By all accounts, New Orleans Pelicans fans enjoyed a huge Presidents’ Day Weekend as The Big Easy hosted last weekend’s NBA All-Star festivities. It would be enough for Pelican fans if hometown favorite Anthony Davis earned All-Star Game MVP honors, as he did. But New Orleans also got down and Boogied with a monumental trade finalized on Sunday night that landed DeMarcus Cousins in the Crescent City.
New Orleans was certainly at the center of the NBA universe this week and one of the key voices for SportsCenter and other shows was ESPN.com Pelicans beat writer Justin Verrier. Front Row caught up with Verrier, a UConn graduate and former staff writer at the Hartford Courant and former ESPN intern and NBA editor, during some rare down time in his whirlwind week.
When and how did you first hear about the trade?
Buzz started to circulate toward the beginning of All-Star Weekend in New Orleans that Cousins might be available again, and that the Pelicans were looking to make an impact deal ahead of the trade deadline. I reported on Sunday afternoon that the Pelicans had inquired about Cousins and Indiana’s Paul George, but there was still a good deal of skepticism that a deal would get done, mostly because Cousins’ status with the Kings had been a subject of discussion for years now. By the time Davis finished his news conference for winning All-Star Game MVP, Cousins was his teammate. Truly a stunning turn of events.
What was the vibe like in the city with all this ongoing news?
It was a banner weekend for pro basketball in New Orleans before the trade ever happened. The city received deserved praise, from NBA commissioner Adam Silver on down, for its ability to host the festivities on short notice and during Mardi Gras. The party figures to keep going now that Cousins has arrived. Basketball has risen to the forefront of this football-obsessed city in a way that I have never seen in my year of living here. It’s exciting to be able to cover it all.
In that kind of moment, it must be challenging with everything going on. How do you keep your focus and perspective in your reporting during the weekend?
It helped that virtually the entire league was in town all at once. (Pelicans GM Dell Demps said Wednesday that he even bumped into Cousins on the street days before trading for him.) And the importance of teammates can’t be overstated here. ESPN had a crew of editors and reporters to blanket All-Star coverage, including senior writer Marc Stein, who, in addition to being one of the best reporters in the business, plays a critical role directing news coverage in the NBA group. I’m lucky to be able to lean on he and the rest of the team. . . especially when the waking hours start to increase.
Beat writers for ESPN aren’t just writers behind a keyboard; they’re also sometimes in front of a camera, as well. How was it being on SportsCenter earlier this week?
Exciting! I’ve done some TV in the past, but being on SportsCenter, a show my family and I watched all the time growing up, was a thrill. It also sums up how big this story has become. Can’t wait to do more!