Better late than never right? The HQ gives their take on Monday's annual Raptors Media Bonanza, including a more relaxed Bryan Colangelo...
Media Day number four.
Or was it five.
As the years tick by, these things tend to blend into each other, especially since the Toronto Raptors started holding their annual media bashes in the newly renovated concourse area, and not on the practice court.
If you're a longtime reader of the HQ, you know the media day drill pretty well now.
Some scrums, some individual chats, some surprise quotes regarding off-season work done by various players, and of course, a renewed sense of hope for the coming season.
Rinse and repeat right?
Perhaps that was my expectation as I slipped away from my 9 to 5 for a few hours on Monday.
However this year was different.
Sure, the optimism was there, along with the scrums and the few one-on-one's that we managed to squeeze in such as this:
But there was something else.
I could see it in Bryan Colangelo's face as he spoke with the media.
I could hear it in Anthony Carter's voice as he talked about the upcoming season.
Even amongst the media gathered, there just seemed to me to be a lack of angst and anxiety.
Gone were the prickly questions regarding wins and future outlook, replaced by queries like "were you bored this off-season?", and "what do you know about Toronto?"
Of course there is a possible explanation for this type of media behaviour; it's called apathy.
And for a team that will likely lose the vast majority of its games and be a non-factor in terms of the NBA playoffs for a third straight season (or 17th straight season, depending on your view of the franchise), that explanation would make a lot of sense.
But that wasn't it.
This wasn't a team of players putting on brave faces, ready to walk the plank, nor did it seem to be a crew resigned to another sub-30-win fate. From the veterans to the youngsters, this to me seemed to be a club excited to embark on a new journey, a "step one of many," if you will.
Hell, if things were that moribund, Anthony Carter, a player who always seems to be on the wish-list for top teams looking for safety at the 1, wouldn't have picked Toronto...over the Knicks, Bulls, and a few other playoff contenders.
To me though it was Bryan Colangelo who best echoed the vibe of the afternoon.
Here was the franchise's one-time golden boy, who since two playoff trips in his first two years with the club, has endured a massing onslaught of criticism from media and fans. In past media events, Colangelo came off quite defensive and I can vividly recall him nearly begging local media to write more positive reviews about his club, just two seasons ago.
On Monday though, there was a serenity that accompanied BC, one that I hadn't seen since his debut with the club. He still spoke passionately about the team's youth and upside, but you got the feeling that his eye was much more on the team's future, than this upcoming season:
We've got a plan in place. We're sticking to the plan, we're being very patient, very strategic with these things that we're doing to make adjustments. It's as much about adding to the system, adding to the culture of the team, as it is adding to the talent in terms of the basketball players.
In previous years statements like these, whether about Hedo's acquisition, or how the Jeramine O'Neal-led Raptors were on paper, the best team in Toronto's he's ever had, rang hollow to me.
This was not the case on Monday, and whether it was in regard to his new management structure with the arrival of Ed Stefanski, or a pilot analytics project that the Raptors would be part of (the team will be using a Synergy type video-analytics system this season, something we'll discuss more in the next week), you got the feeling that Colangelo was pretty happy with the groundwork he had laid out.
Of course not everything was puppy dogs and ice cream.
We still heard about Andrea Bargnani's newfound commitment to defence and other such well-worn stories that seem to pop up every year at Media Day.
And in terms of insight garnered from the event, there wasn't much that hadn't already been reported by the local media. (For instance, no one showed up to camp looking like Oliver Miller.)
Jamaal Magloire told everyone he was in the best shape of his career and spoke with us individually:
Rasual Butler discussed how he could help the team this year, and touted the benefits of working with former starts like Eddie Jones:
And even Linas Kleize, a potentially amnesty cut at one point this summer, seemed encouraged about the upcoming season when speaking with Vicious D:
Again, the overriding sense of wiping the slate clean and looking to the future was omnipresent, and made for a very satisfying experience.
It may not end up being a pretty one in terms of wins and losses, but media day served as a reminder that this is only the first lap of the marathon, not a one-off sprint.
After five years of "we're nearly there," at media day, in many ways it was therefore nice to be told "we've got a ways to go," but we think we've got some of the pieces in place to get us to our final destination.