Behind the curtain of Thunder media day

Behind the curtain of Thunder media day

Media day is the unofficial kickoff of the NBA season. But media day is about more than local media meeting with the team. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the event and also read some nuggets of info that you may have missed.

Jon Hamm

By Jon Hamm

| Oct 2, 2023, 11:07pm CDT

Jon Hamm

By Jon Hamm

Oct 2, 2023, 11:07pm CDT

Media day is the unofficial kickoff of the NBA season. Over the next three weeks, the Thunder will go through a training camp and play five preseason games.

Before that fun commences, the media gets an opportunity to throw questions at the players as well as coach Mark Daigneault. But media day is not just for people who type into notebooks or talk into microphones. A lot more happens today that fans may see during games at Paycom Center throughout the season.

The annual event is typically held in the Thunder’s home arena. Due to construction, this year’s occasion was moved to the Oklahoma City Convention Center, a splendid building located at 100 Mick Cornett Drive with a terrific view of Scissortail Park.

An exhibit hall on the lower floor was full of activity. Every major local news and media outlet is provided a station to work out of. A large section is set up for ThunderVision, the Thunder’s in-house video production. ThunderVision produces video clips that are shown during games, such as a player flexing, screaming loudly into the camera, or attempting to crush the air out of a basketball with their bare hands. 

The main interview room was on the second floor, where at least two dozen media members fired questions at whoever took to the podium. Sellout Crowd had a presence at both locations. Brett Dawson, Berry Tramel and I were in the interview room. Jenni Carlson conducted video interviews in the Sellout Crowd station below. Look for all of that content to drop this week and beyond.

Players go through a car wash of sorts, zipping from station to station, up into the interview room and back down again. Andrew Schlecht of The Athletic, who had a station of his own, described Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sprinting with joy from place to place to fulfill his obligations. Do a radio hit, take some pictures, record a podcast segment, yell at a video camera .mp4, have a conversation with Jenni, answer media questions about how Chet Holmgren fits in and what arenas he likes to play in the most. Face-of-the-franchise sort of stuff.

Media day is part high school reunion, part first day of school, and part (mild) interrogation. People reconnect after months apart. New acquaintances are made. Participants prepare for the marathon that awaits them.

The overall mood this year was relaxed and centered. Nothing was said that would cause a social media firestorm, nor was that expected unless Vasilije Micic decided to unleash a Melo-like “Who? Me?” in his native Serbian. With this day now out of the way, the Thunder will now get to work.

Here are a few items of interest from today that may not have attracted much attention:

Victor Oladipo was not present, as expected. He was, however, issued number 15 at least temporarily. He wore number 5 in his previous Thunder stint, which is now owned by Lu Dort. Another former Thunder player flipped between numbers 5 and 15: Kyle Singler. Both Singler and Oladipo could see the OKC chapter of their career closed by ending up on waivers.

 The Thunder will have to make some moves to reduce the roster from 18 players to 15. Three players on two-way contracts do not factor into that decision. OKC faced a similar roster crunch a year ago.

 Media day was held on Sept. 26 last year. Vit Krejci did the car wash. The next day he was traded to Atlanta for Mo Harkless and a future second-round pick.

 Also present at that media day: Derrick Favors, Ty Jerome, and Theo Maledon. All three were traded with Harkless to Houston on Sept. 30.

 Just a reminder that a few players who spoke with the media today could be on the receiving end of a breaking news notification at any time.

 For anyone unclear on how to say Vasilje Micic’s name, we have clarity. The Serbian guard was referred to as “Vasa” by most. Micic himself admitted his name is hard to pronounce and that Vasa was an acceptable nickname. As for his last name, it’s pronounced “MEATS-ich”.

Micic was one of the last players to come through the interview room. Earlier, Kenrich Williams said he calls him “Vava-M” and said, “that’s a nickname I gave him.”

That was news to Micic.

“That nickname is (the) first time I’ve heard in my life,” Micic said while laughing when asked about the moniker. “If they like to call me like that, it’s okay. Whatever is easy for them.”

Micic will wear number 29. “My favorite jersey number is 22, but a few days before I got — not a few days, a few weeks before the signed deal, already they drafted (Cason) Wallace, so he took it. And already I feel like I’m 29 years old, so I just want to have this number.”

 That puts Micic in the same company as Derek Fisher, who wore number 37 in his first Thunder stint in honor of his age. No word on whether Olivier Sarr will have to surrender his number when Micic turns 30 in January.

 Davis Bertans was sound asleep when news broke that he was traded from Dallas to Oklahoma City late last June. “My wife tapped me on the shoulder at 6 a.m. and told me I was traded,” Bertans said. “You know, waking up in the middle of the night knowing you’ve got to pack your stuff and get on the road.  Luckily, I was happy it was only a three-hour drive so the move was kind of easy from Dallas.”

 That’s three hours assuming there isn’t construction on northbound I-35 near Goldsby.

 Jaylin Williams developed a habit of yelling “BOOM” after made threes last season, something he picked up from a former G-League teammate. Williams confirmed the ritual will continue. “Yeah, I think I’m going to say it every now and then,” Williams said. “It’s kind of just become a funny thing that me and my teammates do.  We have a couple handshakes that we do that involves it. It’s a funny thing to do, and I think it’ll still stick around for a little bit.”

 Kenrich Williams was asked his thoughts on Ousmane Dieng, the Thunder’s second-year forward. “He definitely grew,” Williams said immediately. Dieng later entered the room and indeed looked different. “I feel like it might be maybe one inch,” Dieng said. “Nothing crazy but just a little bit.”

Dieng was listed at 6-foot-10 last season and again on today’s training camp roster announcement. NBA player heights aren’t typically matched with reality but it would not be a stretch to consider Dieng a seven-footer now.

The addition of Micic means Aleksej Pokusevski is no longer the sole Serbian on the roster. “I’m happy to have him here,” Pokusevski said. “Just having someone that I can speak in my native language.”

Does that include showing him around Oklahoma City? “I’ll try to, but there’s not a lot of things to show him around,” Pokusevski said before adding that “the people here are great in the community.”

My initial reaction was to get defensive about our fine city. Then I realized that I, in my late 40s, have no idea what twenty-somethings find fun and interesting. I can state definitively that there are nice upscale grocery stores in the metro.

Micic was asked about his impressions of the city. “I don’t need so much distraction while I’m playing, so I’m kind of low-key while I’m playing, so I have more than enough things here to do.” With any luck, Oklahoma City will eventually get an IKEA to distract us all.

 

 

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