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Clippers hire Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins as executive director of research and identity

Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins is joining the Clippers’ front office as executive director of research and identity, the team confirmed Monday.

In his role, which the team called the first of its kind among NBA franchises, Jenkins will assist Lawrence Frank, president of basketball operations, and Michael Winger, the general manager, with the team’s amateur and professional scouting.

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Jenkins wasn’t considering a career change until the Clippers proposed the idea in the spring.

“There will be a significant amount of research into potential players,” Jenkins told the Los Angeles Times. “I think it’ll be a lot of work that complements what they already do in terms of their scouting and evaluation, which is an area I’m pretty interested in and I’ve always thought journalist could help with.

“I don’t know a thing about evaluating talent. I could never do that in a million years. What I try to do is evaluate people. It’s not evaluating necessarily a person’s character. It’s evaluating what motivates them, how they are wired, what kind of things they respond to, what kind of things they value. That might be an area where I can possibly contribute to the people they already have.”

Jenkins grew up in Southern California and has earned acclaim for his writing on the NBA, which he has primarily covered since joining the magazine 11 years ago. Best known for his in-depth profiles of NBA personalities, Jenkins was called the league’s “preeminent storyteller” by Frank. He becomes the second Sports Illustrated basketball writer to join an NBA front office in the past year, following Luke Winn’s departure for the Toronto Raptors.

“Lee has spent his career profiling elite athletes, including most of the top players in the NBA,” Frank said in a news release. “Given Lee’s talent, knowledge, and credibility, we hope to blend his approach with our existing evaluation systems and highlight the personalities of our players.”

The Clippers open training camp Monday in Hawaii.

The new role is not a writing job, Jenkins said. Yet he described his motivations for accepting it as only a writer would.

“I believe in the people they have, I believe in their vision,” he said. “I believe they have the capacity to really author a pretty great story of their own. … I know it’s kind of a crazy, weird thing. We’ll see if it works.”

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