NBA on TNT insider Chris Haynes, screengrab via TNT.

Insiders mingle with the biggest people in sports. They talk to star athletes, and powerful coaches, executives, agents, and owners. The information has its rewards. Insiders can become famous and be highly paid. This life, however, isn’t always glamorous. Working the 24-hour news cycle is challenging, especially when you’re a 42-year-old married father of four daughters. 

To learn more, we recently caught up with Chris Haynes, the Senior NBA Insider for TNT and Bleacher Report. We spoke to him about his job and the first round of the NBA playoffs, which starts this weekend. Haynes will be at Game 2 of the Philadelphia 76ers vs. New York Knicks series which will tip-off Monday at 7:30 ET on TNT.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Awful Announcing: What’s the biggest misconception of being an insider? 

Chris Haynes: “That we probably get things just handed to us. It takes a lot of work to continue to make calls. It gets to a point, especially when you’re talking about the NBA draft, the trade deadline, and free agency, where you’re borderline harassing your key sources. The good thing about it is that whether you’re (talking to) an executive, an agent, a player, or an owner, they understand what you’re going through. It’s a grind. Not everyone can do it.”

Is it difficult to juggle work and your personal life?

“I have youngsters that reach out all the time. They ask about that work-life balance. I tell them that the work-life balance is what you make it. This is not a 9-to-5 job. You cannot close your business at five o’clock and expect to be relevant in this industry, especially as an insider. There are many times I have to walk away from a family dinner or a big family event to take a phone call. It was tough on my marriage early on, but it was something that we got used to. Is it healthy? No, it’s not healthy. But it is the job, and I understand it. And if you have a mate, it’s important that they understand and give you that freedom to do that.”

Was there ever a time when you got in trouble with your wife because of your job?

“(In 2012,) I was a beat writer covering the Portland Trailblazers and one of my childhood friends was getting married. At this time, Nicolas Batum was a restricted free agent. He was trying to get to Minnesota. His agent, Bouna Ndiayem, who happens to be the agent for Victor Wembanyama, gave me a call and wanted to go on record. This is ten minutes before the wedding is about to start. I’m not in the wedding, but I have a second-row seat. Ndiaye says that he was basically trying to force his way to Minnesota. ‘We don’t want Portland matching (the offer sheet). This is where Nicholas wants to be.’

“This was big news. So here I am, second row in a wedding, and I’m on my laptop interviewing the agent. I’m typing right there. I broke my story during the wedding. My friend Aaron brings it up from time to time, but he understood. My wife, she did not forgive me. She’s sitting there next to me feeling awkward because everybody’s looking at me.”

Did you say anything to the bride and the groom?

“I apologized to Aaron and his wife. They were cool. I was glad that they did that. Next time, I’ll leave the premises and go to the lobby or something. But I wasn’t expecting that call. That happened multiple times when I had to step away, making it pretty awkward.”

What scoop has caused you the most stress?

“I was at ESPN, and I got word that Gordon Hayward was leaving Utah and signing with the Boston Celtics (in 2017). When I reported that, his agent would not confirm it. Actually, I believe his agent said it was false at the time. They were sending out other reporters to claim that it was false. So, here I am on an island. I got really good information, and I trusted my sources on this. So, for about six hours everyone was refuting my report. I stuck with it. I even had my editors questioning me, Ultimately six hours later, Gordon Hayward puts out The Players’ Tribune story that he’s going to Boston.”

Was that more gratifying or annoying?

“The problem is that you may have a good source that’s going to give you that info, but they want to give it to you at a certain time. So, they may promise that to one of my competitors. Meanwhile, I may get it through someone else who says this is going down. And I may know that somebody else has promised them that story later on. I have to make that call. Am I going to go now? Because if I go now, I know it’s going to be refuted until they are ready to formally announce it however way they want to announce it. So that’s another little hurdle in the insider game.”

Let’s talk playoffs. What first-round series intrigues you?

“I would probably go with the Bucks-Pacers simply because the elephant in the room is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Is he going to be able to return at some point during the series with that calf injury? Also, there’s just been so much history between the Pacers and Bucks this season. When you go back to the in-season tournament, the Pacers knocked out the Bucks. Then there was the game in which Giannis had a career-high (64 points), and then the Pacers took the game ball and tried to award it to a rookie who scored his first point, which was one free throw. We saw Giannis go ballistic and chase after the ball. So there’s just history between these teams.”

Do the L.A. Lakers have a shot against the defending champion Denver Nuggets?

“I had Darvin Ham on my podcast with Mark Stein called thisleague UNCUT in the offseason. He talked about how much the team wanted to face Denver. With that being said, I know there was a lot of discussion about whether or not the Lakers should lose that play-in game to New Orleans so they wouldn’t have to face Denver in the first round. I think that was a bull**** conversation. This should be the team you want to face. The Lakers have played good basketball the last three weeks of the season. Is this the ideal matchup for the Lakers in the first round? Hell no. That’s just speaking the truth.”

If the Celtics (64-18) don’t win the championship, what will be the reason?

“If you look at the last few years, what has kept them from securing the Larry O’Brien trophy, it was turnovers, it was shot selection. This season, they’re a much deeper team. They’re a better team. You look at their season, the wins that they’ve had, they are dominating. Kristaps Porziņģis and Jrue Holiday, those additions have proven to be highly successful. Derrick White has stepped up his game as a marquee defender. They’ve got good bench production when needed. They’ve developed their guys. So, they might not say it, but it’s a championship-or-bust year for Boston.”

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.