There’s a pretty good chance that no team inside the NBA bubble is having more fun than the Dallas Mavericks. From fishing to dancing to playing spikeball, the Mavs have been a barrel of laughs during their three-week stay in Central Florida.
And Jason “Chopper” Chinnock is the person who has captured those moments for the Mavs and their MFFLs.
The Mavs’ digital producer, Chopper has the unique abilities of being able to not only take photos and videos, but he also has the skills to edit those packages. In this fast-growing industry, that makes him a jack of all trades.
“Chopper’s the man,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s getting a lot of love down here (in Orlando), too.
“He’s everywhere all the time. Some of the stuff that he’s gotten on film is amazing.”
The Mavs’ social media platforms have received rave reviews across the NBA after being stuffed with funny and insightful content from Chopper, a shy, unassuming 34-year old who the Mavs say is the perfect person for this job.
“I’m definitely enjoying what I’m doing,” Chopper said. “Some of the (Mavs) staff do poke fun of me for always having my camera out, and they keep telling me to take a break.
“But I enjoy what I do. My hobby is also my job.”
Indeed, it’s a job Chopper takes very seriously, since he was out of a job when he was hand-picked to tag along with the Mavs and chronicle their history-making experiences in Orlando.
Chopper had worked on the FOX Sports Southwest broadcast of the Mavs’ games. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and that work, along with other freelance jobs Chopper had in his back pocket, fell by the wayside.
But following that storm came a rainbow of a gig for Chopper.
“You couldn’t find a more perfect time and a more perfect person for that opportunity,” said Mike Marshall, the senior director of digital for the Mavs, who pegged Chinnock. “Chopper had been doing some editing with us and some video stuff during the downtime during the quarantine. I knew his situation.
“You have two or three freelance jobs and then this happens where all of the sports you cover hit pause at the same time and you’re just kind of left out there. I know he’s super talented and would be great with the opportunity. It is kind of helping somebody that you respect a lot and want to get a good opportunity, but also he earned that shot. It’s not a charity deal. He’s obviously super talented and works his (butt) off every chance he gets, so it’s just kind of worked out perfect.”
So perfect that in rubbing shoulders with all the Mavs, Chopper has captured some amazing videos and photos that eventually found their way onto ESPN, NBA TV and the television stations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The memorable video that’s stood out the most involved point guard Luka Doncic, who incredibly soccer-style kicked in a long shot from beyond the 3-point arc last week.
“Luka just walked up and kicked the ball from 40 feet and swished it, and Chopper got it on film,” Carlisle said. “It was unbelievable. This was before practice was starting and there was kind of some free shooting in the gym.”
And then there was the videos of center Boban Marjanovic, Maxi Kleber and Antonius Cleveland fishing, and another unforgettable video of the Mavs playing spikeball.
“Basically, I know my job doesn’t end when practice ends, so I need to be ready to capture whenever stuff happens,” Chopper said. “Since practice is a little bit more confined with everyone being there, it’s a lot easier to see everybody, so I try to keep an ear out for who’s doing what and where people are hanging out and make sure I can see if I can jump on a boat.
“I went with Boban and AC and Max (on a fishing adventure), and that was just me asking if I could jump on the boat with them. Boban caught two big bass. And of course, the guys are all super competitive with each other, so they were challenging each other’s boat. Two boats went out that day and they were talking about who would catch the biggest fish.”
Carlisle has given Chopper a virtual all-access pass to many areas of the Mavs’ behind-the-scenes activities that he usually doesn’t give the media. And Chopper, of course, is very appreciative of Carlisle.
“Rick has said himself he’s opened it up to me, and by extension, to all of the Mavs’ fans out there,” Chopper said. “So I’m extremely grateful for the access, because more access means more chances to shoot video and pictures. And that alone is an amazing opportunity.”
For a media person, having all-access to what a team does is like the ultimate golden ticket that takes the job to an extraordinary level. In Chopper’s case, it’s given him more chances to know the players and coaches on a more personal and fun-loving level.
“I’m very used to being kind of the fly on a wall,” Chopper said. “But there’s been occasions where I’m running to go help with a Zoom call or go grab something else, and (assistant) coach (Jamahl) Mosley or another player yells after me and says, ‘Go get him, Chop!’
“And just having Rick shout my name out multiple times has honestly — I was taken aback for a little bit. I’ve tried to stay under the radar as much as I can, but I guess it’s kind of tough to stay under the radar when there’s only 35 people in the traveling party.”
While Chopper is making a good show of his name, he’s quick to point out that what he’s been able to accomplish has involved plenty of help. Jonathan Lim and Marshall assist in editing Chopper’s videos, Monica Borja and Steve Chavera do the same with the photos, and Becca Genecov and Lizelle Lauron from the social media team get his work on multiple Mavs’ social media platforms. It’s truly a team effort.
“The content that goes up on the Mavericks’ social stuff is edited and posted by the entire digital team back at home (in Dallas),” Chopper said. “So I am just shooting (videos and photos), and by doing so it frees me up to shoot more, be able to go out and shoot guys fishing and doing other things.
“If I had to come back here and edit for hours, there’s a lot less that I could possibly shoot, so I’m extremely grateful that Mike Marshall set up that system. They make my footage look way better than I think it is, so I’m extremely grateful for the entire digital team.”
The players also reach out to Chopper to capture certain things that they can use on their social media platforms.
“I try to spot when Luka or anybody is doing a fun trick shot, but occasionally I’m pointing my camera somewhere else,” Chopper said. “But if they want to grab something they’ll shout my name and I’ll shoot whatever they need, and then I can get any of the pictures or videos back to them so they can use it how they want.”
Marshall gives kudos to Carlisle for allowing Chopper into areas previously not permitted by the media.
“We’re allowing (Chopper) to really have almost unlimited access to our practices and meetings,” Carlisle said. “We’re going to give a lot of content to Instagram, Twitter, all those things, so that our fans can get as close a view as possible of this historic situation.
“Our guys have had a really terrific approach and attitude about coming here knowing that there’s going to be limitations, and knowing that at the end of the day we just have each other. They’re putting out some really cool stuff on social media and having fun with that.”
Chopper and the Mavs left Dallas on July 8 and could be in Orlando anywhere from late August to early October. He said he uses FaceTime to communicate with his girlfriend and puppy.
Marshall’s advice to Chopper was to: “Have a lot of patience and overly communicate with me and everybody back here (in Dallas). You can get kind of lonely, you can get bored, you can forget why you’re working so hard, so that’s a big part of my management of him.
“Jonathan Lim and I are the people that work with him most closely on a day to day basis. We just try and give him new ideas, keep the ideas flowing, keep the inspiration there. There is going to be a level of burnout that comes along with being in the same location, shooting the same thing for three months. But he’s a very focused person to begin with.”
More importantly, Marshall acknowledged that Chopper is giving Mavs fans what they want – lots of fun videos and photos that turn into lasting and invaluable conversation pieces.
“I knew he was going to do a good job,” Marshall said. “He’s the perfect person for that type of opportunity, and I’ve been very impressed with what he’s done. He’s been awesome.
“Mavs fans have noticed it, No. 1, and we internally have noticed how hard he’s working. I’ve known him for a while and knew he was a workhorse. He’s very assertive, and he can do his job and not get in the way.”
Chopper’s certainly not in the way of Carlisle or any of the Mavs’ players. They’re enjoying his work.
“He’s perfect for this, because he’s got a great low-key personality, but is extremely likeable,” Carlisle said. “And everybody admires him here because of how hard he’s working.”