With all of the hoopla surrounding Media Day, it panned out kind of like a modern heavyweight fight. A lot of hype… but not many knockout punches.
Shawn said he was ready to play ball at Media Day.
The question around the league was which Shawn Marion was going to show up Monday? Was it going to be a Shawn Marion that was going to arrive with guns blazing? Or was it going to be a Shawn Marion that was going to retract his trade demands and move forward with the team?
The truth is, the event was a non-event, and a smiling Shawn issued a plethora of “no comments” regarding his comments and thwarted the press by keeping all chatter to strictly basketball.
He came. He saw. He eluded. And that was that. I think General Manager Steve Kerr said it best when he stated that this is a business away from the court, but still a game on it, and an All-Star like the Matrix would be professional in his play on the court. When asked if Kerr had ever been part of a situation like this before, he replied wryly that he had played with Scottie Pippen on those great Bulls team, and they played in a much more controversial situation. But they were able to overcome it and win the championship.
So what about the rest of the day? It was kind of like the first day of school. Everybody gathers around to see if everyone changed over the summer, while everyone was curious about the “new kids.”
In this case, the new kids were Grant Hill, Brian Skinner, Alando Tucker and D.J. Strawberry. And then there were the trend-setting kids like Steve Nash and Amaré Stoudemire, who sparked the interest of everyone there, and the crowd flocked to them as soon as they entered the room.
Basically what happens at Media Day is that there are a bunch of stations and each player has a schedule. It’s just like going to classes and listening for the bell. One designated guide would lead a player around to all of the groups they needed to meet with and help them accomplish all of the tasks on their list.
Most of the guides were attractive young women, who gleefully paraded around the likes of Marcus Banks and Grant Hill. Yes, the perks of being a professional athlete never stop. I guess Leandro Barbosa and Brian Skinner must have ticked somebody off, because they were being led around by Public Relations Coordinator Casey Taggatz and Community Relations Coordinator Chris Mallory. Tough break, fellas!
What did LB do to deserve this?
But as I was hanging around with Skinner and LB, I was able to learn some interesting facts about those guys. Skinner doesn’t ice fish, he fishes “comfortably.” Having played in Milwaukee, where it snows practically 11 months out of the year, he had to do a lot of ice fishing. But he really enjoyed it. Not only did he prop up a little tent, crank up the heater and turn on his TV, but he had�food brought out to him while he fished.
One of the more interesting players I have spoken to, I also learned that the 6-9 center collects crystal and loves the movie “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” He is also one of maybe three people on the planet who knows what happened to Latrell Sprewell. It ruined my theory that he was playing on some random rec team with other notable players that seemingly dropped off the face of the planet, like Dajuan Wagner and Robert “Tractor” Traylor. But he isn’t, and that’s a whole other blog in and of itself.
I watched LB pose for about four different photographers and then have to read at least five different ads or introductions for various TV and radio stations. After doing those, he was off to ESPN, NBA TV and a bunch of other networks to partake in a slew of interviews.
I was able to catch up with Sean Marks and talk to him about his trip to Africa that was part-charity (helping Basketball Without Borders) and part-vacation. After helping out with the BWB camps, Marks went into a shark cage to swim with great whites. That was followed by a safari around South Africa where he witnessed a lion eating a zebra. Most people’s biggest trip this summer was going to the mall, and this guy was hanging out with Jaws.
Another interesting tidbit I discovered was that Raja Bell showed up to participate in Steve Nash’s Charity Game in Vancouver, but couldn’t play because he hurt himself playing soccer. It was no big deal, but just the kind of thing that must make a coach’s heart skip a beat when he hears reports like that in July.
The Suns also picked up a few guys to bring to camp. Although they have their 13 players set, they can sign up to 15 based on league rules. So Richie Frahm, Rawle Marshall and Doug Thomas were all invited to camp with an opportunity to make the team. Knowing that Thomas played in Switzerland, I wanted to see if we knew any of the same basketball people there, so I struck up a conversation.
Having watched the former Buckeye during morning workouts, he really stood out to me due to his incredible leaping ability. Anything near the rim is a dunk – and it’s done with authority.
Thomas let me know that there was footage on YouTube of him touching as high as 13 feet on the backboard. Now that may sound ridiculous to some, but so are this guy’s hops. So I checked it out and it’s legit. Click here if you don’t believe me!
In the end, like the first day of school, everyone was able to visit, exchange pleasantries and make introductions. It was an opportunity for everyone to get clued into the team’s agenda, before the real work begins. And as the media packed up and the Suns made their way to the team bus headed to training camp in Tucson, one thing became abundantly clear. School was really about to start.