The Los Angeles Clippers are hiring Sports Illustrated senior writer Lee Jenkins to a newly created front-office position of executive director of research and identity.
The Clippers are banking on the belief that Jenkins, one of the industry's preeminent sports journalists, can translate his talent, ethics and instincts as a storyteller and his unique study of people into the franchise's ambitious basketball pursuits.
Jenkins, 41, will be working alongside Clippers president of basketball of operations Lawrence Frank and general manager Michael Winger in the franchise's reshaped front office.
Jenkins has worked at Sports Illustrated for the past 11 years, with assignments that included revelatory cover stories and features on the biggest stars in the NBA.
"As a reporter, I can ask a hundred questions to a hundred people, but I could never know what really goes on behind the curtain," Jenkins told ESPN on Monday night. "The deadline. The draft. Free agency. All the strategy and gymnastics and prep work that goes into those events, but also the every day of an organization. On a personal level, I came to the realization that no matter how many player profiles I write, I still have a ton to learn about the NBA, and the best way to learn it is through immersion.
"In our line of work, we ask questions from different angles, assemble information in different ways. We try to put it together like puzzles until we've formed a portrait of a person. I'm going to try to bring that same process to the Clippers in hopes it will complement what their incredible group of evaluators already accomplish. This team is interested not just in what players do, but who they are -- how they're wired, how they're motivated -- and that's an area I love to explore.
"But I have to be honest with myself. This is all very new, and there will be trial and error. All I know for sure is that the Clippers have the tools to build one of the great sports stories, and I'm excited to contribute."
Jenkins said that he had never considered working for a professional sports team and didn't consider the possibility of making the leap from the media until Frank and Winger approached him with the idea months ago.
"I grew up pulling for the Clippers on KTLA -- Gary Grant was my guy -- but it would be disingenuous to say that's why I'm doing this," Jenkins said. "I just think they're a great bet. So much about sports comes down to market and owner. They have the most attractive market in the league, and if they don't have the most committed owner, I don't know who does. I mean, who else but Steve Ballmer would do something like this? I'm constantly writing stories about teams that win, and when you trace their course back to the beginning, the end seems almost inevitable.
"The Clippers are in L.A. with Steve Ballmer and Jerry West, Doc Rivers and Lawrence Frank. They might have the best negotiator in the league in Michael Winger and two of the best evaluators in Trent Redden and Mark Hughes. They have a plan to create the ultimate environment for their players. I think it's inevitable."