Like most art, postgame press conferences often go unappreciated. We don’t see the creative process behind Joel Embiid calling teammate JJ Redick “old as shit.” We’ll never understand what Klay Thompson’s vision was when he answered a question about ball movement with “It’s great on both, uh, on both, both of them are great.” It’s hard to talk about yourself. (Even harder when the prompt is “Talk about …”) Performance reviews should come one to three times per year, not at the end of each workday in front of 14 middle-aged white guys immediately after you’ve exited the shower.
Blake Griffin and Kyrie Irving turned their postgame pressers into masterpieces this weekend. Both were raw and full of slights, absent of the typical NBA cliché answers. Griffin was back in Los Angeles to face the Clippers for the first time since the franchise traded him a year ago, and was agitated after reporters called him out for running past Clippers owner Steve Ballmer without acknowledging him. Irving was grappling with a loss to Orlando, and he called out his teammates.
The disquisitions weren’t perfect, but they were close, inspiring some key do’s and don’ts of the big mad postgame press conference.
Do: Speak Out of Anger
If it’s not passionate, there’s no telling whether you really mean it. Perfect execution from both parties here, though Griffin had a slight advantage in this category in that he believed he was wronged by the media, and the media attends press conferences.
Griffin began to show his ire long before his postgame press conference. During warm-ups, Ballmer walked toward Griffin in an attempt to greet him. Ballmer stuck out his hand to shake Griffin’s; the latter sprinted past him toward the locker room.
Blake Griffin chose to run away instead of shake hands with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer pic.twitter.com/ck8tGEhH4v— Sporting News (@sportingnews) January 12, 2019
Griffin said the snub was unintentional, and that he didn’t see Ballmer, who was less than three feet away, even with the extraordinary peripheral vision that’s allowed Griffin to become an elite passer.
Meanwhile, Irving and the Celtics lost on Saturday, to the Magic, 105-103. Most of Irving’s displeasure seems to have stemmed from the final possession. He clearly wanted the ball, and was vexed with Brad Stevens as the ATO-whisperer drew up the play for Jayson Tatum, despite Irving being the most clutch player on the floor and being guarded by Evan Fournier. (In Stevens’s defense, he later said the play had multiple options, including Irving, though Tatum had the best look. Irving had also missed all five 3s he’d taken leading up to that point.) Gordon Hayward inbounded the ball to Tatum, who could only get up a contested, off-balance long 2-pointer from the corner.
Afterward, Irving didn’t do the usual routine of taking a shower, speaking to reporters, and leaving. He sat at his locker and just looked into the distance long after the majority of his teammates had bounced. When he did speak, it was worth the wait:
“I mean, we had nothing to lose last year,” Irving said. “We had nothing to lose, and everybody could play free and do whatever they wanted and nobody had any expectations. We were supposed to be at a certain point, we surpassed that. Young guys were supposed to be at a certain point, they surpassed that. [...] The young guys don’t know what it takes to be a championship-level team. What it takes every day. And if they think it is hard now, what do they think it will be like when we’re trying to get to the Finals?”
Don’t: Forget Those Receipts
Griffin has an indefectible excuse for running away from Ballmer: Griffin always sprints into the locker room after warm-ups, every game, home or away.
“For nine years now, as soon as I’m done with my pregame shooting, I make sure there’s a path and I take off running to the locker room and don’t stop running,” Griffin said after the win. “A lot of you know that a lot of you have been here for a long time and have seen me do that before. I don’t change that for anybody.” Griffin was sold as the future of a franchise, re-signed to a maximum contract, and then traded shortly after—but that’s just how the NBA works. Maybe Griffin saw that inevitability nine years ago, and he planned for it.
Do: Run Away From Your Problems
Addressing an issue privately does nothing to help your brand in 2019—NBA players need to be more accessible and relatable than ever. Why talk through it behind the scenes when the problem can be shared publicly? Applaud Griffin and Irving here, who literally ran away from their problems: Griffin from Ballmer, and Irving from Hayward.
Don’t: Sport a Red Flannel If You’re a Redhead
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Blake Griffin denied that he snubbed Steve Ballmer pregame and said that he was just going through his pregame routine, in which runs to the locker room from the court. He then turned to me and said to tweet that was “kind of bullshit.” What do you think? — #blakegriffin #detroitpistons #pistons #detroitbasketball #laclippers #losangelesclippers #clippers #clippersvspistons #pistonsvsclippers #blakegriffin32 #bg23 #bg32 #blakegriffin23 #steveballmer
Do: Call People Out by Name
This is a missed opportunity by both. How can one be certain he’s the problem if you don’t directly say it? Irving does call out the “young guys [who] don’t know what it takes to be a championship-level team”—but never explains further. There are eight Celtics who are 24 years old or younger. Four of those eight average at least 22 minutes. You can’t slip on the specifics.
In Griffin’s case, he does call out the reporter who originally noticed and tweeted out Griffin running past Ballmer: “To tweet out something like that, what you did, I thought it was kind of bullshit because you know [it’s my pregame routine].”
But Griffin doesn’t actually drop a name. He nods at the reporter and looks directly at his camera, but there are many people in a scrum. Any could be identified as “you.” Griffin might hate eye contact. Again, specifics.
Don’t: Walk Back Comments
Griffin cleared up the misunderstanding, but there was still a question of whether he would’ve shaken Ballmer’s hand. “I’m honestly not here to answer hypothetical questions,” he said. At least if he’s not going to address something, he’s not addressing it honestly.
Irving took the opposite tack. On Monday, Irving told reporters he wouldn’t question his teammates again. He explained that Boston was getting experience as the season went on, and painted his comments in a new light. Saturday’s delayed press conference will probably be the last fiery one Irving has for awhile, so it’s important we cherish it.