There was a different vibe to media day this season for the Portland Trail Blazers and it had nothing to do with a lot of new players on the roster this season.
Sure, different locale – this one was in Memorial Coliseum, rather than Moda Center. And yes, it's the same long day for players wherever it's held, what with basketballs to autograph, promos to read and pictures to pose for -- along with all the usual interviews.
But the coliseum meant the temperature inside the building was, to be kind, chilly. But just about every time I’ve been in the ancient arena these last several years, it’s been cold. But on the positive side, it appears a rehabilitation process has begun on the fountain, outside in front of the wall that honors veterans who died in service of their country.
Who knew? That thing hasn’t worked in many, many years and it would be nice if it did.
But back to the media day. What was different, for me, is that for the first time in decades, we heard players – veteran players, being honest, talking about their team being capable of competing for a championship.
There was a real optimism among the group that this is a very talented, experienced and hungry team, not satisfied with getting to the Western Conference finals last season.
On a nightly basis, Coach Terry Stotts is going to have his hands full this season trying to decide who plays and who sits. Most of this roster is made up of players who have been a part of a consistent playing rotation for an NBA team. This is a deep and versatile group.
Players, most of whom have been working out at the team’s practice facility, expressed surprise at the enthusiastic playmaking skills of new forward Mario Hezonja, are in general awe of seeing future Hall of Famer Pau Gasol in their locker room, the toughness of Kent Bazemore and the shooting ability of Anthony Tolliver.
It was a very different afternoon, speaking to a group of players who seem so certain they are going to be a part of something special.
And it was an unusual experience for me to be doing a show in the very same room of my all-time amazing news conference moment – that time that Mike Schuler, upon his introduction as the new Trail Blazer coach on May 28, 1986, slid over to what he thought was a waiting chair behind microphones and promptly fell to the floor on his backside.
Before he ever uttered a word as the new Portland coach.
It was that same exact moment I realized that the word “pratfall” was a perfect description for what happened and the incident allowed me to use the word for the first time in my life.
And, of course, all of Portland hopes this media gathering isn’t setting the stage for another big pratfall.