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Archive for October 11th, 2008

Whoa Nellie

When I first launched this here blog, my reasons for doing so were two fold: to showcase the various venues where I feature my writing, and to share some stories about covering the league.

So without further ado….

Time and again, I’m asked how I go about chasing a story when on the Blazers beat from friends and some faithful readers. Here’s the skinny: the job is more about covering the entire league, with a specific focus on Portland. In other words, think NBA columnist. Meaning, I have to cover both locker rooms – get the scoop on both locker rooms – and not just pen an opinion piece.

That’s how HOOPSWORLD manages to cover all 30 teams in the league. We have to. Small staff. Plenty of stories to be told.

Honestly, it used to bug me. I prefer staying with one team, getting the goods and then knocking out a story on deadline. But now – and especially in a small market (compared to New York) like Portland – I get the best of both worlds.

There is a lot of running back-and-forth involved, but I’ve managed to master the marathon. Or should I say sprint?

Case in point:

Last Wednesday night – with news coming down that Martell Webster is on the shelf and Rudy Fernandez rolling his ankle at the end of the game against the Golden State Warriors – I was assigned to chase a story with Warriors head coach Don Nelson for a story on Golden State (same went with Tuesday night with the Sacramento Kings in town).

Now for me, the real story was down the hall with the Blazers after the game. If I had my druthers, I would have stayed put. But the demands of the job required me to start with Nellie, and then cover Portland. And looking back I’m glad I did.

See, the Warriors really don’t have a beat writer right now. Times are hard in the newspaper biz as we all know and the Bay Area is struggling to cover the team on the road (especially during the preseason). And since it’s the preseason there was also no traveling TV crew covering Golden State around either.

That left me all alone with Nellie.

Just me and my questions and him and his can of cold lightly brewed beverage of choice – a sixer on ice if I’m not mistaken. Now, Don Nelson has been around the game a long time. Nellie came into the NBA with the Chicago Zephyers in ’63, before going on to the Los Angeles Lakers and most famously the Boston Celtics – where he won a ring in ’66 and was one of the best “six man” in the biz. Many today know him for his intense coaching style with the Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks and Warriors – twice over.

He’ll probably forget more basketball then I will ever know. 

Now I know him for being a genuine basketball mind and polite enough to entertain one writer’s queries after a meaningless preseason game. We spoke briefly – about the Warriors versatility, changes over the summer, some thoughts on his youngsters and -of course- his impressions of Greg Oden and Rudy Fernandez.

As I bolted down the back hallway of the Rose Garden to get the latest on the Blazers – about Rudy’s ankle, Oden’s second preseason game and even rookie Nicolas Batum having a decent game, I actually felt I missed out on something. Not within Portland’s postgame scrum, but down the hall with Nellie.

Deadly sin in the biz: I rushed the interview.

It’s not everyday you get one-on-one time with a legend of the game.

It is everyday, however, where you should slow down and soak it all in.

pic via: nba.com

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