With the NBA season only weeks away (October 22), teams are finally starting to come together after the offseason. The Houston Rockets and Shanghai Sharks kicked off the preseason last night with the rest of the league to follow on Friday.
One of the most tantalizing periods in the league is Media Day (which actually took place over three days, but that's besides the point). It gives fans a first glimpse of players in their new threads, new duos and "super-teams", and allows players to speak freely about the upcoming season and the expectations they hold for themselves and their teammates. Occasionally we get a "Trouble in Paradise" warning, but this year has been civil.
Since there are 30 teams in the league, I'm hoping you don't have nearly as much free-time as I do to keep up with all the press conferences and soundbites from role players. With that being said, here are (what I consider to be) the highlights of the circus that is Media Day.
Check out Sneaker Peeker III here, it's a rundown of the best shoes from Media Day. Erey and I wanted the releases to coincide, so read this and check out his article or vice versa.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook back together
It's still hard to believe that this is real. The 2017 (Westbrook) and 2018 (Harden) MVPs have teamed up and are ready to dominate. During his press conference, Westbrook noted that the once-OKC Thunder teaming up will be "scary" for the rest of the league, and it's a near-impossible claim to refute.
With the same supporting core of Clint Capela, PJ Tucker, Eric Gordon, Gerald Green, Austin Rivers, and Danuel House returning, the Rockets will look to improve on last year's 53 wins. General manager Daryl Morey brought in more depth with the signings of Tyson Chandler, Ben McLemore, and Ryan Anderson. Former first-overall pick Anthony Bennett will also get the chance to prove himself in training camp.
James Harden is coming off one of the most impressive individual seasons of all-time and is looking to build off of it alongside a point guard that has averaged a triple-double in each of the last three seasons. It should also be noted that Westbrook and Harden played in the 2012 Finals together. Mixed with Mike D'Antoni's system and their familiarity and trust playing together, Harden and Westbrook will quickly insert themselves into the "Best Duo in the League" conversation. Don't get it twisted because of Twitter memes, the Houston Rockets are legitimate championship contenders.
LeBron wants the Lakers to play through Anthony Davis
"If we're not playing through Anthony Davis while he's on the floor, then it makes no sense to have him on the floor. Because he's that great."
LeBron didn't leave much to speculate during his second Media Day as a Laker. He knows exactly what it takes to be the best, and after missing the playoffs last season, Bron is clearly prepared to take a revamped roster headlined by Anthony Davis to the postseason (and hopefully the Finals).
LeBron is about to enter Year 17, and even though he put up 27-8-8 a game last season, his groin injury proved that he's actually human. Having a certified superstar and top-seven (?) player in Anthony Davis will allow LeBron to take over primary playmaking duties and put less wear-and-tear on his body as he prepares to take his season well into June. New head coach Frank Vogel has also noted that Avery Bradley's "tenacity" has become the main topic of conversation, so look out for a hard-nosed Lakers team on a road to redemption.
*cough* Anthony Davis is going to win MVP *cough*
Jimmy Butler is getting along with his Miami teammates
Jimmy Butler has always been a fierce competitor with a fiery personality, and if he wasn't, who knows if he would've gone from 30th-overall pick to NBA All-Star. It's gotten him this far, but it's safe to say that Jimmy G Buckets (the "G" stands for Gets) has made a couple enemies along the way. One year ago, Butler was a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves and found himself embroiled in a highly-publicized beef with teammates like Andrew Wiggins. Butler believed some of the younger guys on the team didn't do their part, and after an infamous practice beatdown, he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers.
It was never a sure-thing that Butler would stay with the Sixers, even with a core featuring Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris. After a sign-and-trade landed him on the Miami Heat, a team that he once battled against as a member of the Chicago Bulls, the jokes started flying in about how he'd ride the ass of every player on the team that didn't try as hard as him. Those jokes appear to have met their match in the form of statements from Butler himself, and it looks like the Heat could be a great fit for the four-time All-Star.
When discussing Miami's first-round pick from this summer, sharpshooter Tyler Herro, Butler responded by simply saying, "I love that kid." He also praised Justise Winslow, the 23-year-old small forward-turned-point guard. Last season, Winslow pleasantly surprised many when he took over at guard for the injured Goran Dragic. The Heat may not be looked at as serious contenders, but they could make waves in a weak Eastern Conference.
Chicago Bulls, 8th-Seed Superteam
Is that serotonin rushing into my brain? I don't have much to interject because I've already done a preseason preview on my beloved hometown team, but seeing everyone together has me excited.
The goals have been established as a) having Lauri and LaVine make big jumps and turn the corner into franchise cornerstones and b) compete for a playoff spot. I'm certain at least one of those will occur, so I'll be keeping a close eye on the team this year. This is the first time in a while that I've been amped for a Bulls season; here's to (hopefully) not being let-down.
JJ Redick doesn't want his playoff streak to end
The New Orleans Pelicans are going to be under a microscope this season because of Zion Williamson, but that doesn't mean they can't have fun. With Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and JJ Redick, among others, filling out the rest of the roster, NOLA will be a team to keep an eye on.
It's been made crystal-clear that the Pelicans are Jrue Holiday's team, but Zion is Zion and a ton will be riding on him. He'll feel the Pelicans' highest highs and be blamed for their lowest lows, and Redick may very well be apart of that.
Does NOLA have a genuine shot of making the playoffs? Maybe, if everything pans out. But if JJ decides to stick around long enough for the young core to develop into budding All-Stars, he'll feel Zion's impact.