Observations From Media Day 2013
Media Day 2013 has come and gone, and it as always didn’t disappoint. The best part about Media Day is it’s the perfect storm of a lot of things meeting together: You have the players officially returning and putting their jerseys on for the first time, most of them are talking with the media for the first time since last season, they’re taking questions from fans, taking photos and making videos, etc. It’s the beginning of new optimism and, in many ways, re-introducing all of the players into our day-to-day lives.
It was an entertaining afternoon. For the rookies, it was a brand new experience of going through the gauntlet of more than 15 different audio, video and interview stations. For veterans like Ronny Turiaf, who has been through this nine times with now seven different teams, it’s a road well-traveled but always enjoyed. To him, Media Day is a way to get to know not only his fellow players but also the media members and workers within the team’s organization.
For me, it all intersects between getting to sit in on a few press conferences (this year I was there for coach Rick Adelman, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio) as well as hosting our Timberwolves.com Live Show and taking questions from fans around the world. After this year’s 2 ½ hour event, here are some of the top things I took away from Media Day 2013. Rick Adelman spoke for the first time since last season, and he said it took time for him to decide to come back this season. There were so many factors, namely his wife’s health. But with her health being consistent this summer, he and his family felt comfortable with his return. And in doing so, he’s going to be able to continue nurturing what he started two years ago. One change this year is working with President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders, a former coach in this league with more than 600 career wins. Adelman said while he’ll have the final say in on-court decisions, he wants Saunders’ input. “I think that’s one of the great things I had for many years with Geoff Petrie (in Sacramento). He was never afraid to tell me what he thought, and I think it’s good to listen to somebody because when you’re on a coaching staff, you’re dealing with the every day and sometimes before you know it, two weeks have gone by and the games come so quickly. Where as you get somebody who’s not in your meetings, just observing, gives you input. You think about it, and it helps you.
Kevin Love looks trim and sounds focused on making 2013-14 a year to remember. Two years ago, he was sixth in MVP voting because of the way he took over, particularly during that stretch in March when he averaged 30.7 point and 13.9 boards per game. Last year was forgettable due to injuries, and he’s focused on looking ahead while not looking back. A couple of notes here: One, with a full bill of health coach Rick Adelman hopes this team can expand deeper into the playbook than in years past. That means bigs like Love are expected to take steps in their games to facilitate, especially from the elbow. Adelman hopes the team will rely less on the pick-and-roll this year. Another note from Love is he was sporting a well-groomed but still present beard—begging fans to ask if he’ll be judging any beard contests this year. He sounded 50/50 on that possibility.
Speaking of trim, Derrick Williams looked as slender as Flip Saunders said he would coming into camp. He’s down to around 235 pounds this year, which he hopes will make him a bit more agile on the court and, subsequently, could help him make a potential transition to the small forward position. He also had jaw surgery over the summer and is sporting a new longer-haired look. Williams said he did a collection of cross training this offseason, including some yoga, and his regimen sounded a lot like what Love often describes as his offseason workout routine.
Ricky Rubio said one sign that his knee is getting stronger and stronger is that this summer he was able to throw down. “I was working all summer—everything I could do. Finally, I can dunk. I never jumped too high, but at least I could dunk before the injury. This summer was the first time I dunked. I’m not going to say easy, but finally I dunked.”
The best question of the day came from Sid Hartman, when he sent this one in the direction of new shooting guard Kevin Martin: “Are you as good as everyone says you are?” Martin, the calm veteran whom I think many Wolves fans will enjoy because of his thought-provoking answers, replied: “I’ll let you be the judge of that. I’ll let you write your stories after you see me play.” Martin talked a lot about his relationship with Adelman over the past few months, and he said on Monday that when Adelman landed in Minnesota two years ago he was conscious of that coming up on his next contract situation. The time came, and he was part of a move that reunited them for the third time. This time around, Martin is no longer a rookie and he’s entering a part of his career when he realizes he might only have a couple great seasons left. He is coming off a year in which he wasn’t a primary scorer with OKC, and he’s back in a system where he feels awfully comfortable—even saying his role changed, “and that’s what happened the past couple years, and all I can say now is I got my role back and I’m excited to start this next chapter.”
Martin also seems to have perspective on where he wants this chapter of his career to go: “Hopefully at the end of all this I can say that I was one of the best shooting guards to ever put on a jersey here. Hopefully I can help the team to the playoffs, and can say I've had an amazing basketball chapter with Ricky Rubio, Kevin love, Pekovic, and Adelman."
The best quote came from Corey Brewer, who returned to the Wolves after leaving the team in 2011. Since then he’s won a title in Dallas and spent two years in the playoffs with Denver. “I like Minnesota. We weren’t winning too much when I was here, but I wasn’t too good when I was here, either.” Brewer shared today that he changed his number to 13 from 22 after he left Minnesota, and he feels like it is good luck since he’s had a nice stretch of personal and team success since. He also said when it comes to his defensive approach, he might not take quite as many chances as he did last season because he doesn’t have rim-protectors like JaVale McGee behind him. He’ll most likely stay solid, try to keep defenders in front of him and make them take tough shots.
Alexey Shved talked about learning from last season, especially the grind of 82 games replacing a normal season in Europe where he played 40-45 games at most. He was fatigued by the end of last year, but he worked all summer with that in mind. Now in Year 2, he’s more familiar with the league and living in the U.S. He passed along greetings to the fans from his friend and former teammate, Andrei Kirilenko, who is now with the Brooklyn Nets. And he said he doesn’t mind playing either point guard or shooting guard, even though he is probably stronger when he has the ball in his hands: “I like playing with the ball, but this is basketball and you need to play with the ball and without the ball. You just need to play for the team. That’s what I want to do this year.”
J.J. Barea was asked what a championship team needs to do to be successful, given he won the 2011 title with the Mavs. His response: You need to stay healthy, you’ve got to get better every day as a team and you’ve got to do everything as a team both on and off the court. “Going to dinner together, partying together—you name it, we’ve got to do it together. We’re going to have some bad times. We’re going to lose games in a row. But we’ve got to stay together as a team and come back stronger. That’s all the things, that team in Dallas, by the end of Game 6 of the Finals, we were a family. That’s where this team needs to be. I think we have the people to do it.”
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