Wizards Media Day Highlights
Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and John Wall ham it up for the camera during Wizards Media Day at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. on Monday, September 25, 2017. Teddy Owusu/DC Sports Box
WASHINGTON, D.C. - After a whirlwind offseason which saw multiple star players switch teams around the league, consistency was one of the main topics of conversation at Wizards Media Day. However, there was another topic that far overshadowed any talk of basketball: Donald Trump.
Days after the President uninvited the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from the White House and referred to players who kneeled during the national anthem as SOBs, it was understandable why his actions struck a nerve.

Coach Scott Brooks mentioned that he had not had any conversations on the topic with the team yet, but said there definitely would be discussions held. He went on to say that the team has always made decisions on how to respond together after discussing it as a group and said that whatever the team decides on, they are going to do it together.

Although he did not directly respond to Trump’s comments, Brooks did mention that he believes an individual’s overall daily conduct is what matters most.

“To me, how you conduct yourself throughout the day is more important than how you conduct yourself for the three or four minutes [of the anthem],” said Brooks. He went on to talk about his pride in the contributions and community involvement of players on the team and throughout the Wizards organization.
Sitting side-by-side at the podium, Bradley Beal and John Wall were a bit more firm and direct in their responses to Trump’s comments.

“Well, I feel like honestly, that’s not a leader. For you to come out and, for one, disrespect a whole sport that the whole world basically loves, call people names, SOBs, that’s out of pocket to me,” said Beal.

Beal went on to express his disgust in how the President rescinded the offer to the Warriors to come to the White House all because one player, Stephen Curry, said that he would vote no to attending.

"To me, you’re a clown, that’s unacceptable. That’s not what a leader does,” said Beal. “Your job is supposed to bring everybody together, and everybody in the world feels that since you got in office that hasn’t been the case.”

Beal went on to say that the president should be focusing on bigger issues than athletes knelling during the anthem and should work on trying to understand why athletes are deciding to knee in the first place.

“There’s a lot of issues going on in the world, like Puerto Rico doesn’t have any water and power and they’re still part of the U.S., but you’re worried about guys kneeling during the national anthem. Well, if you actually look at the reason that they are kneeling versus your own personal pleasure, then you’ll fully understand, but until you do that, you’re not going to understand it.”

Beal also pointed out the hypocrisy of the president’s actions, as he is freely speaking his mind while trying to limit the free speech of athletes.

“If we can’t exercise our rights to freedom of speech, then what are our amendments for? You’re doing it so why can’t we do it,” said Beal.

Wall agreed with Beal’s sentiments and added “I don’t like anything he’s been saying. I don’t respect it. I feel like you can’t control what people want to do. We have bigger issues in this world that you need to be focusing on instead of focusing on other people taking a knee.”

Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, both natives of other countries, were also asked to chime in on the topic during their respective media availability.

Gortat tried to keep it light saying, “I’m truly grateful for a great president in my country,” referring to Poland. He did however go on to touch on the sensitivity of the topic. “It’s a tough subject to speak about. I would like to say a lot of things but I can’t.”

Mahinmi’s situation is unique as his wife was born in the United States, while he is from France. When asked what it’s like to watch what this country is going through, he replied with one word, “Tough.” He did however try to see the silver lining and maintain a positive perspective on the situation.

“It’s challenging, but I’m a positive type of guy. I feel like sometimes we got to go through times like this to ask ourselves the right questions and challenge ourselves and see how we’re going to react to these types of situations,” said Mahinmi.  “The conversations I have with my wife and my family right now are good conversations, and if it wasn’t for all of that we wouldn’t have those conversations, so somehow, it’s good.”

Thinking Long Term:

Coach Brooks expressed his excitement for not only this season but future seasons as well, after the Wizards made offseason moves to lock down their “Big 3” long-term.

“We’ve added a lot of important pieces for the long term. John is with us for a lot of years. Bradley, we signed him to a long term, Otto [Porter Jr.] to a long term. We’ve got a lot of good players coming back into their prime, not even into their prime. Brad and Otto are only 24 years old. The future is bright,” said Brooks.

Beal and Wall both mentioned that the consistency in returning their starters is appreciated as neither of them like change.  Wall went on to say that the familiarity of the starters and knowing what each player likes and doesn’t like “makes the job a lot easier.” Porter added that the lack of change in the starting rotation will allow the team to play to their strengths and work in the team’s favor over the course of the season.

Wall summed up the team’s offseason moves nicely saying, “I’m all about loyalty, and for the organization to do what they did to sign all of us back, and have our cornerstones here, it means a lot.”

Stress Free Otto:

This offseason, the Wizards kept the core together by re-signing Otto Porter Jr. to a four-year $106 million max contract, matching the Brooklyn Nets’ offer sheet.

You would think being the Wizards’ highest paid player would increase Porter’s stress level, but his teammates would have to disagree with you.

Wall thinks that getting the long-term contract wrapped up has mentally helped Porter. Wall mentioned that he has noticed improvements in aspects of Porter’s game and said that having a long-term deal has allowed Porter to go back to playing basketball and having fun.

Beal agreed with Wall and related back to his personal experience signing a long-term deal. “I feel like as a player, John can probably relate to this, once you sign a deal, it’s like a lot of stress off you. All you can focus on is straight basketball now.”

He added that he’s noticed Otto has been at the gym working on his game ever since the deal happened.

During Porter’s media availability, he was asked if he agreed with Wall’s sentiment that a long-term deal helps alleviate stress and he completely agreed.

"I definitely feel what he's talking about. That part is over with now. Now you can just go out there and have fun,” said Porter. “I feel like that's what [Wall] did. Just went out there, played and had fun and enjoyed the process."

“I ain’t the only one up here.” – John Wall after being asked the first three questions while sharing the podium with Bradley Beal.

“Whatever mama say, it goes.” – Otto Porter Jr. discussing his mom’s insistence that he learn how to play the bass guitar during the offseason.

“Let’s talk about Prince, so much better than Michael. We have debates all the time about this.” – A light moment between questions during Coach Brooks’ media availability.

“I’ve been a firm believer of do your job, and the next guy does his job, and everybody does their job, and we’ll be fine.” – New addition, Tim Frazier discussing his mentality when it comes to the game.

Bringing Sexy Centers Back:

With the role of the center position changing in today’s NBA landscape, Gortat was asked what his plans are to resurrect the old-school center position. He answered in typical Gortat form…meaning it was comic gold.

“[There are] no plans. I got two or three more years in me, then I’m gone. I’m leaving. I’m glad I’m at the end of my career right now. I ain’t going to shoot threes, I’m not going to develop threes. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to try to bring back real centers,” said Gortat.

“I’m just going to try to survive for the next three years. I’m going to play my best. I’m going to try to spend all my six fouls as best as I can, get as many rebounds as I can, get some blocks, get some charges; hopefully we’re going to win some games, and then I’m gone.”
Written by Hirdesh Matta