Think of the offseason as a tunnel.
It starts off with excitement, both because you still see the light of an action-packed season behind you (less so this year with Warriors/Cavs XXXVII), and because of the unknown right ahead of you. There’s fear because you know the journey will be long, but there are things like the draft and the first week of free agency to tide you over. And as you experience these fun parts of the offseason, you’re still thinking about the light behind you, and you’re waiting to see the light ahead of you as well.
That’s the bad part.
Because the light doesn’t come, not for a while. The end of July through the middle of September is the long, dark part, where you can’t see anything ahead of you and now you can’t see the light behind you, so you play games with yourself to make the journey less agonizing. You start looking for anything to whet your whistle, so you find yourself watching Summer League footage of Frank Jackson’s 13 minutes of fury, or reading articles that talk about Jahlil Okafor’s magical transformation. The darkness is so present that you think you might be insane, which — let’s face it, those things I just mentioned are pretty crazy to focus on.
But now we’re in the back end of September, and we see it — the light. The offseason is almost over, and basketball is nearly upon us. And the first step on that path out of the tunnel is Monday’s Pelicans Media Day.
Media Day is an exciting day for fans and media alike, but don’t forget that you’re still in the tunnel, and so your desperate need for basketball substance is still playing tricks on you. Locked On Pelicans is sending their best writers (i.e. Jake told me to stay the hell home) to Media Day to give you the coverage you crave. I decided to help by creating a Media Day Survival Kit designed to help you parse through the meaningless parts of it and be responsibly excited for your favorite team.
Let’s get started!
1. Do Not Focus On How Players Look, A.K.A. The “Fifteen Pounds of Muscle” Quicksand
This was briefly mentioned above, but it’s important. Maybe Jahlil Okafor does look great. Maybe Julius Randle’s physical transformation was directly responsible for his improved play last year. Maybe Jarrett Jack looks ten years younger and is “in the best shape of his life.” None of this is important. We’re still a month out from the season, and we can’t blindly assume that a ripped physique will translate to success in a league where Glen Davis played for eight seasons.
2. Do Not Focus On What Coaches Say, A.K.A. The “We Really Like Our Group of Guys” Trap
The coaches are going to praise every player, and say they think this team has a shot of being a good team. None of this is educational. They call it coach-speak for a reason. A soundbite or two may end up being noteworthy, and believe me you’ll see at least fifteen tweets about it from the people you follow. But nothing said on Monday will make this team any better come October.
3. Do Not Get Attached to Camp Players With Good Stories, A.K.A. The “Nobody Expected Me to Be Here” Quagmire
You might hear a few underdog stories about guys who are defying the odds. They feel good to read about, and it’s one of the pearls of humanity that can make sports a unifying and uplifting experience. NBA 2K storylines have imbued within us a love for a player who came from nowhere to wow the league with stat-lines of 39/14/11 on 85% shooting. With that being said, most fans expect this Pelicans team to be a playoff contender, and if the Pelicans are relying on guys like Trevon Bluiett or Garlon Green in February, the season hasn’t gone as expected.
4. Do Not Worried if Players Look Bored or Unhappy, A.K.A. The “How Many Poses Can You Do With a Basketball” Quandary
All of that stuff I said above? The players are painfully aware of all of it. And they’re as anxious to get back to basketball as you are. So don’t be surprised if their smiles slip between posing for a thousand pictures or answering forty questions on how their jump shot is looking. It doesn’t mean they want to leave New Orleans, it doesn’t mean they are mad at a player or a coach on the team, it just means they’re probably looking at the basketball hoop across the room and thinking “When can I start doing that again?”.
5. Smile, Basketball is Almost Here, A.K.A. The Light at the End of the Tunnel
So why even pay attention to media day if it’s just a spectacle? Because it’s a basketball spectacle, and you’ve spent months traveling this dark tunnel without a sense of hope. We are a week away from basketball, and a month away from meaningful basketball. This convention of basketball players and media members is a celebration that we survived another summer of dreamscapes and bad hot takes. So have fun, don’t take it too seriously, and start looking forward to October 17, because we’re almost out of the tunnel.