Rookie Reporter At Mavs Day: 'I'm For Real!'
How to describe the Surreal Scene at Mavs Media Day?
I arrived at the AAC early on Tuesday, notepad in hand, heart racing, palms a little sweaty. I was ready for the Dallas Mavericks Media Day 2011. Or so I thought.
After winding through seemingly endless concrete-and-steel corridors in the bowels of the AAC I emerged onto the Mavs' practice court. The show hadn't arrived yet, as it was mostly me and other low-level media members milling about waiting for the Champs to arrive. Fish arrives in a suit, matching tie and pocket square. Kevin Brolan is in slacks and a button-down. Michael Dugat looks sharp. The whole 75-Member Staff looks slick. I'm under-dressed, not a great start.
Then, suddenly, cameras started flashing, voices were raised and giants of men turned the corner in Mavericks home white uniforms. Newcomers Vince Carter and Lamar Odom,as well as old standbys Shawn Marion and Corey Brewer, strolled in as my media brethren (with me as the baby brethren!) swarmed around them, pushing microphones and cameras into packs in hopes of getting a sound bite.
All at once I realized that I'm standing in the eye of a hurricane, chaos surrounding me. I'm simultaneously in the most high-profile scene I've ever been a part of while at the same time invisible. No one is here to notice me or gives a wooden nickel about what I have to say. Not me, the scruffy kid in jeans and a flannel shirt.
Around the perimeter of the Mavs practice court, there are at least six photography stations, all featuring "green screens'' like you hear about in the movies, each station housing a player being photographed or waiting to be so. While they are waiting, players are surrounded by a semi-circle of reporters, bright lights, and recording devices.
It's in one of these configurations that I spend most of my time. As I film Fish talking with Shawn Marion, over my shoulder Odom is being asked a thousandth question that contains some combination of the words "Kardashian," "Distraction," and "Championship."
He's a pro; all of these guys are, and they roll off answers to our silly questions as easily as they might drop layups in the warm-up line. This is part of the routine to them. Later, Odom will do a formal presser and be described as "sad.''
I wonder if he's sad because some of my colleagues keep pounding him with "Kardashians," "Distractions" and "Championships."
Meanwhile, I'm certifiably buzzing as the reigning Finals MVP comes strolling in. Dirk Nowitzki has always been aptly described as a laid-back guy, but something's different about him this year. He's always been an interesting amalgam of graceful and awkward, but today he's gliding. This guy no longer bears any burdens of past failures. I overhear him on more than one occasion use the phrase "Can't take it away," when referring to last season's championship and his MVP.
The UberMan swags about these days with the confident coolness of a guy who will never be seriously discredited again. His mood seems to permeate through the whole team. And he looks darm good in that new road uni, too.
As players trickle out to other rooms for assorted pre-arranged interviews, Dallas GM Donnie Nelson comes strolling down, coffee in hand. He knows he'll need some energy for the hailstorm of questions he's about to endure from all corners as we ask about the insanity that has been the NBA over the past two weeks.
Donnie looks about like we do, like he's still trying to catch up with the new rules of the game, calling the past week "some of the craziest four or five days I've seen."
Fish, who comes across like some sort of Donnie drinkin' buddy, suggests that it seems the league is making these rules up as it goes along. Donnie doesn't disagree.
When asked about new additions to the team, Nelson is equal parts content with the present and excited for the future. However, it is evident the wheels are still turning on future moves.
"In the NBA, you're never done," as the beginning of a smile starts to curl the corners of his lips. He's a duck on a pond. Everything is calm on the surface, but things are churning furiously down below.
Moments later, Dirk picks up on this and playfully shouts, "Tell him not to amnesty me!''
We all giggle and then Donnie is asked about the new addition Vince Carter. Vinsanity, he said, wants to "sip from the [championship] cup," and is as hungry as the Mavs were last year for a ring.
"Long term flexibility is going to be key to our franchise," says Donnie, providing insight into what has guided the team's moves to this point.
I'm new here, but I know this: It's hard to argue with him. In the rapidly changing landscape of the NBA today, it is advantageous to be nimble. Both in the front office and on the court, the Mavs will certainly be versatile.
Highlighted by the forwards of Odom, Marion and Nowitzki, the Mavericks are loaded with multi-talented players up and down the roster. When asked if this team reminds him of the forward-laden 2003-04 squad, Nelson shrugged, "Back then we had two guys who couldn't pass; one wasn't willing and the other wasn't able."
He was speaking about Antawn Jamison and Antoine Walker and I'll let you decide which is which.
That won't be an issue with this year's phalanx of multi-talented forwards. I will analyze this topic later this week on DallasBasketball, and as you have noticed over the course of the last days (and last 12 years), DB.com Will Pretty much analyze pretty much everything.
Today, though, was all about the scene. As he headed for an interview, Brendon Haywood put his hand on my shoulder as I snapped a photo of new Mav camp-fodder guard Drew Neitzel.
"Man,'' Big Wood fake-groused at me, "are you for real?!''
You know, Big Wood, I'm still not sure if I am or not. All sportswriters start out as fan-boys, right? As we grow, we try our best to hide our biases and be as objective as we can while covering our subjects. Right now, though, my fandom and my journalistic objectivity are engaged in a massive head-on conflict ... which is much more tolerable that I thought was going to be a conflict with Brendan Haywood.