As I attended my fifth consecutive Phoenix Suns Media Day, I expected to lose a bit of my enthusiasm for the whole thing.
Media “Day” really only lasts two hours, and by the end of the second hour everyone is ready to get that last interview (Brandon Knight, where are you?), stuff down a free lunch and head back to their computers to spend the rest of Media Day transcribing a dozen different interview snippets into something edible. Two hours of unfettered availability is followed by several hours of transcription, writing, editing and posting to youtube and twitter and faceboook and more. I mean, our whole job is to share information with our readers, listeners and viewers. What good is getting the quotes if you don’t share them?
In that context, Media Day done right can be exhausting. So I expected a bit of a letdown this year. There weren’t even any juicy story lines to write about, what with Markieff Morris now gracing DC with his riffs.
On the contrary, I found myself as amped up as always. I love the opportunity to talk to all the players, not just the ones who had good games that night and/or dressed out quick enough to take on the post-game media scrum.
I also love catching up with all the other media folks. It’s like school all over again, catching up on what everyone did over the summer since we last saw each other (free agency) except none of us look any different. It’s not like Jimmy shot up half a foot over summer, or Jenny got her womanly parts. We are who we are at this point, except for a couple more gray hairs on some of us.
Outside the scheduled handful of sessions the communications team arranges, talking to players requires a tiny bit of patience and leg work. Within the two-hour session, every player and coach - about 30 total - go through a half dozen photo shoots and at least 15 of them get a half dozen TV and radio interview stops. There are team handlers to get them from station to station. While they wait their turn, you can slide in for a quick one-on-one or many-on-one.
Sean, Kellan and I got to talk to most of the players as they shuffled through. Check out our YouTube channel for all the videos! BrightSideSBN/videos.
If you haven’t already, hit that ‘subscribe’ button on our YouTube page so you’ll get notified of all the interviews we post throughout the season. It’s a great way to not only read what they said, but watch how they said it.
A couple takeaways from Media Day...
I’m a full six feet tall and a solid 200 lbs, but man do I look small in this picture with our own Sean Sullivan and Dragan Bender.
Check out those sweet SB Nation Bright Side polos we got for this year! Easily ups the name recognition with the blog for players, fans and NBA personnel who don’t yet know us personally. Sean and Jim will be sporting them this weekend in Flagstaff for the annual free scrimmage on Saturday.
Speaking of Sean, he’s got a great camera angle for interviews. No worries on anyone cutting in front of him to block the shot.
Elusive but committed
Brandon Knight likely lacked enthusiasm for answering any more questions about his role with the Suns this year before anyone has even made any decisions. He did his required photo sessions and interview work early while most of us were gathered in the seated area and didn’t come back out until very late in the process.
But to his credit, he answered every question he was asked by TV and radio, and as soon as I approached him for an interview between group photos, he readily obliged. That was all the opening a bunch of my fellow media members needed to get to the bottom of Knight’s feelings about playing time. Right?
Here’s the video, starting right after telling me he feels 100% healthy this year, and better than he’s felt in two years (sorry I forgot to hit the record button for a few seconds).
The video gets interesting after he handles the questions about his role. Frankly, his answers were exactly what you SHOULD say before the season starts up.
The interview gets interesting when Knight explains the difference in good team chemistry between last year and this year.
As Coro reminds him, they all talked about great chemistry last September too. Every team talks about great chemistry at this point. And Knight’s smiling pause and knowing look at Coro appear to admit as much.
“It’s different,” he says. “Everyone knows it’s different. To start the year off we’re all on one page. It’s important.”
When Coro asks if he means that Watson is the difference, Knight clarifies a bit more.
He agrees but then explains, “Management doing a great job getting the right guys in place, and making sure everyone that’s here wants to be here.”
Ah there it is. What’s different this year, on top of having a lot of off court bonding time, is simply not being in the same room with someone who hates the organization so much he shows up at the last second and tanks his own performance to prove it.
Great chemistry and the best of intentions last year were undermined by Markieff Morris. All the players liked him, but it’s no different than the malcontent in your own office. One negative attitude can ruin the performance of an entire team. Victory tastes a bit more sour. Failure appears to support the negative. And the spiral begins.
This year, all the guys actually want to be Phoenix Suns. And they want to play for each other AND for the organization AND for the coaching staff AND for the fans AND for the community of Phoenix and the entire Valley.
“Earl is a big part of that,” Knight says, “making sure that the guys that are here are buying in. Most importantly he’s helping us build that brotherhood. You don’t build brotherhood just by coming to the gym and playing with each other. You do those activities off the court, outside of the gym, that’s when you get to really know somebody. You get to really build a bond, and you bring that into the season and that makes it easier.”
Before you paint Knight as a malcontent over his role and minutes and touches, you should consider that the 24-year old Knight was bonding with Bledsoe and Booker and Ulis all summer and is now spouting the World of Earl just like everyone else. Maybe we should just see how all this shakes out before passing judgment.
That’s my first takeaway from Media Day 2016.
More takeaways from me, Sean and Kellan to come!
The Suns four-day training camp starts tomorrow. They all left Media Day on buses up to Flagstaff and will have their first official team dinner tonight.