Saturday, June 21, 2008

Back in School: The Chris Wallace Interview - Part 3

This is the 3rd part of the exclusive interview Chris Wallace gave 3 Shades of Blue on Friday, June 6th. Part 1 discussed his introduction to the NBA up to his first draft. Part 2 dealt with the draft process and how it has developed.

As in the Michael Heisley interview in April, we are presenting the interview in its entirety and not taking excerpts out to forward any agenda or point of view. We at 3 Shades of Blue hope everyone enjoys the interview and trust our readers to draw whatever conclusions they want from it.

3SOB: Are there certain things about a player's background or play that is a red flag for the you and the Grizzlies? I assume with the preponderance of knowledge about the players games that this backgrounds take greater prevalence.
CW: This is much more important. Some of the things which are red flags are obvious such as substance abuse. You obviously have to be very concerned about that. A police record. If young person is aiming for a pro basketball career and trying to be a good citizen then why do you have rap sheet? But the biggest red flag in my opinion is not having a passion for the game. That it's not an over-riding concern for him. Being a well-rounded person is great for society. The world needs them. What we need is guys that are obsessed with getting better. They have a real passion. They have somewhat of a tunnel vision.

College coaches have more control over kids these players than we do. They are the gate keepers to these kids getting into the NBA. They basically don't have any choice but to get with the program. They also go to school and that takes up a lot of their time. So when they come to us and they sign that contract, They own us in a way. You can't just get rid of people if you want to win. Trades aren't automatic if you make a mistake. Plus they have a lot more free time and money in their pocket than they did when they were in college. We've got them for 3+ hours a day. They are on break for the other 20+ hours. No study halls. No classes they have to attend. Sure there are programs put on by the NBA but they have their money and feel like they've arrived. So if a player comes in with problems just being in the NBA isn't going to be a panacea for their problems. It exacerbates those other problems. So that is why you have to be careful who you get involved with.

At this time of year, so many people have a vested interests in the player going high. Their agent, their college coaches it's good for their programs after all. So people are reluctant to really unload on a kid negatively when you talk to people unless you really know them. And players have had issues in the past. They understand what they did was wrong and being in the NBA, they're motivated to become a great player, they won't do this and that but being in the NBA isn't some magic balm rubbed on their shoulders. It doesn't work that way. And then the outside people who have had such influence over the years, their high school coach, their AAU coach, family members, their college coach, whatever, once these guys are getting paid that impact lessens. So if you have an issue it's not like you can call the college coach to help you solve it. Maybe their mother will but basically you're on your own.

3SOB: The next question builds on this issue, everyone has a red flag. So once you have associated the players red flags how do you sort them to determine who you draft?
CW: There are almost no perfect players. There's either something in the background, injuries, size, a certain matchup they didn't fair well against in college. There's something that you can point to as a negative.

3SOB: So how do you determine I'm going to ignore this red flags and not ignore that one?
CW: That's a good question. It's a bit of a moving target. You give greater allowance for better talent. First of all you look at a player. I'm not concerned if someone says he can play or he can't play to be honest with you. We're trying to have a team that can go far in the playoffs to get a title. That's what this exercise is all about. We're looking for players projected to be of that caliber. That can be rotation players. The Celtics and Lakers in the heydays had non-entities at the end of their benches. That's not what you anticipate but to be a rotation player, if you look at those players, at the top of the page is physical ability. Do they have the athleticism, the size, the matchup at his position because there are very few long term productive tweeners or in between size players in the NBA.

Then you get into the skills. Do they have the outside shot? Can the guy rebound? It's not just athleticism. The basketball component comes into it too. So you check that off. If you got both of those boxes, the size, the appropriate athleticism, the physical makeup, the skill set then I like to resonate to the productivity. There are virtually no players that I can think of that are valuable players that weren't productive at whatever level they are at. Nobody is going to be averaging 1 or 2 points per game for the Memphis Tigers is going to suddenly be able to play in the NBA. A rotation player on a big time team is going to have to produce to climb up the ladder. There's a resume there. So you look at the statistics of them. The statistics can sometimes make liars out of you but after you look at the physical profile, look at what they did as part of a team.

And if at all possible you want somebody from winning programs although there are exceptions to that. Rodney Stuckey is an example. Rodney's a very good player in Detroit but he was on a losing team at Eastern Washington in a very small conference. I think it was the Big Sky and the coach got fired so obviously the administration wasn't happy. There are always exceptions to that rule. It's when you get into the intangibles that all those questions become a concern. Is he a quality person, how's his basketball IQ, have there ever been any issues off the court and then the big one with me is does he like to play? As the Patriots say if it's a football player, how important is football to his life? Well how important is basketball?

So when all that lines up then we really got something. Most cases it doesn't all line up. So now you have to take out the negatives and evaluate how egregious are the negatives. There's no exact formula for that. Some cases you say 'okay I understand why this happened.' Maybe this system didn't use him to the best advantage but to be great that whole tower has to line up.

One other thing to, the great players, you don't have to study, watch film, spend hours on the work to figure out who is going to be great. Those players stand out. I think you should be able to tell within 10-15 minutes. I watched Kobe Bryant play and I could tell after 2-3 times up the court that this guy is going to be special. Kevin Garnett when he was young, Alonzo Mourning. These guys stand out so noticeable from their peers, even to the casual fan.

3SOB: I guess I don't have that eye because I remember the Nike Hoop Summit a couple of years ago when Saer Sene stood out to me. I remember thinking once this guys figures things out he is going to be dominant.
CW: See now you have a big if. Is he going to figure that out? That is the problem. Will he learn offense and how to play? It seems simple to master basketball when you watch from the outside. You get a coach and shoot free throws over and over you will get better. But at this level of competition despite all the good intentions, sometimes you just don't get any better. And I have found that if you don't have a good feel for the game early on then you probably aren't going to develop that later on.

See it's different than in football. In football you can be a great physical specimen and you passed the ability to play the position then you're probably going to be pretty good. In our game it is a little more difficult. It's not enough to have that one skill, like shot blocking. You still have to, if you want stay on the court along time, to be able to add value. The guys who can produce in this league hit all of the bases. You have to be someone who doesn't consistently make mistakes. There is a whole feel for the game aspect that is a skill.

to be continued...

BallHype: hype it up!

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