I've been having such a good time with these Q&A sessions with other bloggers that I decided to branch out a little. At a recent home game I got a chance to chat with Joe Stevens who covers the Clippers for the Long Beach Press Telegram, and he was nice enough to agree to answer a few questions via email. As you'll read below, Stevens has been covering the Clippers for 7 seasons now. And I can honestly say he's my favorite of the Clippers' beat reporters - that's not a dig at Art Thompson of the OCR or Jonathan Abrams of the LA Times, who also do great work. But Joe seems to add a little more humanity to his coverage, goes at things from the angles I myself might choose. Anyway, here's what he had to say for himself.
ClipperSteve: Let's start with some basic bio stuff - how long have you been a reporter? - with the Press Telegram? - covering the Clippers?
Stevens: I've been a reporter for 12 years and have been with the P-T for nine years. This is my seventh season on the Clipper beat. Before the P-T, I covered the New York City colleges for Newsday.
ClipperSteve: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that you have been traveling with the team for a while. Of course, the LA Times and the OC Register stopped sending their Clippers' beat reporters on road trips in January as well. When the team is on the road, do you watch the games? Do you watch as a fan, or as part of your job?
Stevens: In the first few years, I diligently watched the road games. I soon realized I didn't need to watch them so closely in order to cover the team well. So now, I watch them more casually, kind of like a fan.
ClipperSteve: You were covering the Clippers during the 2006 playoffs. Was that pretty cool, or was it just another day at the office? A job is still a job, but I assume that writing about a seven game playoff series is better than writing about a 20 point loss for a team going nowhere.
Stevens: Yeah, covering the 2006 playoffs was pretty cool. I was on the road then, and I realized how much the team's success factored into my job. I was writing about them absolutely every day, and I received more e-mails and did more radio interviews than ever before about the team. I soon had to stop the radio interviews because there were literally five or six per day. I broke the rule to do `"Which Way L.A." with Warren Olney.
ClipperSteve: Clipper fans have a well-earned inferiority complex. The feeling among my readers is that the national media has fallen into an easy old pattern of dismissing the Clippers as hapless. They make the obligatory mention of injuries to Brand and others, but seem to imply that the biggest problem is that they're just the Clippers and that the 2006 playoffs were a complete anomaly. What do you think? Can this team compete in the Western Conference with a healthy Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston next season?
Stevens: I do not necessarily believe that the "same old Clippers" line works for this team. Owner Donald T. Sterling finally is spending money, keeping a coach, building a practice facility and losing his cheapness tag. Yet he remains bizarre. With the way the West is shaping up, I believe the only way that they will compete in the conference for a playoff spot is if they go out and somehow acquire a topnotch point guard. I don't know how in the world they're going to do that, but it is the absolute key to next season. So much throughout this season, the "Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston" injuries are mentioned in tandem, and I believe that is misleading. Livingston is still unproven and a project. If the organization believes that either he or Brevin Knight could lead this team to the playoffs as the No. 1 point guard next season, it will be dead wrong. Some type of trade needs to be reached to get a topnotch point guard, but I have no suggestion here about who in that category will be available.
ClipperSteve: Speaking of inferiority complexes, does Lakers beat writer Elliott Teaford get the good cubicle? The good laptop? I notice HE gets to go on road trips.
Stevens: There is not an inferiority complex from me as a writer, except on the beat. There really are only three of us who cover the team - me, the L.A. Times and O.C. Register. Those two other publications are at every practice, and I am not. Thus, I cannot compete with them on every daily story. Still, considering the time my newspaper chain puts into this beat, I am proud of my coverage and think I offer a good alternative with many insights beyond the other beat writers.
ClipperSteve: How quiet is the locker room now that Sam Cassell is gone? I assume the other Clipper players couldn't get a word in with Sam around. Still, Sam must have been a reporter's dream. Are you going to miss him?
Stevens: Sam was a reporter's dream, and several Clippers are dreams. Chris Kaman is just so out there, that I truly enjoy interviewing and covering him. Cuttino Mobley takes losses so hard and is so sincere about it, that I like him quite a bit, too. Elton Brand is extremely giving and caring with writers, so he's great, too. And Sam is a quote machine. I'm going to miss him. I did a longer story on him during his first year with the Clippers and ended up talking to his dad, an ex-sanitation worker, and his JC coach. In many ways, you get close to these guys, even though their NBA world is a lot different than mine.
ClipperSteve: As a blogger, I get to be first and foremost a fan. As a reporter, you have to remain impartial. But watching a team every game, you must begin to develop an affinity for them. Do you consider yourself a Clippers fan? Or are you just sick of them? (Don't be afraid - you can tell us.)
Stevens: I am not exactly a Clippers fan, but knowing that the beat is better when they win, I guess that I do want them to win. I'm from Cleveland originally, and the team's I root for in order are the Indians, Browns, Cavs and Ohio State. I can't say I'm much of a fan of anybody else. I am not sick of the Clippers. Even when they lose, they're amazing. I don't care about any debates about athletes that surface.
Remember this: NBA athletes are the best athletes in the world. No doubt about it. Al Thornton, Corey Maggette --- what these guys do is practically inhuman. Yeah, they're on a perpetually losing team, but we've become dulled to their sheer athleticism. On a nightly basis, what these guys do is ridiculously amazing.