Media day a time for NBA guys to say it right
It's the fall of 2015, and LeBron James stands alone inside a dressing room at the Cavaliers' practice facility.
James is smiling and shirtless, looking down at his Cavaliers uniform on the chair to his right. He grabs his jersey, gives it a shake, and slips it over his head.
Soon, he will hold a basketball -- but only long enough to strike a pose.
"I love it," James says of the annual day reserved for greeting the press. "I actually miss you guys sometimes."
James is the King of Cleveland basketball, and he may or may not be telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But on this day, anything is OK.
For NBA players and coaches, being kind is what media day is all about. Just sound good, act excited, smile for the cameras, and it will all be over soon.
But it's not all about getting along with press. Some of it is about setting the tone for the season. Players talk confidently about what's ahead, how far the team can go, why everything can come together at the precisely the right time.
Take Clippers point guard Chris Paul.
While James heads to his seat at a large table, grabs a mic and takes questions from a large contingent of Cleveland reporters (and several affluent fans), Paul sits on a stage approximately 2,000 miles away, addressing the horde in Los Angeles.
"We've got, I think, a great locker room as far as veteran leadership, guys who have been through a lot of different things in our league, a lot of guys who have improved," Paul says. "And it all starts tomorrow."
Clippers forward Blake Griffin is also on center stage, next to Paul and center DeAndre Jordan.
"We have so many guys who can make plays," Griffin says. "We have guys that can shoot the basketball, guys with experience, and guys that can finish. That will all come together over the course of training camp and throughout the season."
Of course, these grand proclamations are all made before the first moment of practice. As Paul notes, that doesn't come until tomorrow, 24 hours after media day, when the things start to calm down a bit.
In a lot of places, reporters who fight the chaos on media day won't interview real live NBA players again until sometime after Christmas. Some will return to their normal existence of feasting on the NFL all the way to the Super Bowl. Others won't return for an entire year, when the next NBA media day occurs.
Unless, of course, you're talking about the Cavs. As James suggests, wherever he goes, stories arise. Or more precisely, "Drama follows."
Things won't be much different this season, probably even worse. One year later, James and his Cavs enter the season as champions, a first in franchise history.
Every word, move and social media post will be analyzed, scrutinized, and potentially go viral. Every missed shot will likely result in a tweet explaining why the Cavs simply cannot win it all again. And every reporter will demand to know, yesterday, what James and his teammates make of all this.
"I can miss you guys now," James says, smiling again, during Media Day 2015. "But I probably won't later."