Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving appeared in the black uniforms of the Brooklyn Nets. Anthony Davis wore the Los Angeles Lakers’ home gold uniform. Russell Westbrook donned Houston Rockets’ red for the first time.
New season, new looks.
The first five media days of the new NBA year took place Friday with the Lakers, Nets, Rockets, Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings holding the annual prequels to the first practice. And in Miami, where media day isn’t officially until Monday, Jimmy Butler did his first interviews wearing a new Heat jersey — one he famously said years ago that he’d never wear.
Clearly, Day 1 of camp season wasn’t hurting for star power.
“We want to be able to compete every single night and obviously we know what the long-term goal is,” three-time NBA champion LeBron James said at Lakers’ media day. “But it’s all about the process of today.”
James and the Lakers are entering a season of massive expectations, largely because of Davis coming to L.A. James said he wants the Lakers to run offense through Davis much in the same way he wanted it run through Irving when they were teammates in Cleveland — citing the potential for such a ploy to create mismatches and opportunities for others.
“It’s exciting to have such a beautiful young mind,” James said.
But expectations are high elsewhere as well.
In Houston, Westbrook and James Harden will form a backcourt that consists of two of the last three NBA MVPs. Westbrook talked about how he and Harden have been close and stayed close going back to their time as teammates together in Oklahoma City.
“The bigger picture obviously in the NBA is the championships and MVPs and all that nonsense,” Westbrook said. “But for me, it’s about brotherhood and creating relationships and friendships with somebody that’s important.”
And another star duo — like James and Davis, like Westbrook and Harden — is now formed in Brooklyn with Irving and Durant, though it’ll likely take a year for it to be seen on the court. Durant is likely to miss the entire season while recovering from a torn Achilles, and offered a pretty succinct explanation about why he left Golden State after three seasons and two titles for Brooklyn.
“I felt like it was time for a change and I wanted to play for a new team,” Durant said. “And simply put, I just did it. I didn’t really think about what I was leaving behind or like what we accomplished. I put that up on the shelf already. And when it was time to make a decision on my future, I just thought solely about me.”
Victor Oladipo wants Indiana to have big expectations as well, and he believes the Pacers are the best team in the Eastern Conference.
It’s a bold statement, and one that could hinge on when he returns from the severe knee injury that ended his 2018-19 season prematurely. The Pacers don’t know when Oladipo will be back on the floor this season.
“I know that he will not start the season,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “I haven’t had any information given to me that he will be practicing live with the team anytime soon, so I don’t anticipate Victor being available for a while. I don’t really know what ‘a while’ is.”
For his part, Oladipo said he’ll be a better player when he returns.
He didn’t divulge what that will mean.
“I could show you better than I tell you,” Oladipo said. “I don’t like telling people stuff. I like showing them. I’m that type of guy.”
Luke Walton was on the move this offseason as well, his stint as Lakers coach ending and his focus shifting to the northern end of California and his new job with the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings, like all the teams opening practice on Saturday or Sunday, are going overseas for part of the preseason; Sacramento is going to play in the first games held in India, the homeland of Kings owner Vivek Ranadive.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity for us,” Walton said. “We’ll use it as a great chance to bond as a group.”
NBA champion Toronto has media day on Saturday, the Los Angeles Clippers — now featuring Paul George and NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard — have theirs on Sunday and the remaining 23 teams have media day Monday.
The first preseason game is Monday, with the Rockets playing host to the Shanghai Sharks.
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