nobody’s lost a game yet and everyone's geared up to go. And yes, the guys are perky on Monday, but it’ll be a different story after Mike Brown and his staff opens practice on Tuesday, with players being challenged with a rigorous amount of drills and physical activities, not to mention the mental elements of a new system. But, for a young team like the Cavaliers, there was a certain air of veteran confidence.
Maybe it’s because Kyrie, Tristan, Tyler and Dion are all a year better and wiser. Maybe it’s the presence of accomplished guys like Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark. Maybe it’s having a head coach who’s won two out of every three games during his last local tenure back on the bench. And maybe it was just seeing Anderson Varejao back in a uniform.
The team will find out what they’re really about when the whistle blows for practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts on Tuesday. But on Monday, it was undoubtedly a squad that’s comfortable in its own skin.
We saw some grizzled vets who’ve seen the circus before and some new ones that were wide-eyed from the minute the microphones clicked on. Some of the highlights from Monday afternoon in Independence included ….
- Speaking of guys who are comfortable in their own skin and have seen the circus before, Tristan Thompson is a downright Media Day master. Not only did he conduct his own interviews, as the flamboyant forward is wont to do each year, but he killed his own session as well – beginning with his pre-emptive answer to the first question. “The right hand,” he quipped, anticipating the burning question on which shooting hand he’ll use this year.
(Tristan had been only shooting free throws right-handed, but this year, he’ll be “All right.”)
“The right hand, just the whole transformation, I started my own blueprint of it; it’s never been done before,” said the third-year big man. “At this stage right now, it’s more physical than mental. When making that switch, it was something I wanted to do and something that I was ready to take on. So the transition was pretty easy. I think now, just getting in the game, you have to do the footwork of a right-handed player; you have to make moves like a right-handed player. It’s going good so far, but there’s no blueprint. So in terms of timetable, there is none. It’s just based on feel and trying to get better.”
- On the lighter side, Tristan’s interviews take place where and when he’s ready. Alonzo Gee was speaking with a reporter when Thompson came over with the mic. “I’m doing an interview right now,” said the always-polite Gee. “I’m doing an interview now, too!” Tristan responded.
- Thompson’s 2011 Draft classmate, Kyrie Irving, seems like a different man heading into Camp. He’s definitely spent a lot of time in the weight room (“I look good,” the former Rookie of the Year half-joked when asked about adding muscle), but it seems like his bigger focus is to become the leader of this team.
- Another of the team’s leaders, newlywed Anderson Varejao, was also brimming with hope. The only player who remains from Mike Brown’s first stint in Cleveland, Andy talked about having Brown back.
“He’s a defensive-minded coach and in this league you have to play defense to be successful,” said the Wild Thing. “That’s what he’s going to bring back, and he’s going to bring back the team mentality. I know we’re going to spend a lot of time in the film room, a lot of time here (at CCC), because that’s how he is. But that’s what it takes to get better. And I really think we can do something special here.”
- Let’s hope rookie Sergey Karasev is keeping track of his frequent flier miles. The kid flew almost 10,000 miles just for the Draft and his introductory press conference in Cleveland. For the start of Training Camp, the 19-year-old said he just flew in on Sunday (and he had the bed-head to show for it).
“Yeah, I flew a lot – four times to the U.S. and back home,” said the young Russian. “Now I’m here and I must concentrate on basketball and Cleveland.”
He’s still got more business to attend to. He and his girlfriend, who’ll be making the trip to Cleveland in one month to stay with Karasev, still have to travel to the Bahamas to get their VISAs.
- As you can imagine, most of the focus surrounding Andrew Bynum is on his health and when he might make his return to the court. The two-time NBA Champ addressed it from the outset.
- When Varejao was asked how Mike Brown is different this time around in Cleveland, he responded: “More serious.” But the Cavs old/new coach had a different description.
“The biggest thing – if there is one single thing – is probably confidence. I’m a lot more confident now, not to say I was lacking it then, but you kinda don’t know what you don’t know. And the longer you’re on the job, the more confident you can become, especially if you feel like you’ve had success. I know my time in L.A. was short, but given the circumstances, we had success when I was out there. And I felt like being in different situations when I was out there, I grew. And I gained confidence that’s going to help me going forward with this job.”
A more confident Mike Brown and his young band of brothers had a fun Monday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. On Tuesday, it’s back to work for the next few months ….
“I put in a lot of hard work with my teammates this offseason and we have the pieces to do something special this year,” said Irving, “This summer was about leading by example and being vocal out here with these guys. It’s my third year here in Cleveland. I feel like I’ve grown from a little guy, a 19-year-old, into a young man here. It starts with me. I’m the leader of the team, and I take full responsibility for that.”
Kyrie was extremely active getting his teammates together across the country this summer, describing it as “building a brotherhood.”
“We started basketball activities in the last two weeks – not 5-on-5 yet, but good, progressive steps in getting there – doing full-court drills, posting up – (with the coach, not the players yet) – and just moving along,” said Bynum, adding, “They tell me I’m on track; I’m where they thought I’d be when they did the initial exam on me. And from there, I just keep showing up every day and working hard, because I want to play.”