Off the back of our first two articles, with Trevor Lane of Lakers Nation and Ryan Ward of Clutch Sports, we are delighted to announce the third feature in our ‘A Conversation With..’ series. Welcome Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report!
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.
By Matt Evans (@mattyyyevans)