Media Day came and went for the Golden State Warriors Monday morning, their first taste of what will be an eight month campaign as the most-covered, most-scrutinized basketball team since the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, or at least the 2010-11 Miami Heat, with their audaciously-formed “big three” and the “Heat Index” infamy they begat.
They got through it without incident, which ordinarily wouldn’t be noteworthy for most teams, but most teams don’t find themselves walking into a veritable field of headline-creating landmines. The Dubs had to deal with many flammable questions formulated to provoke and agitate them, ranging from their thoughts and recollections of blowing a 3-1 Finals lead to the possibility of chasing 74 wins to the notion of being “targets” and “villains” due to their acquisition of Kevin Durant to how they will react to the national anthem before games.
They handled all of it with aplomb, with not one sour note uttered from Durant nor Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala or anyone else.
All the principals were as deft in the way they negotiated the Colin Kaepernick questions as they would a pick-and-roll in February against the Sacramento Kings. Curry was asked about the protests and riots in his native Charlotte. Durant had to field questions about the circumstances behind him leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Warriors. Thompson had to answer for the comments he made previously about not being willing to sacrifice (ahem) anything numbers-wise to ease Durant’s transition to his new club. They all handled it perfectly, with Thompson, in particular, clarifying the remark that raised eyebrows in the first place by explaining that any pending statistical drop-off would be mitigated by being on a better team overall.
“When you acquire the talent we did this offseason, I don’t think that’s a sacrifice at all,” Thompson said. “I think that we are in an amazing position to do things that haven’t been done here. … I’m really not sacrificing anything because you don’t sacrifice when you acquire a player like Kevin Durant and get people like David West. I think we really got stronger.”
That they did, and it’s not debatable. Ironically, it was Green who was most emphatic on Monday, making it clear that he wants no part of going all out for 74 or 75 wins in the regular season when he was well-documented that he was the ringleader in that pursuit last year.
Green has been chastened on a number of fronts the past couple of months after falling victim to his own hubris and he’s still processing his emotions and reactions to all of it while having to live a very public existence, but it doesn’t appear to have broken him yet and the Warriors have set up a support system to ensure that it doesn’t.
What struck me as the day was unfolding and in its aftermath was that the real star of the day was not Curry or Durant or any of the other notables but rather the team’s P.R. chief Raymond Ridder and his trusted lieutenants in the dark arts.
It was clear that they had taken the time to prepare and coach up the players for all they would be in store for on this day and it sure appeared that none of the questions caught anyone off guard and that many of the answers were scripted or at the very least paraphrased off a set script.
Frankly, Steve Kerr and his coaches would be fortunate to instruct their guys half this well.
For all the notoriety and flak that owner Joe Lacob got for his “light years ahead” interview in the New York Times, I think he had a point about the Warriors organization as a whole. They are well ahead of the pack in many respects and not the least of them is public relations, where Ridder was well-entrenched well before Lacob and his co-owners bought the team.
Curry was too, don’t forget, but at least they had the good sense not to make a change there when none was necessary. The Warriors have always been well ahead of their peers both in the NBA and other professional sports in their relations with both local and national media.
Through positive and negative coverage, they’ve always nudged their guys to be more accommodating and available even when certain individuals made it known they didn’t want to be. Riddlers’ staff has been exemplary with its dedication to sending out complete, unedited transcripts of interviews.
Ridder and his cohorts have been “light years ahead” for some time now. All media day proved, once again, was that the rest of the franchise has caught up to his standard.