The media day festivities for the Oklahoma City Thunder felt decidedly different this year. An absence of a certain figure loomed large, the shadow of a former fan favorite and local legend, ever present. This man’s skill made him one of the very best in his field, and nobody in the media room had an answer for how long it would take the Thunder to truly replace him. He’s relocated to a team where he will share the spotlight with another superstar, and alas, the show must go on.
That’s right, Thunder fans, Antonio Daniels has moved on, and so shall we.
Your friendly neighborhood Daily Thunder team sported our brand new media credentials and had the best seat in the house (right in front of Berry Tramel, to the left of Erik Horne, nowhere near Jon Hamm) for the 2019 Thunder Media Day. Here’s what stood out the most in the two hour Q&A session.
CP3 is a true pro. Does Chris Paul want to be in Oklahoma City this season? I have no idea. But I do know that he answered every question, from his rough time in Houston to being an older star, very thoughtfully and positively. Thunder fans who have been hesitant to embrace Paul because of any past antics with the Clippers and Rockets will be hard pressed not to warm to him after he name dropped so many Oklahoma-isms. He reminisced of eating at Charleston’s before every game his rookie season, living in Edmond with his brother, and said he bumped into a Chesapeake Arena employee named Will who worked with the Hornets during Paul’s rookie season. He may or may not be long with the Thunder, but either way, he’s making a great second first impression.
Steven Adams is still the best. Whether it’s giving his candid opinion on Chris Paul’s plant based diet (“I’m sticking with meat.”) or answering the oft-wondered question on if he’s going to start shooting from distance (“I’m not just gonna come down and start jacking up threes. We still want to win.”), the Big Kiwi is just such an endearing mix of hilarity, humility, self-deprecation, intelligence, goofiness, and real insight. But the best sound bite from a media session filled with great sound bites was when Adams spoke about the organization, city and fans and how the team doesn’t change what they represent just because Russell Westbrook and Paul George left. “We still have our values. We still represent Oklahoma. We still have a duty to the people we have to fulfill.” Making me tear up here, mate.
Dre is healthy! According to the man himself, Andre Roberson is “full go” and ready to get back to what he has missed the most: “locking guys up.” The former All-NBA Defensive Team member says that he fully believes that he can get back to the same level that he was prior to his injury. The soft spoken Roberson put some of the league’s best offensive players on blast by warning that “some of these guys have been too happy.” Oh, and who is Dre most looking forward to guarding this season? “I think it will be cool to go against Russ.” Okay, but like, who are we supposed to root for here? Gonna have some real Captain America: Civil War vibes during those Thunder and Rockets games.
Surprise hype award winner: Abdel Nader. Every Thunder player, from the vets to the rookies, made a point to express their affinity and respect for Chris Paul. Coach Donovan and most everyone seemed excited about what Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will bring to the team. You expect that praise heaped upon the two biggest acquisitions of the offseason. But out of nowhere, without instigation, Nerlens Noel turned heads in the media room by saying that Abdel Nader was going to surprise a lot of people this year. When asked about Nader, Deonte Burton’s eyes lit up and he spoke in wonderment and awe, “I’ve seen Abdel make a lot of shots all summer. He was really cooking. I just didn’t think he was ever going to miss.” I asked Abdel what surprise in store Noel was referring to, to which the third-year wing quipped, “I can’t tell you; then it wouldn’t be a surprise.” Okay, thanks Mom.
Mike Muscala seems like a sweet guy. That’s all.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has a quiet confidence. When the Thunder’s prized asset from the Paul George trade took his place behind the mic, he immediately stood out from the other handful of young players who had served their time with the media up to that point. If you’re one of those people who believe in the “it” factor, then SGA has it in spades. I hate to do it, but I have to make the comparison. He seemed like a young Russ up there, the belief in himself and his talent very apparent. Not cocky at all, but an assuredness that was more than just his obvious intelligence. Basically, based on five minutes of observing his body language, stature and countenance, I am fully ready to proclaim Shai as the next great Thunder superstar. Be sure to check out my upcoming DT article where I read Billy Donovan’s palms and find out Dennis Schroder’s most compatible zodiac sign!
Chris Paul is on a plant based diet, and he wants you to know about it. As much as he seemed genuinely affectionate about Oklahoma City, about basketball and about his family, no question energized CP3 as much as one about his plant based diet. Shoot, even Andre Roberson couldn’t defend himself from the onslaught of vegan education dished out by the All-Star point guard, as Dre admitted he has joined Paul on Team Plant Based. As he walked away from the podium, Paul’s last words were plugging the vegan documentary he executive produced entitled “The Game Changers.” Let us know if you think we should host a Daily Thunder meat up to watch it.
The Thunder staff is very friendly, helpful and accommodating. Being a newbie at anything can be a little scary and intimidating. Your first day at school. Your first day at a new job. Or your first time walking into an arena you’ve sat in a hundred times watching your favorite basketball team play ball. But this time you’re interviewing players who’ve wowed you for many years, sitting next to reporters you’ve listened to on the radio or watched on TV over that same time, not sure where to go or what to do once you get there. On my daughter’s first day of kindergarten three years from now, I hope her teacher is as warm, patient and considerate as the Thunder staff was to the DT team on their first day of Thunder school.