Eric hosts a wealth of experience within the industry, with the Los Angeles Times before his current role with Bleacher Report. In addition, he also works as a Capologist for Basketball Insiders and NBA TV. If that wasn’t enough, Eric co-hosts the ‘Hollywood Hoops’ podcast and does radio work.
We are over the moon that Eric agreed to feature in this article and take the time answer the questions we had for him. We believe that it makes for a great read and we hope that you will agree too. Enjoy!
Q: Starting with the early days, am I right in thinking that you were raised in Los Angeles? What were your early memories of the Lakers?
Eric:“I was actually born in New York but have been in Los Angeles since I was roughly seven-years old. I was around for the Showtime era, though I was pretty young for the early days. I started to really cover basketball more seriously around the Nick Van Exel era. I was always a fan of the game, that was a fun era, a team that was really, really good but not elite.”
Q: You are involved in quite a lot nowadays, mainly for Bleacher Report, Basketball Insiders, and also NBA TV. Could you provide our readers with an insight of your career journey to this point?
Eric:“I started writing in the early days of the internet (relatively speaking) around 2000. I gradually found a position with Hoopsworld, which has since faded away to essentially become Basketball Insiders. Once I was able to secure credentials to games, I began to build up relationships with teams and people covering the game. That led to a four-year stint with the Los Angeles Times, followed by my current position with Bleacher Report. On occasion I do a bit of NBA TV – I have a regular podcast Hollywood Hoops – and do a ton of radio. I can’t complain!”
Q: You’ve been covering the Lakers for many years now, what would you say is your favourite moment during that period?
Eric:“I can’t speak to a specific single moment that was my favorite (or favourite for you UK folk). Spending time learning how Phil Jackson thought through the game, being around Kobe Bryant for his highs and lows, especially when he tore his Achilles, was significant. More than anything, the relationships stand out as the best part of my job – that, and I’ve learnt a ton about the game of basketball.”
Q: Out of interest, do you have a worst moment that sticks out?
Eric:“The worst moment was when Shaun Livingston tore up his knee. The team was talking to us about how they didn’t have to amputate, so that was good news – striking that it was even a consideration. I gain tremendous satisfaction watching him win titles with the Warriors because I met him when he was an 18-year old kid, and after what he went through, his story is inspiring.”
Q: Last season certainly did not go as expected, could you round-up your thoughts on the 2018/19 Lakers campaign?
Eric:“The Lakers got hurt last year. When LeBron James went down, so did the season. The roster always had flaws, as most do. They lacked shooting, experience, and health beyond James (Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, etc, all going down). If James stayed healthy, they’d have stayed in contention. Then, when Magic Johnson offered nearly the entire team to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis, and didn’t publicly deny the rumors, and told the team to essentially “deal with it, people get traded sports” – the team’s morale simply died.”
Q: With the Lakers possessing the #4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, do you think they will use the pick or trade it to acquire further talent alongside LeBron James?
Eric:“I expect the Lakers to either take a player like Darius Garland, Jarrett Culver or DeAndre Hunter – unless they can find a way to get a deal done for Davis, which remains a reasonable possibility.”
Q: If they were to use the pick, who would be your preferred option to use it on? There are still some talented players available outside of the top 3; Darius Garland, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, Jerrett Culver, etc.
Eric:“Hunter is probably the safest pick – he’d help the team immediately. Culver has more offensive ability and can defend, though Hunter will be a better overall defender. Reddish is boom or bust to me, I think he’ll be solid but I wouldn’t go No. 4. Garland is a lot of fun and has the greatest upside – and since you don’t get a No. 4 pick often, probably Garland.”
Q: Part of your work is as a Capologist for Basketball Insiders and NBA TV, could you provide our readers with a round-up of the Lakers’ situation this off-season in terms of salary? Effectively we can’t sign a max free-agent and take on the salary of the #4 pick at present time, can we (unless we shed salary)?
Eric:“The Lakers can sign one middle-tier max player like Kyrie Irving or Kawhi Leonard, if one will come. They can instead use their cap room to trade for Anthony Davis without having to match salary. They can actually get to a max player and Davis via trade, to join James, though they’d probably only be able to keep one or two players to make the numbers work (perhaps Kyle Kuzma and/or Josh Hart). The three-star plan means no #4 pick – I’d assume if the Lakers trade for AD in any scenario it includes that pick. The Lakers can sign a max player and keep the #4, they may be a tiny, tiny bit short and if so, the solution would be as simple as trading Isaac Bonga to a team with cap space.”
