The media day for the Oklahoma City Thunder went about as planned. Everyone came up and answered the questions that were asked of them. There was no bulletin-board material in regards to Kevin Durant. None of the quotes were groundbreaking. Everyone was just focused on the upcoming season and finding the true identity of this team.
But an encapsulating moment happened near the end of the media day that involved myself and Thunder rookie Alex Abrines. Erik Horne of The Oklahoman asked Abrines whether the apparent injury he suffered in the Olympics was a recurrence of his previous knee injury or something new. The Spanish guard stated that it was no big deal, and the team held him out as a….. and this is where he started stumbling over his words looking for the English equivalent. When English is not your first language, it can be a little difficult to find a word’s translatable equivalent on the fly. Add to that cameras and a microphone in your face and the general nervousness of this being your first NBA media day, and you have the perfect recipe for a vocabularic stumble.
When I noticed him drowning in English alphabet soup, the Spanish speaker in me came out and I yelled out of nowhere “Dilo en español”, which translates to “say it in Spanish”. Abrines looked at me with a surprised, relieved look on his face and said, “En español?” I nodded my head and he said the word in Spanish, to which I told the room full of media members the English interpretation of the word. It was definitely a first timer for me.
But then it got me thinking: Most every player that just got done speaking on media day had at least a masters degree in player-speak, while head coach Billy Donovan was the professor emeritus of coach-speak. Listening to athletes and coaches speak is like listening to the redacted version of their mind. You get just enough to make your column, but not enough for it to stand out. In order to interpret what each player really meant to say, you almost have to have a BS in BS. And luckily, for the reading public, I got one of those, summa cum laude. Here’s a look at quotes from media day and the true meanings behind them.Ronnie Price
Q: Is one of your roles on the team just to — you’re a defensive-minded guy, so is one of your roles on the team just to pester Russ as much as possible in practice?
RONNIE PRICE: That’s been my role with guys like Damian Lillard, Victor Oladipo when those guys were rookies, Eric Bledsoe last year, Devin Booker. I’ve played with a lot of young guys to where that was pretty much my role is to introduce them to the game and help them along the way in practice. I don’t have to do that with Russ. Russ is a mature player, older. He’s not a rookie, not a young guy. He’s a seasoned vet in my opinion. So I won’t be messing with him too much. Maybe Cameron, maybe messing with Cameron a little bit and their minds a little bit, and those guys, can sure help them, because my job is to make them handle defensive pressure every day in practice, and that will make the games a lot easier for them.
Q. Without two starters from last year’s team, what are you looking for in your starting lineup?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, one of the things I want to do is not necessarily pass any judgment on anybody because some of these guys I have not coached before and I have seen them on tape but how they fit in and how they all complement each other. The one thing I do like is I think we have flexibility. I think we have length and size and physicality on our front court. I do think that with the way Andre has evolved as a player is maybe do some different things with him in terms of size lineups, his flexibility, but in terms of the lineups right now, like I really haven’t spent much time because I don’t want to do that going in where you have Sabonis is new and Joffrey is new, Ersan is new, Victor is new, and you have a lot of new guys. And I think just to come in without giving those guys to play and compete in training camp, and that’s what training camp is for, to see how it all works together and how guys complement each other. And then you’ve got to look at second unit, how you’re going to sub and those kind of things. So that would be something through training camp and through the preseason, we’ll get a chance to evaluate.
Q. I’m sure you don’t want to be asked this question but Kevin was asked if you’re still cool and he said you’re still cool; do you agree with that?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: I haven’t talked to him.
(Yep, I got all that from that five word answer.)Enes Kanter
Q. If you remember when you arrived at the Thunder for the first time, Russell Westbrook was the go-to guy on the court due to injury. Have you thought back to that time and going forward, are you confident enough in his leadership with the team with the loss of Kevin Durant?
ENES KANTER: He was our leader last year, too. Yeah, he was our leader last year, too, and you know, he helped us a lot. You know what, the only thing is just, you know, he’s leading this team really well and I just love playing with him.
Q. Do you want to be a starter?
JOFFREY LAUVERGNE: Yes.
Q. How hard are Joffrey and the new guys, how badly do they want to be Stache Brothers like you and Enes?
STEVEN ADAMS: How badly? Man, I don’t even know. Some haven’t said anything, but the Blue Croissant, I think he’s keen on being one of the bros.
Q. How do you see the offense changing with the off-season departures?
ANDRE ROBERSON: I see us running the ball more and running and gunning, and we’ve got great guys that we kind of put in different positions and allow other guys to kind of step up and fill a larger role. I feel like myself, Steve, Vic, all of us can go out there, A-Mo, and go out there and do so much more to help the team out. It’s going to be a great year. Great, fun year, and kind of showcase ourselves a little bit more and play a bigger role.
Q. You said you’re approaching this year a little bit differently. What are you doing differently and what are the adjustments?
KYLE SINGLER: Well, just how I approach each thing — my training. Can’t really get into everything, but how I spend my time on the court, my preparation will change. I’ll spend more time in the weight room. Before games my routine will be different. You know, I’ll spend time away from the game. I’ll be doing a lot of float-tanking, meditation, clearing my mind. Just trying to get myself to be able to perform to the best of my ability.
Q. You talk about your NBA future, do you feel like your NBA future is with this franchise?
MITCH McGARY: Right now, I do not know. I don’t have those answers for you. Like I would love to stay here. We just had a little conversations. I would love to stay here and play here with new guys coming in, it would be very tough for me to get minutes here. I’d love to stay with this organization. This is hands down like the best organization that had treats for you, cares for you, does everything for you, pretty much hand feeds you. I’ve known that from guys around the league have said this is the organization to be with, so obviously I don’t want to leave. But if someone is willing to give me an opportunity to play, I just want to play ball, that’s it. Enough with the shenanigans. Hey, I missed up in my career in college, and now I’m kind of messing up my career here. But I’ve always gotten over that adversity and that’s what makes me a stronger person, and I think I’ve grown from this, even though it’s only been a few weeks since I’ve gotten handed the other suspension. I’m not saying it’s not in my head because it is and I’m just trying to move past it. You know, just quickly, and move on and be a better person and just play ball. I haven’t played ball in a while, so you guys don’t even know what I can do out there. It’s a lot of fun, though, when things get going, because I’m a hell of a ballplayer.
Q. How does the foot feel?
CAMERON PAYNE: My foot’s feeling pretty good. It’s starting to get back there, get back out there on the court, so I’m definitely happen.
Q. Can you first explain why you call yourself Mr. Feathery?
VICTOR OLADIPO: Okay. I’m going to explain to you all what it means, feathering, anyway. When you think of feathery, it’s nothing negative. So feathery is a positive lifestyle. It’s better than better. It’s better than great, but it’s not heavenly, it’s right under there. It’s feathery. You cannot live a feathery lifestyle so I’m the one and the only, Mr. Feathery. So if you refer to me as Mr. Feathery, that’s fine. Vic is fine. Dipo, whatever you want to call me, but if you call me Mr. Feathery, we’re here, we’re definitely here.
Q. Last season of your contract, do you feel like this is your last season?
NICK COLLISON: I’m not sure. I think I’ve learned enough to know that you don’t really know how you’re going to feel in a year, and my mindset is really I’m just happy to be back. I’m happy to be with the guys. I’m going to try to stay healthy and stay ready to play. It’s an unknown for me on what my role is going to be. That’s kind of the way it goes. But I think I want to be ready and prove I can still play, and then when the season is over, I’ll see how I feel and go from there.