I've really enjoyed this High Five series and I hope you have too. Today's installment is with Jay King of MassLive. I've known Jay for several years and I've admired his work ethic and skill as a writer. This year he made the leap from blogging to covering the Celtics full time so I thought he'd have some interesting insights (and he didn't disappoint). Here's the Q&A:
1. The Celtics didn't just introduce a rookie coach and a few rookie players this year. They also welcomed a new full time writer and editor to the beat. Like Drake you started from the bottom (blogging) now you're here. Tell us how that all happened.
Fun story that I don't know if you will remember, Jeff: When I first started blogging about the Celtics, I did so for a college class. I had never earned an A on a paper before and nobody would ever accuse me of writing well, but I really enjoyed offering reactions about my favorite basketball team. I maintained the blog even when the class ended; when I got serious about becoming a decent writer, I emailed you to see if you could provide any assistance. You didn't know me and had no real incentive to help me, but you did anyway. I still have the email.
I've always had a world of respect for you, the crew at Red's Army, the gang at Celtics Hub -- you guys cover the Celtics, and do it very well, on your own time, because you love doing it. You remain committed year after year, day after day, despite having full-time jobs and families (and maybe even friends?), despite 57-loss seasons or whatever else. You guys cover the team as well as the guys on the beat, in your spare time. It's inspiring.
I started Celtics Town about six years ago (wow, has it been that long?) and determined to become a beat writer one day. To try making that happen, I covered high school sports, worked part-time for a couple websites, ran my own blog, contributed to other blogs (including the fantastic CelticsBlog), and just tried to learn whatever I could. One summer, I felt like I would never reach my goals. I just felt like I was essentially running on a treadmill, working my butt off yet going nowhere. I opted to take a job in sales. On the day I was supposed to start the gig, I decided two things: 1) I couldn't sell water in a desert to someone who hadn't had a sip in weeks. And 2) I did not want to give up on writing just yet.
I caught a break a few months later when MassLive offered me a position as sports producer. A few months after that, I got incredibly lucky when MassLive decided to cover the Celtics full-time and offered me the spot. I signed the papers as quickly as possible before my boss could realize what he was doing.
2. The hardest part of my job as a blogger is to be creative and informative day in and day out. It is a grind, but the crutch I've always been able to rely upon is the hard work that full time reporters do. I've often admired your ability to produce quality content with a high frequency and you've only turned up the volume with your new role. How do you do it (and what has changed in your new role)?
Mostly, two things have changed:
1. I now have no other job responsibilities, so I'm free to spend almost all my time pondering things like "can Phil Pressey become Boston's long-term backup point guard?" (though I know he will need to become a much better shooter, I'm leaning toward yes); "can Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk ever advance enough as defenders to become the frontcourt of the future?" (even though I think Sullinger's underrated as a defender in some ways, ehh...); and "what really matters from a season that obviously qualified as a rebuilding year?" (development, Brad Stevens, yada yada yada).
2. Now I can ask Stevens and the players questions. Poor guys.
As for the amount of content, I'm a one-man gang on the beat, and I'm pretty competitive. My personal goal every day is to "win" against all the other publications which cover the team. I rarely (aka never) feel like I accomplish that goal, but it's what drives me at 2 a.m. while I'm drinking coffee and preparing to write about Kris Humphries' 18 solid minutes in a 12-point loss.
I'm still very inexperienced and in a lot of ways have no idea what I'm doing as a writer/reporter, but I can always control my effort. Basically, I just want to be Chris Johnson.
3. I've read all the profiles on Brad Stevens. He's clearly a cyborg who's only emotions are focused solely on a positive competitive spirit. He's a boy genius and he's best friends with Rajon Rondo and everything is sunny in Whoville. But really, when the cameras stop running and the recorders turn off, do you ever see the mask crack just a little? Or is he really just that well put together?
Toward the middle of the season, when things started to get messy, I wondered when Stevens would snap. "Today's the day he's going to throw a fit," I would think, and then he would remain just as measured as ever. "He can't possibly respond to THAT loss in perfectly calm fashion," I would declare, but Stevens never stepped out of character. Even when he showed obvious disappointment (the close home loss to Phoenix comes to mind), he stayed away from any type of rant.
Stevens is exactly as advertised. Losses tear him apart and keep him awake, but he responds to them in the way he feels will most benefit his team: with positive energy and a focus on the next game. Everything he does is calculated. He definitely got frustrated this season, but he never seemed to allow a setback to impact his next move. That was especially impressive because he never really dealt with losing at Butler.
4. Speaking of Rondo, what's he like up close? (You know, in less than 100,000 words)
I've seen Rondo joking around with teammates in the locker room. I've seen him obviously irritated with certain questions from the media. I've seen him wearing sneakers to honor the Boston Marathon bombing victims. I've seen him dive on the floor and play with a dislocated elbow and lazily reach while his opponent dribbles by.
He's obviously very bright and competitive and one of the best basketball players alive. But I don't know what he's really like any more than the next guy. I don't think shoving a microphone into someone's face and seeing what he says qualifies as the best way to get to know someone's character.
That being said, I would definitely want Rondo on my team. It should also be noted that he completely bought into the rebuilding process when he could have easily disrupted all the good vibrations from Stevens' rookie year. That reflects well on both the coach and point guard, I think.
5. Looking ahead, if Danny is able to pull off a big move or two (like he did in 2007), aside from Rondo who would you like to see stick around? Who could be the Rondo and Perkins of this round? Who would be a likely Al Jefferson type trade chip?
Of the young guys ... Jared Sullinger will either be Al Jefferson 2.0 or a building block for the future. I really like his game already and think he can improve quite a bit if he dedicates himself to getting into elite shape. Kelly Olynyk has some obvious defensive limitations but he progressed enough over the second half of the season that his future now offers legitimate excitement. Avery Bradley made some important changes by extending his range, but he's a restricted free agent and I'm not sure exactly what the Celtics plan to do. I don't think there's any Rondo (star) or Perkins (rugged enforcer) this time around, but the three aforementioned youngsters hold value (either in Boston, or in a trade).
Danny Ainge has also done a nice job collecting potential rotation pieces (Chris Johnson, Phil Pressey, Vitor Faverani, perhaps Chris Babb) on team-friendly deals, and a few veterans (Brandon Bass, Kris Humphries [a free agent] and Jeff Green) can help a good team. And obviously, Rondo.
But so many decisions will depend on whether Ainge can make "fireworks" this summer. The Celtics appear to be set up well, but the difficult part comes next.
Great stuff. Thanks Jay. You can follow him on twitter at @ByJayKing