Q: What are your predictions for the upcoming free-agency window for the Lakers, will they land a second superstar, resort for the mid/lower-tier, or strike out?
Eric:“I think the Lakers have a good chance to succeed but they’re dependent on others to make those decisions – the Pelicans with AD, and on free agents to pick them. It’s very possible they strike out entirely and have to turn to backup plans that either include signing short-term medium but solid talent and wait for Davis and others next year in free agency, or trade for players like Bradley Beal, Mike Conley or Chris Paul. Washington doesn’t have a top boss making decisions yet, so there’s no telling with Beal. Conley may be expensive in trade, I expect a decent market for him, which could lead to Paul – whose contract is not especially friendly. We’ll see how the Lakers approach the future. I have some concerns on their decision making, but they did land James last summer. That’s not a small item.”
We would like to thank Eric for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak to Lakers Fanclub UK. We appreciate it greatly and we hope you enjoyed reading the interview. Be sure to follow Eric on Twitter over at @EricPincus.
Following on from the first feature, with Trevor Lane of Lakers Nation, of our new article series “A Conversation With..”, we are delighted to welcome Ryan Ward of Clutch Points as our second special guest to the series.
Ryan has been covering the NBA, as well as the NFL, for nearly a decade now, and has been credentialed by the Lakers since 2011. We are huge fans of his work and the coverage that he provides of the Lakers. We hope you enjoy reading the interview below, it’s a good one!
Q: Thank you for taking the time to speak to Lakers Fanclub UK, Ryan. It is much appreciated.
Ryan:“No problem, Matthew! My pleasure.”
Q: On your Twitter bio it states that you are ‘UK born’, where in the UK were you born and when did you move over to the US?
Ryan:“I was born in Northern Ireland. Both of my parents were in the British army at the time and were stationed in Portadown when they had me. We moved to the states when I was about five after bouncing around a few army bases, including one in Germany. My mum’s side of the family is mainly from Liverpool (I’m a huge Reds fan btw) while my dad’s is down south in Plymouth.”
Q: NBA games have been played in the UK since the early 90s, what are your thoughts on the popularity of the game on this side of the pond? Are the global games a positive thing for the league?
Ryan:“I think global games are a positive thing for any sport. Basketball started to take off globally after ’92 with the Dream Team led by Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. It has only gotten bigger and bigger since then with a huge presence in Asia as well as Europe. I don’t think it will ever be as popular as soccer (football) on a global scale, but I think the sport as far exceeded expectations at this point.”
Q: We see that you have been credentialed by the Lakers since 2011, our readers would love to gain an insight into the life of a credentialed reporter. What is the routine of a typical game-day for yourself?
Ryan: “I’ll say this, if you aren’t passionate about the sport you cover, you won’t last long covering a team. It’s a grind that really puts your love for the game to the test year after year. At least, that’s been my experience and it may be different if I was covering a winning team because it has been rough with the Lakers during my stretch.
As for a typical game-day, I arrive three to four hours before tipoff. Find a spot in the Chick Hearn Press Room to setup for the night then head out to the floor to get some footage of the players shooting around while chatting with some colleagues. Then you wait for the head coach to speak before the game. He’ll usually talk briefly about starting lineups, any changes, and field some questions about whatever might be going on with the team moment, and with the Lakers, there’s always something going on.
After tweeting out some quotes, I’ll usually head back to my cubbie in the press room and either get to work on a story from the coach while eating some ice cream from the famous ice cream machine in the back. I’ll then grab my laptop and head out to my assigned seat which is almost always in section 117 of Staples Center. Once the game gets underway, I’ll live tweet for the majority of the game while taking notes for post-game articles I plan to write.
After the final buzzer sounds, we usually head straight back to our cubbies and drop off our stuff before heading to the post-game presser for the head coach. The coach will talk for 10-to-15 minutes about the game before the locker room opens up and a mad dash ensues with all sorts of media trying to get in first for position in scrums. This can be chaotic, especially last season with everyone trying to get footage and quotes from LeBron James. Very similar to when I covered Kobe Bryant in terms of the amount of media in what isn’t a very big locker room.
We usually do the rounds from locker to locker in terms of players talking and answering questions. I’ll take some footage for Instagram while also tweeting out quotes when I’m in there before heading back to the press room to begin typing up a story or two which typically has me walking out of Staples and to my car anywhere between 12 and 1am.
