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Toronto Meets Local Fun Guy Kawhi Leonard, and Other Takeaways From NBA Media Day

The NBA is open for business for the 2018-19 season. Teams all around the country greeted the press and trotted out their new players for endless rounds of photos. Here’s what we learned.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

There’s no shortage of golden moments to come out of NBA media day (remember the aftermath of “U bum”?). That’s especially true this year, with so much change in the offseason—various stars around the league are on new teams (and for some, like Jimmy Butler, that change may still be to come). Here are the most noteworthy nuggets from across the NBA.

Frowning Area Man Insists He’s a Fun Guy

In under a minute, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star learned as much about new Raptor Kawhi Leonard as the San Antonio community did in seven seasons. “Kawhi,” Smith said, “a lot of people up here don’t know much about you. How would you describe yourself, and what would you like people to know about you?”

“I’m a fun guy,” Leonard said without a smile, emotion, or hint of irony. “Obviously I love the game of basketball.” After that, he explained he couldn’t just give “a whole spiel,” especially after volunteering up so much already. Not only did Smith get Leonard to open up on Day 1, he got every emotion Leonard has shown over the past eight years: placid, placid, placid, LAUGH (!), placid. He laughs like he’s rusty at laughing—as if it’s a skill he learned long ago and hasn’t used in a while—which is both 1) believable and 2) all the more credit to Smith. Journalism at work.

The best part of the back-and-forth came after the credits. Leonard stopped laughing, looked blank again, and said, “Ask something.” And that, Toronto, is exactly what you need to know about Kawhi Leonard.

Dwight Howard Is Questionable for Training Camp (and in General)

Because of a sore back, Howard might miss the start of the Wizards’ training camp, which begins on Tuesday. Scott Brooks said the team was “not going to rush him.” Howard, who is a couple months away from turning 33, has had multiple issues with his back in the past. Sitting out isn’t an ideal start for him in Washington, though for someone with a long history of doing too much, it could be worse.

Carmelo Anthony Is Starting, According to No One But Carmelo Anthony

For the second straight media day, Anthony was asked about the possibility of coming off the bench. And, for the second straight media day, he dismissed it. “I haven’t had that conversation with anybody yet,” Melo said. “I’m very clear on what my role is.” (His reply in itself is a little contradictory; if he hasn’t had the conversation of whether or not he’ll be a starter, how clear could his role be?)

FWIW, in August, Mike D’Antoni wasn’t sure if he’d put Melo in the starting lineup. According to D’Antoni, Anthony was open to either role when he signed. After his reluctance to be a sixth man with the Thunder last season, it was a necessary conversation… and apparently one Melo forgot having. On the plus side, it’s always nice to see Anthony play defense, even if it’s against a reporter.

A Couple Timberwolves’ Thoughts on Jimmy Butler

Since Butler requested a trade last Wednesday, the following has been reported: Coach and team president Tom Thibodeau doesn’t want to trade Butler; owner Glen Taylor wants a trade done soon; and the Clippers, Heat, Nets, Pistons, Rockets, Sixers, and Raptors have all been linked as potential trade partners. (Also, Stephen Jackson called Andrew Wiggins “lil one” in the trade fallout, and I highly suggest you go down that rabbit hole.) Butler skipped Wolves media day, but everyone else had to address the awkwardness head-on.

Karl-Anthony Towns: “Our relationship was fine.” KAT was as “surprised as anyone” to hear that Butler wanted out.

Wiggins on Butler being a distraction: “Maybe for some people.” (Note: doesn’t explicitly exclude self.)

Thibodeau: “If something is worth it, we will pursue it. If it is not, we are prepared to go the other way.”

Enes Kanter’s Nipples Are Hard

When I think about [the] playoffs,” Kanter said, “my nipples get hard.” He then apologized, as one does after telling a crowded room of reporters about the state of his nipples. (For those wondering, Kanter has played in three postseasons over seven seasons in the league. Four hundred and eleven minutes. Twenty-seven games. Two hard nipples.)

Kanter has always been the guy willing to do whatever it takes for the team to succeed. (Except protect the rim.) In the past, that’s meant taking on a hybrid role of enforcer/hype man. This season, it’s morphing into Steph Curry:

Because that’s exactly what New York needs from Kanter, a career 29.4 percent deep shooter.

Cleveland Is Currently Tied for the Best Record in the East

The Lakers Like We’ve Never Seen Them

All the faces at Lakers media day were familiar but felt out of place together, like contrasting flavors at a fusion restaurant. We’ve known for months that LeBron James would be wearing yellow and purple along with Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and JaVale McGee, but seeing the combination in person made it weird all over again:

Lonzo Ball, one of the few returning faces, clearly understood how different everything would be this season. “You definitely want to make sure [LeBron] likes playing with you,” Ball said, “and make sure the chemistry’s good.” (Someone’s been getting advice from Mario Chalmers.) So far, we have learned that Rondo likes Kyle Kuzma’s attitude, Luke Walton feels like a kid again, and LeBron doesn’t believe you have to win a championship to be successful. (’Atta way to win over Lakers Nation!) “There’s only one champ,” LeBron said. “That doesn’t mean you’re not successful.”