Like HumdingerTV, I was also invited to take part in this year's Media Day events at the Target Center for the Minnesota Timberwolves. I didn't know exactly what to expect but I was excited to talk with the players and take part in the festivities. We were each given a press pass and mingled about the various media folks (Jerry Zgoda, Jonah Ballow, Charley Walters, etc.).
The players not only answered questions from the media but also filmed promotions stuff for KFAN, Fox Sports North and other stations and did the green screen stuff that will go onto the JumboTron this season during intros, halftimes, etc.
Before I get into what I took away from Wolves Media Day, a big thank you should go out to Jeff Munneke, who works for the Wolves and hooked all of this up for us.
The Media Interview
Media Day was held on the Timberwolves' practice court, which is in the Target Center Lifetime Fitness. The players first stop was to talk with the various newspaper reporters, radio folks, etc.
(Pardon the poor quality of some of these photos. They were taken with my "only purchased a year ago but incredibly out of date" cell phone.)
I had my pen and pad out to jot down some notes and take aways from some of these interviews.
The first thing I noticed about Kurt Rambis is that the guy is very soft spoken. The media members had to lean in to hear what the guy was saying, since he talks so quietly. He is very smart in his answers, though.
Regarding the starters, he said that it'll be up to the team to tell him who starts. He does not know who will emerge as a leader and said that he cannot anoint a leader in the locker room. Players must believe in the leader. He refused to estimate a number of wins, but said that his goals are more based around oFG%, rebounding and other stats that show improved defense and improved hustle. He called our defense from last year "porous" and said that is one of the biggest areas of focus in training camp.
He has been impressed by how much some of the younger guys have already started to teach the younger guys. He pointed to Corey Brewer as a guy who has been helping the young guys pick up elements of the offense. Rambis also told me that Pekovic is not quite NBA-ready - since the league is too fast and athletic for him right now - but that he will get there.
I'll admit it. When I first heard that we traded for Michael Beasley, I was less-than-trilled about the prospect. I had in my head a vision of an overhyped guy who smoked too much marijuana and had too little motivation to be a productive NBA player. When I heard his first interviews upon his arrival here, I was intrigued. He seemed gregarious. He seemed engaging. And he seemed like he was ready to put Miami behind him.
Granted, it was only one day, but after hearing him at Media Day, my opinion was changed considerably on Mr. Beasley. He was easily the highlight of the day as he joked with fans and media, gave some of the best interview quotes and seemed to get along with the rest of the players very well. If he can keep it up - and produce on the court - he's going to be a fan favorite in Minnesota and he's going to show me that my first impressions of character are not always correct.
As for his interview: Beasley said he's playing with a chip on his shoulder and wants to shut some people up this season. He said the fans have not seen the best out of Michael Beasley. When asked if he learned from playing with a superstar in Dwyane Wade, Beasley replied that, "I feel like we have some superstars on this team". He did not back down from his stance on feeling like a contender; even when asked about Kahn's "we're not going to compete for a title" letter, Beasley said that he loves proving people wrong.
As for the trade itself, he said that he was prepared by Pat Riley beforehand for a possible trade, but that he found out about the actual deal through the ESPN ticker.
He addressed Kahn's comments about his marijuana usage. He was not mad at Kahn, said that Kahn meant all the right things but perhaps had a poor choice of words, and felt that he should not have been fined. He also addressed the new rules about technical fouls and said that while the rule is bad because fans want to see emotional play, it is also good because players often need to "shut up and play".
If Beasley is as good on the court as he was off of it during Media Day, I'm already much more optimistic about 2010-2011.
While Mr. Kahn did not stop by our station, he did answer questions for the media. One of the first things he said was that "I don't know how it all comes together" and who fits best in what slots. He did say that the roster should be much more stable now and that up until this point, its been deconstruction. Now, he feels that the needs have been addressed, the players are ready to grow together and future moves will likely be in isolation, not as a part of a larger deal.
He said Jonny Flynn will not attend the game in London and he doesn't know exactly when Flynn will be game-ready.
When asked how he will measure goals this season, he answered that he is looking for results but admitted that he doesn't know exactly what that means.
Webster joked that at 23 years old, he's already starting to grow some gray hairs as one of the veterans of the bunch.
One of the best things that Webster has noticed is that players want to be here. They're excited to be in Minnesota and really want to show what they can do. The players are already building chemistry, going out to dinner and trying to take advantage of their opportunities.
"Optimism can change outcomes" is what he said when asked about Kahn's letter. Let criticism be fuel. He did say that nothing should be given, but that it all has to be earned. When he heard that ticket prices were slashed, he said fans will get great entertainment for cheap.
He admitted that, although he was used more as a spot-up shooter in Portland, he felt that his capabilities were under-utilized and that he has a lot more to show.
I don't think Kevin Love likes talking to the media. When a reporter observed that Kevin appeared to be having a good time at Media Day, Love joked, "I was until I saw you guys." But he was a good sport and answered a bunch of questions anyway.
