At yesterday’s Media Day, every Wizard who sat at the podium to answer questions delivered some variation of what Kristaps Porzingis said early in the press conference: “I like being doubted.”
"I like being doubted"— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) September 23, 2022
- Porzingis on NBA experts doubting the Wizards
The media-trained players stuck to uncontroversial answers about the team and the season, as is Media Day norm, but their individual personalities really shone through some of the stories and jokes they told. Kyle Kuzma recounted his childhood friendship with new teammate Monte Morris — the pair grew up in the same area and went to grade school together. “The teacher never put us together... we would just cause havoc,” Kuzma said with a grin. “It’s a childhood dream [to play together]. We grew up at each other’s houses... and put ourselves on the same team in NBA [video] games.”
Both Kyle Kuzma and Monte Morris have discussed their excitement to be playing together. The two were friends as children and, according to Kuzma, often had to be separated in class by the teacher when they were in grade school.— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) September 23, 2022
Some things never change pic.twitter.com/yuVJMawyp2— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) September 23, 2022
Porzingis opened his media availability by asking the media whether we liked his new beard. I responded with an emphatic “yes,” but I’ve been going back and forth ever since.
What do we think of Porzingis' beard? pic.twitter.com/EBCy9irM13— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) September 23, 2022
Deni Avdija spoke about his summer, modestly saying he was “always chilling, drinking some good wine and enjoying the sun, that’s about it.” In reality, Avdija was averaging almost 15 points per game for the Israeli national team in Eurobasket 2022.
Media Day saw the introduction of Monte Morris as a Wizard, and he was all smiles as he talked about his friendship with Kuzma and his time spent playing with two-time MVP Nikola Jokić on the Denver Nuggets. Morris also had high praise for his new city: “My transition to [DC] has been amazing. It’s great people, great restaurants.”
Monte Morris lit up the whole room when he walked in. He sounds incredibly happy to be in DC playing for the Wizards!— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) September 23, 2022
I am not much of a bettor, but if DraftKings took bets on whether or not Monte Morris becomes a fan favorite this year, I would bet my Bullets Forever stipend on it.
On a more serious note, a few players discussed the issue of mental health that is at the forefront of the sports world today. When asked about former Wizard John Wall publishing an article in the Players’ Tribune about his mental health struggles, Bradley Beal opened up about what it meant to be there for Wall: “Being there to hold him, being there to comfort him, whatever he needed, that’s what I was there for.”
Beal then touched on his own mental health struggles: “To experience that myself a year and a half, almost two years later, I understand what that meant, because I had... my support system, too.”
Rui Hachimura also discussed both Wall’s article and the progress athletes and organizations have made in tackling stigmas around mental mental health.
I apologize for bungling the question a little bit but here's @rui_8mura discussing players' mental health in the wake of John Wall's recent Players Tribune article. Really powerful stuff from Rui pic.twitter.com/hIr8cXs4rM— Marco Gacina (@MarcoGacina) September 23, 2022
Rui Hachimura tells me that organizations have made strides in helping players with their mental health: pic.twitter.com/x7TAIF2t8G— Marco Gacina (@MarcoGacina) September 23, 2022
Additionally, Kuzma talked about being in a “dark place” toward the end of his time with the Lakers, but luckily he said he is doing much better now. These players’ openness in discussing such a heavy topic is a heartwarming sign pointing to the destigmatization of athletes’ mental health.
Though experts are rightfully pessimistic about the Wizards’ 2022-23 season outlook, all of the players have clearly been putting in work to surpass the low expectations placed upon the team. A successful Media Day won’t improve the product on the court, but it at least introduced fans to the lovable, human side of the Wizards.