The NBA’s 2018-19 campaign won’t officially tip off for a little less than a month, but in many ways the annual media day event signals the unofficial start of the season.
On Friday, the two teams scheduled to play a pre-season exhibition in Shanghai, China — the Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks — held their respective media days. The rest of the NBA will follow suit next week, and here in Canada the Toronto Raptors media day gets underway Monday morning.
For fans and media members alike, media day offers a first glimpse at new players in their new uniforms and an opportunity to speak with and pose questions to players, coaches and front-office staff.
There’s always a buzz around media day, as dozens of people on all sides of the court dive back into the deep-end after a summer spent away from team facilities and anticipation for the upcoming season is heightened.
In Toronto, the dials have been turned up to 11 after perhaps the most impactful off-season to date that saw face-of-the-franchise DeMar DeRozan dealt to San Antonio in exchange for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, who will make their first official appearance as members of the Raptors.
Here’s what you can expect from Monday’s media day:
Kawhi Leonard’s arrival
There were several rumblings of a Kawhi Leonard introductory press conference to be held earlier this week, although no official word ever came from the team itself to that effect. Instead, Leonard will now face the media for the first time as a Raptor on Monday where he’s scheduled to share the podium with fellow former Spur Danny Green and Raptors president Masai Ujiri.
You know what questions he’ll be asked: Are you 100% healthy? Are you going to re-sign with Toronto? What exactly went down in San Antonio that led to the trade? How do you feel replacing a fan favourite like DeRozan?
Don’t expect any satisfactory answers to any of them, which is no fault of Leonard’s, who has no obligation to share his inner monologue and long-term desires with a gaggle of media folks he’s never met before.
Leonard is hardly a mute — especially not with his teammates — but he is quite reserved, so writers and reporters on hand waiting for a juicy quote or two shouldn’t get their hopes up. Same goes for the fans, who will likely hear from Leonard that he’s happy the season is approaching so he can let basketball do the talking for him.
Danny Green, on the other hand? You can expect him to begin winning people over from Day 1 en route to becoming a fan favourite this season. Green is a thoughtful speaker who, unlike Leonard, is quite comfortable behind the microphone — his new podcast, Inside the Green Room, is evidence.
Green brings an engaging, veteran voice to the Raptors locker room and is somebody who reporters will likely lean on all season long. He’s been candid throughout the off-season about expectations for he and Leonard in their new home, and rightfully has high hopes for what the Raptors can accomplish this season. He’s also become something of a Toronto booster — and just spent this past week in Halifax as he explores more of Canada — so there’s little doubt he’ll be able to effectively pander to his audience.
The Nick Nurse era begins
Nurse is as affable a figure as you’ll find around the team, and that should come across in spades as he meets the media for the first time since his introductory press conference back in June.
The first-time NBA head coach entered a somewhat tenuous situation replacing his former boss, Dwane Casey, and it’s likely going to be a big topic he touches upon on Monday. Nurse, like everybody, will field questions about Leonard and how he’ll fit into his plans with the team. He’ll also be asked to talk about more specifics like his rotations, how he’ll utilize the Raptors’ vaunted ‘bench mob,’ and the unique position of being a first-time coach carrying lofty expectations from Day 1.
Kyle Lowry speaks
Much like Leonard, we haven’t really heard much from Kyle Lowry, either. He spoke with the media while at Team USA training camp in July, but wouldn’t field questions about the big Raptors trade that shook up the NBA.
It’ll be interesting to see how Lowry responds to the many questions that will be fired his way. As a close friend of DeRozan, who says he felt betrayed by being dealt when he was, and someone who signed an extension with the Raptors last summer likely expecting much of his future in Toronto to spent with the now-Spur, Lowry may have strong feelings about how the trade went down.
At the same time, with Leonard joining his team, Lowry’s opportunity to reach the Finals for the first time in his career has never been higher, and as a competitor that has to be an exciting notion. What Lowry will say, if anything of substance, is up in the air.
Sportsnet will be on hand at media day, and will be filing pieces by Michael Grange, Steven Loung and myself. Additionally, we’ll be taping the sixth (!) season of Know Your Raptors — you can catch-up on last year’s episodes here.
Sportsnet will also be streaming Leonard’s and Nurse’s podium appearances, which you can find here on Sportsnet.ca on Monday morning beginning at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT.