The Post’s Candace Buckner on the Game, How to Make D.C. More of a Basketball Town, and More | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

The Post’s Candace Buckner on the Game, How to Make D.C. More of a Basketball Town, and More

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Updated: October 16, 2017

[Photo: instagram.com/candacedbuckner]

Candace Buckner, the phenomenal Wizards beat reporter for the Washington Post, is heading into her second season covering the team. She’s unofficially shared her sports journalism journey many times before (see one such profile in the Washington City Paper from last year), but was gracious enough to make time for this official TAI interview.

This Q&A is more of deep dive into some of her inspirations as a basketball writer, and how she came to gain so much knowledge about the X’s and O’s of the game. We also delve into how she goes about breaking news and upholding her journalistic integrity.

This interview, which has been condensed and edited for clarity, took place in the halls of Capital One Arena, just before a Sunday afternoon Wizards practice, as the team prepared for the season opener against the 76ers.

Truth About It: As an outsider to the DMV area, what’s your take on why D.C. fails to generate much buzz—locally and nationally?

Candace Buckner: I guess championships go a long way as far as making generations of fans—that’s why the Redskins can be number one in the market, even though they have been mediocre and milquetoast for so long. People in this generation have that memory of Super Bowls and winning, and hope with RG3. The Wizards just don’t have that history of winning within this generation. I say it to other people all the time that this is a big hoops city, but for some reason, it’s not a Wizards city.

Actually I would say that the NBA is big here. I think the Wizards might actually be more relevant outside of D.C. then they are in their hometown, which is weird to me as an outsider. It just goes back to having some modicum of success in a generation.

Since there isn’t much national TV competition in the D.C. market for Wizards content, and with you being the most high-profile reporter on the beat, can you talk about your feelings about the aggregation of basketball content.

I don’t know if this specifically answers your question, but I think there’s a difference between breaking news and covering transactions and actually covering a basketball team. I think a lot of basketball Twitter is covering those transactions and seeking those retweets and likes . . . which is part of my job, because this is the team that I cover. I need to know when Donald Sloan gets waived, or Daniel Ochefu gets waived, or when Kelly Oubre’s option gets picked up. However, it seems like that is the thing will get eyes on Twitter. But you have to take the view of I’m just not here to cover transactions. If I write a good story, it’s going to get circulated. Like, Lee Jenkins gets read, and you’re never going to see him writing a story on the 15th man getting a one-year contract.

As a beat reporter at a prestigious newspaper such as the Washington Post, how do you go about your breaking news stories? How many sources do you have to talk to before you publish a piece?

CB: It depends on the report. For example, this summer I thought I had something locked down as far as what the Wizards were going to do in free agency, and no one else had it. I think I got five sources to either corroborate or shoot it down—it was a mix of two and three, and the three were that important to me to not run with it. And then it turned out to not be true. I say, you know what, it’s my name on the story, and I would love to be first, I would love to drive a conversation, but you have to be a journalist and not just someone searching for clicks.

Take us through your history with the game of basketball, including some of your biggest influences?

CB: I studied under my yogi. Naw, I’m a child of the ’80s. I grew up and St. Louis, which means I didn’t have a home team to root for, so who would you root for if you didn’t have a team in the ’80s?

Hmm. Probably the Lakers.

CB: I grew up a Showtime Lakers fan, and I tell people that it used to feel like they were playing every Sunday. Obviously, they were not. But those vivid memories of those Sunday matchups—NBA on NBC—and then those finals. So, I kind of matriculated through my fandom. I always thought I wanted to be a Hannah Storm type, and I loved Inside Stuff back in the day. Just growing up loving basketball, this is what I wanted to do. Of all the beats and all the sports, this is my favorite.

Basketball is your favorite sport, huh?

CB: I love the way they dribble up and down the court! [laughs]

Shout-out to Kurtis Blow!

CB: Trust me, when you guys read this interview, I’m not trying to throw shade at anybody. I really put my time in, and I’m not a Johnny-come-lately. And when I finally did get the job that I always wanted, I treated it as, “You know what, I used to be a fan.” I was reading Kevin Ding and Mike Bresnahan and wanting them to tell me certain things, and they did. I’m taking that perspective and giving it to people like me. I came in not like a fangirl, but saying this is the type of content I would want as a fan. And since I have a press pass, I freakin’ use it!

What was your reaction to Cam Newton’s “routes” presser? Have you ever experienced something similar to that in your career?

CB: From the time I started in the 2012-13 season, I’ve always felt the NBA—from its players, coaches, and the men who cover it, because it’s mostly men who cover it—have been progressive. Especially the male journalists, they’ve been a very progressive and inclusive group of people. I’ve never felt as if I were treated less than, which is especially gracious because I felt back then that I could ask some “dumb” questions, because I ramble.

It’s funny because one of the comments I read about the Jourdan Rodrigue situation was, “She said the question kinda shakily anyway.” No that’s just her voice. I can relate to that because I ramble a lot and it may come off as unintelligent or uninformed, but I’ve had people give me grace. [Scott] Brooks is great, I had Frank Vogel in Indiana, Terry Stotts [in Portland]. These were people who were always gracious with me and not making me feel less than.

Do you think the have Wizards actually improved their bench from last season? And will that be enough to get this team into the Conference Finals?

CB: I’m high on it. But then again I was high on Marcus Thornton last year . . .

Jodie Meeks has shown in the preseason that he can be an automatic shooter. Tim Frazier, once he’s healthy, I think he can do more than what Brandon Jennings did last season. I don’t know why, but I felt like Jennings limited himself last season when he came over after the trade deadline. He limited himself in that role, and I think that Frazier can give them more than what they expected from Trey Burke.

Also, I like Mike Scott. It seems that every time he gets in, even if that first shot is off, but then he goes back and scores two buckets in a row or shows some versatility that I didn’t think he had. I didn’t pay much attention to him when he was in Atlanta . . . well, only when they played the Pacers. He just seems way more versatile than I ever gave him credit for.

What’s the best NBA city, in terms of being on the beat?

CB: I do love going to L.A., especially if there is a weekend game and I can squeeze in time to go to my favorite flea market.

What’s the name of it?

CB: Melrose Trading Post.

They just got a nice plug here!

CB: But I’m going to say a low-key city. Portland is such a good culinary spot. I’m not really a fan of Houston.

OK, on the topic of food, what’s your favorite D.C. restaurant?

CB: I’m glad you asked that because the last time I was asked that, I said &Pizza. [laughs]

I want to give a shout out to Kabob Palace in Arlington. As far as post-game food goes, it’s very legit.

What’s your go-to order?

CB: I would get the lamb, but they leave the bone in, and I’m not trying to be fighting my food while I eat. They should take the bone out, so I can just enjoy the meat. I’m more into the beef and potatoes when I go there.

Last question. What’s your favorite museum in the city?

CB: The NMAAHC (National Museum of African American History and Culture). I’ve been twice on my own and once with my mother. I probably need to go again so I can soak everything in.

Did you get to all four floors?

CB: Every time I go, I start from the bottom and try to work my way up—it’s a commitment, though.

Yeah, you kind of have to block a whole day if you want to really experience it.

CB: I also love the Portrait Gallery, which is right around the corner.

(Note: I love the Hirshorn Art Museum. They always have exclusive exhibits. This summer they had this exhibit called “Infinity Mirrors” by Yayoi Kusama, and it was literally the hottest ticket in town for months. You should check that out.)

Many thanks to Candace Buckner for sitting down with us. You can find her work at the Washington Post, which is a must-subscribe for any sports fan in the DMV. Be sure to follow her reporting on Twitter: @CandaceDBuckner.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Writer
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.