<
>

This is Why Beat Writers Get to Ask Questions First

The vast majority of my time in NBA locker rooms has been while working on magazine feature stories. That means I want to ask Kevin Garnett to tell me about his love of interior decorating (he's seriously into it). I want to get Vince Carter to talk about his mom. I want Dwyane Wade to tell me about practices in college.

If you get a press credential and march into an NBA locker room asking evergreen questions like that right off the bat, beat writers will, if they're feeling friendly, shoot you the dirtiest looks you have ever seen in your lives. If they're feeling less friendly they'll groan loudly and say something like "come OOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNN." There are more steps after that.

So, in most cases, people like me wait until they get their deadline-centric questions in, and then pray that the player is still ready to talk about sixth grade or whatever when the beat writers are done.

Why are beat writers like that? I'm convinced it's one part victim complex--that comes from being subjected to the whims of editors, players, coaches, travel schedules, and indeed a marketplace that will not hesitate to inconvenience them. Many fear for their jobs thanks to a rough patch for newspapers.

But there is also that matter of the deadline. It's enough to make anyone twitchy. Detroit Free Press beat writer Krista Jahnke tells Matt Watson of Detroit Bad Boys what her routine is like. You can see why the ethic has developed that beat writers ask first:

The pre-game locker room situation is not great for us beat writers. Four of the starters - Chauncey, Tay, 'Sheed and C-Webb - do not talk before games. We often chat with Chauncey off-the-record, but he superstitiously avoids pre-game interviews. Rasheed usually wanders around singing aloud to the music pumping through his headphones. That leaves Rip, a great guy, but one who is as crafty at shaking us as he is at shaking defenders. And with bumping rap music drowning out conversation, it's just not what you'd call a landmine of great interviews. On the plus side, Lindsey Hunter and Dale Davis are always around and are always fun to talk with, whether for an interview or just to BS a little. Then I have about 45 minutes to write my pre-game notes to hit my first deadline at 7:30.

Most games start at 7:30, and in that case, I have to write a little of my game story during the game. If it's an 8 o'clock game, I have to write it ALL during the game. My first deadline is 10:40, so an 8 o'clock game ends with me filing my first story about 10 minutes after the buzzer. I write during time outs and at halftime, and if it's a close game, most of the fourth quarter, trying to follow the action at the same time. It can be tough, especially in games that go down to the wire. In that case, I often have two stories going at once, a "winning" story and a "losing" story. We in the media hate overtime games for that reason; we often selfishly root for blowouts just to ease our stress.

The post-game media session begins about 10 minutes after the game. We interview Flip first and then hit the locker room, where we wait for the guys to emerge - slowly - from the shower. Chauncey is our go-to guy because he typically appears first and takes care of us. If someone else has a great game, like Rasheed or Chris, some nights, we're just out of luck. We don't have time to wait them out.

I get whatever I can in time, and then haul back to the media room to finish my game story for the 10:40 deadline. After that, I update my notes if they need it and on rushed nights, redo the game story as well. I'm usually done by 11 or 11:15 p.m.