It can be a long day, but a hell of an experience considering all the people you can meet and players, celebrities, and basketball legends you get to see up close and personal. There’s nothing like it.“
Q: We see that you have conducted numerous exclusive interviews with professional athletes. We’re sure that you are proud of each one but which interview sits at the top of the pile for you?
Ryan: “That’s a good question. There’s a few I was proud of just to land, like the interviews with Ice Cube and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but I’d have to say the one at the top of the heap has to be Dr. J. Julius Erving was not only huge to get for an interview, but we talked for 30-plus minutes. He was only supposed to be on with me for 10 minutes, and the conversation kept evolving as it went on.
He’s an incredibly nice man and an absolute pleasure to talk to with stories galore about his journey to becoming a basketball icon. I wish I could’ve done an hour-long interview it was that good. Another interviewee I really enjoyed talking to was Byron Scott. Genuinely a good dude.“
Q: Obviously last season did not go as expected, could you round-up your thoughts on the 2018/19 Lakers campaign?
Ryan: “Started out strong with a lot of promise and flamed out like no other season I’ve seen before. I’ve never seen so much go wrong from Christmas until literally the last day of the season. From LeBron going down for the first time ever with a serious injury, to countless trade rumors that ripped apart the locker room, to Brandon Ingram’s blood clot, to Magic Johnson taking everyone by surprise and quitting before the last game. It was a soap opera/reality show from start to finish and personally I’m glad it’s over.
I think what gets lost in the season is the fact that the Lakers showed a lot of promise to be a forced to be reckoned with in the West before LeBron’s injury. This team was coming together and looking really good, night in and night out. The real question is whether all of this is repairable. The quick fix is landing a second superstar which might be a stretch at this point due to all the dysfunction.
It’s a sign of the times when the Clippers are a franchise that is widely perceived to be better managed and a more appealing destination than the Lakers. The dark days in Los Angeles might not be over, at least for the purple and gold.”
Q: Last season was obviously a tough one for the young core, who would you say has the highest ceiling out of our young players?
Ryan:“Personally, I’d go with Kyle Kuzma. He may not be a great defender yet and still needs a lot of polish in other areas, but mentality he is exactly what you want from a young player. He is determined to become a star in this league and I think he’ll get there whether it be in a Lakers uniform or elsewhere. I believe he’ll be an All-Star in the future.”
Q: With Magic Johnson unexpectedly stepping down a few weeks ago from his role of President of Basketball Operations, what are your views on how the situation unfolded? Can you see an external executive being brought in, or will Rob Pelinka take on the extra responsibility?
Ryan:“I’ve never seen or covered anything like Magic’s resignation. The way he went about it is still very strange to me, and it seems that LeBron James has the same stance from what he said recently on HBO’s The Shop. I think Magic didn’t tell the whole story as to why he stepped down the way he did. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
As for Pelinka, I think they’ll give him more power and won’t bring in someone from the outside to run the show. It just seems like that’s the direction it is headed at this point, but that could easily change if a big-name expresses interest once the season is over. It may just be a case of that executive wanting his name out of news until the playoffs conclude.”
Q: Last week Frank Vogel was announced as the Lakers’ new head coach, after a chaotic hiring process. What are your thoughts on Vogel, will it work for him in LA?
Ryan:“I think he’s an ideal fit considering the options that were available. I’m not sure if he’s the answer they’re looking for, but I believe he’s capable of doing a good job in LA. Only time will tell.”
Q: Can the Lakers tempt another star free-agent to Los Angeles in the off-season? Of course, the possibility is there for the Lakers to strike out all together. How disastrous would striking out be, or would it?
Ryan:“This is where it gets tricky. I don’t think a superstar, who controls his own fate, is going to come here willingly after all that has happened. The ideal fit is Kawhi Leonard. He checks all the boxes and would take the load off of LeBron, but it seems like he’s headed to the Clippers. Every other star seems to be linked with other teams as well, like Kyrie Irving (Knicks), Kevin Durant (Knicks, Clippers), and Klay Thompson (Warriors).
The one player I think they’ll have an outside chance at is Jimmy Butler. I think a lot of teams aren’t willing to bring in a guy like Butler and that could result in him taking a serious look at Los Angeles to get the money he thinks he deserves in free agency.
Striking out would be yet another bad look for the Lakers as it would appear nothing has changed even with the addition of LeBron. The fact that Paul George said no last year was bad enough, but two years in a row with superstar players available that want to change teams? No bueno.”
Q: Thank you for answering our questions, Ryan. We appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak to us. All the best.