Media day brings about a lot of bland quotes as players and coaches work hard to talk their way through all of the questions without saying anything newsworthy. It's more of a necessary evil, the last hurdle to clear before getting back on the court for real once again.
When in doubt, regardless of the player, they're all excited for the season to begin, think all of their teammates have had a great offseason and definitely expect to make a push for the playoffs if they can stay healthy.
There was plenty of that at today's media day with the Indiana Pacers, but also some noteworthy comments along the way so I thought I'd offer up my first impressions from what I heard and saw today, paraphrased for your convenience.
There was a different dynamic at play with two players coming off franchise-embarrassing situations. Surprisingly both Brandon Rush and Lance Stephenson faced the media head on. Also, Tyler Hansbrough talked after being in near exile for about eight months.
But let's start where the day began, with Jim O'Brien's press conference and keep in mind I'm paraphrasing.
- JOB is happy with the offseason changes that made the team more athletic and expects to adjust his offensive game plan with Troy Murphy no longer available as a stretch four and Darren Collison running the point. Emphasized that Collison is in his second year and they've discussed how much he will grow on the court this year. Despite all of the responsibility Collison will have he isn't a seasoned veteran so he'll grow along with the team.
- Without breaking character or even cracking a smile, JOB said how happy he was to have T.J. Ford's experience available as part of the point guard group. With Collison, A.J. Price and Lance Stephenson they are lacking experience.
- JOB thought the team's vets had a positive summer singling out Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert. Granger's first comment to JOB when they discussed his Team USA experience was that Chauncey Billups is a great leader on and off the court. As for Hibbert, JOB thought his summer was one of the best he's witnessed and that Roy really understands that ultimately, player development is up to the individual.
- Talking about playing a different style, JOB mention Josh McRoberts and his discussion with Josh about his role on the team. The three key expectations are for Josh to run the floor, rebound and take care of the ball when he has it. Notice there is no mention of shooting. Josh's play won't be evaluated by his shooting and JOB is not trying to make him or any other PF play like Troy Murphy.
- The offense may run similar sets but emphasize different players within the options of a certain play. The difference should show up in transition as well. Murph used to love trailing the fast break and set up for a three. With Roy on the court that left two players to run ahead of the ball. Now with power forwards capable of running the floor they'll have more options to push the ball up the court and then Hibbert can trail and be part of the play if need be.
- This leads to the most note-worthy comment of the day in my book, that JOB does intend to run the half court offense through Hibbert both in the low and high post which will utilize his scoring and passing ability.
- During Hibbert's interview time he discussed taking a larger role in the offense and mentioned he's thinking about triple-doubles with his passing ability out of the high post.
- Danny Granger offered his usual concise answers and is excited to play with Collison and found his time with Team USA to be a great learning experience. Leadership was the biggest take-away he had after spending time around Chauncey Billups and Coach K. As for his game and the next step, Granger said he needs to win. There are no other stats or individual measures that will show his improvement other than helping his team win.
- Granger likes what he's seen from some teammates since returning. Hibbert looks great physically and he swears the big fella hasn't missed a jump hook yet. Also mentioned that Dunleavy looked to be in great shape and ready to go. He spoke with Lance Stephenson after his arrest trying to support the young player and also show some leadership.
- Tyler Hansbrough looks stout and ready to play. He didn't want to get into specifics over the diagnosis of his inner-ear ailment but he's been cleared to play and confident there won't be a re-occurrence. While he was able to work on basketball skills during the summer, his on-court fitness is still lagging behind so while he's cleared to take part in practice with no restrictions he still expects to ease into camp until his fitness level catches up.
- I must say, Brandon Rush impressed me during his interview. The guy hates this type of drill on his best day, but he stood up strong to every question about his suspension and answered in an affirmative voice, taking responsibility for the mess he put himself in. He expects the suspension to cost him playing time that he'll have to earn back with his play after he sits out the first five games. Rush also mentioned the obvious need to make some changes in his life and leave a few long-time friends behind. We've heard this proclamation before from other athletes in a similar situation so that deserves a big...we'll see.
- Rush also mentioned Danny Granger calling and giving him an earful after the news of the suspension was released. Have to give Granger credit for some leadership growth considering he took time during a busy time in his life to reach out to Rush and Stephenson.
- I was a little surprised to see Brandon Rush face the media, but I was closer to shocked when Lance Stephenson took his turn in front of the mics. The team is giving him a lot of support until his court date on October 19th that's for sure. Stephenson didn't stray far from his talking points. He's trying to be a better person and is lucky to have the Pacers supporting him. He wants to work hard on and off the court to represent the Pacers well. It wasn't about what he said but that he said anything at all.
- Clark Kellogg was also on hand and hovering around all of the player interviews. He was clearly there supporting the players, especially Rush and Stephenson. He wasn't holding up cue cards with answers but occasionally he'd offer an approving nod as the players waded through some tricky questions. He even shared a laugh with Rush after his interview after Rush physically exhaled and said, "I made it."
- Mike Dunleavy's knee remains pain free and he ready to play whatever role is needed on this team. In advance of camp, Dunleavy hasn't played with any of his teammates yet so he deferred comment on any of them until practice starts.Have to credit Dunleavy with a salient point when talking about playoff hopes. There are several other solid teams in the East looking to jump into the playoffs so even if the Pacers improve making the playoffs will still be a challenge.
- Darren Collison has played with a lot of his new teammates and loves what they all have to offer. This guy isn't cocky per se but is something between arrogant and confident that I can't quite describe appropriately. He has a positive energy about him that sure seems genuine that would make him both easy to be around and follow at the same time. He just gives off a "let's go" vibe which I hope spreads throughout the roster.
So that sums up the basics from media day until I can dig through all of the quotes. Also, be sure to check out Pacers.com as Bruno Scorsese was capturing the event on video.