A lot of them were about Team USA. He said that it boosted his confidence and praised Billups, Odom, Durant, Coach Boheim, Coach K, Coach Triano and Coach McMillan. He said he knew he belonged on the team.
I also thought it was good how Kevin Love admitted that he was "bitching" about minutes last season and that he feels he has gotten more mature at accepting his role, although he said he was expecting a bigger role than last year. He felt that team is ready to build and grow, but that the growth might not necessarily show in wins and losses. Love said he wants to be a more vocal leader this year on the floor and in the locker room.
Talking With Us
After chatting with reporters, the players would drop by our little station where Jeff Munneke, HumdingerTV, myself and a handful of others were there with questions. Check out Humdinger's great videos.
While I still regret not asking Corey about his pet goat, Brewer was a fun guy who gave a good interview. When he was not helping HumdingerTV collect on a bet, he said that he has a lot left in him to show people int eh NBA. He has worked on his ball handling in the offseason and feels like he is a starter on this team. He said NBA All-Defense is a goal for him this year.
He was also asked about the Derek Fisher dunk and said that he knew he was going to dunk the ball at halfcourt...he just thought that Fisher would move.
When asked about bulking up, he said that its not a big concern for him. He said that if people were posting him up a lot, it would be, but since they rarely do, it's not.
Telfair said that it felt good to be back in Minnesota, and that although he sold his house when he left, he likes the Cities. He got a new place in downtown. He acknowledged that within the front office and on the court there have been substantial changes and he said that he thinks they were for the positive. When I asked about his role on the team, he said that he wants to make guys believe that they can win and that as a point guard, he wants to lead the team on the court and in the locker room.
Asked about "The Decision" (since he was a Cavalier last year), he said that he thought LeBron would go to Chicago. He said that it was a shock to the team when he left for Miami, but that LeBron is a very nice guy and a great teammate.
Nikola Pekovic (he's tall)
My biggest surprise about Nikola Pekovic was how well he speaks English and how he and Darko did not meet until yesterday, despite being from the same country. He said that he likes contact and likes playing close to the basket. He said that Rambis is a difficult coach and the system has been difficult to learn so far, but he hopes to fill a role here. When asked about joining a 15-win team, he said that he wants to be part of the reason why the team improves.
Wes was beaming and smiling throughout pretty much the entire Media Day. He clearly has a great relationship with Jonny Flynn and a lot of the other guys on the team. I think that'll be great from a chemistry standpoint. He is very excited to get started and said that Rookie of the Year is one of his goals for the year. He also said that his main goal, beyond everything, is to help the team win. His leg still huts from time to time, but in his words, "he's fine".
He also remarked that he has yet to play himself in a video game and that while he has been in Syracuse and Iowa, you can "never get used to that cold".
There was so much else for the players to do and for us to see at Media Day. I'll just post some pictures with captions so you can get a glimpse of the action.
Micheal Beasley talking with our group. He is also back on Twitter @RealMIkeBeasley.
Kurt Rambis yucks it up with us on the practice court. You can tell that these types of things make Rambis uncomfortable but he treated us all with a lot of respect and answered our questions like he would any other media member.
Beasley interviewing with Jonah Ballow.
Jonny Flynn posing. After he took this picture, he raced off to the team bus that was ready to go to Mankato and remarked that he was worried about holding up the team.
Wesley Johnson and Martell Webster peering through the curtain at the green screen area where...
Jonny Flynn was dancing and singing for some type of game that will probably be on the JumboTron during a quarter break at some point this season.
Lazar Hayward says no more of this, please. He was actually recording a promo for FS North where they made him say things like "Tuesday" and "9 PM Central".
Lazar and other players also did interviews with Sludge from KFAN.
The photographer worked with Beasley to get the best pose.
Beasley liked this one the best.
Kevin Love spins the ball on his finger for a photograph.
Luke Ridnour does another TV interview. I think this was also for FS North but it may have been for Timberwolves.com. I'm not sure.
Darko Milicic looks ripped. A striking difference from how he looked last season, when he was mostly out of shape.
Crunch doing green screen stuff. What's funny is that I didn't hear Crunch speak a word here either, despite pretty much everyone who was watching being from the Wolves' organization.
Our group having a free lunch, courtesy of the Timberwolves, and enjoying Media Day. I must say that as a Wolves fan, this is one of the best experiences I've ever had. The ability to get so up close to the players was great and to see what they go through in amazing. Some are more enthused about it than others, like Beasley, but all of the players seemed friendly and likable. There was not one guy who appeared to have a terrible attitude or refused to do things (at least from what I saw).
I was told that KG used to balk at a lot of Media Day stuff and that it was hard to get players like he, Cassell and Sprewell to take part in some of these activities. Not with this current group. It might be derogatory to say that our team will lead the league in smiles, but I think it might actually be true, and I, for one, am happy to have a team that I feel good about rooting for.
Another thing I took from Media Day: I am ready - more now than ever - for the season to start. I came away feeling good about the Wolves this year and can't wait for the games to begin.