NBA Media Day roundup: Zion looking fit, Ayton sounding reserved, more
Most of the NBA conducted media day on Monday — some moments turned our head.
Here’s what you need to know from media day around the league — just the highlights. This does not include anything on the Nets — there’s a separate story on them — or the Lakers (there will be a story Tuesday morning out of Lakers’ media day).
• The reports of Zion Williamson being in the best shape of his career appear to be true. HoodieBev has the recipts.
We’ll see if this translates to the court — there’s a lot of pressure on him — but Zion looks like he’s put in the work.
• Speaking of players who looked in better shape, James Harden looked slimmed down. He joked he lost 100 pounds, but he also talked about his diet and exercise regimen.
• DeAndre Ayton got a four-year, $132.9 million contract extension this summer, but not because the Suns were handing it out. Ayton had to get the Pacers to make the offer (which is why he doesn’t have a five-year deal) and then the Suns matched it. Ayton is a guy with a usually upbeat personality, but when asked about his new contract, it was a short answer and a low-key tone.
Coach Monty Williams and All-Star Devin Booker both talked about how they expect Ayton to use the contract as motivation and come out with a monster season. We’ll be watching.
• The Suns’ players and coach had to all answer the “what did you think of the Robert Sarver investigation report?” question, and the answers were unanimous — they were disgusted, saddened, and felt for those (especially the women) who had to deal with his behavior. They also to a man said they had no idea (which, at least before the original ESPN report, may have been true; how he acted around players and those on the business side appears to be different).
• All the Celtics were asked about their former coach Ime Udoka’s season-long suspension, and Marcus Smart summed up the sentiments well — “it’s been hell.” They were caught off guard like much of the NBA was. That said, to a man, they backed interim coach Joe Mazzulla.
• With P.J. Tucker out in Miami there has been a lot of talk about Jimmy Butler playing the four, especially to close games. Butler himself shot that down, saying he is not a four.
Jimmy Butler says he could play power forward "if they absolutely need." Adds, "But I'm not playing the four."— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) September 26, 2022
The Heat continue to look for a trade for a four, but may not have one to start the season.
• At his end-of-season media session last May, Pat Riley said Kyle Lowry needed to show up in better shape this season. It appears Lowry did, but did it motivate him? “It’s whatever... everyone has their opinion.”
• It’s not media day unless Kawhi Leonard is laughing.
As for Leonard and load management this season, coach Tyronne Lue said he would play it by ear. But also, expect some.