Given that this interview was overshadowed a bit with the news of the Bogans/Lue trade a few days ago, I'm going to bump this back up to the top of the site so that the community gets a chance to check out my interview with Mr. Macri. Also, don't forget to catch Ben's recap of the Magic/Pacers game. Thanks. - ER
"Prior to the injury, the Magic were my pick to win the #1 seed in the East, though I thought they would have trouble with Cleveland and/or Boston in the conference finals, but either would have been a series they could win. However, by likely dropping from the top seed, Orlando would have to go through both Boston and Cleveland. I think that would be a tall task for any team--including the Magic."
-- Anthony Macri, Basketball Prospectus
I won't front. Pumping out interviews (so far) on a weekly basis is quickly becoming a double-edged sword for Third Quarter Collapse. One the one hand, the Q/A's have been informative for you, the readers, but on the other hand, I'm paranoid I'm going to raise the expectations too high around here and disappoint everyone when I DON'T have a chat transcript ready to be shared once a week. Oh well. I'm confident the community here won't freak out when this stops becoming a weekly thing (maybe not right now, but soon). Needless to say, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Fair enough?
This week's interviewee is Anthony Macri, a writer for Basketball Prospectus and a coach at IMG Basketball Academy. Macri might be a familiar name around here, since 3QC linked to one of his recent articles written at BP concerning his thoughts on the Orlando Magic as a legit Title contender.
Unlike his colleagues over at BP, Bradford Doolittle & Kevin Pelton, Macri is more analytical than statistical, which makes his material a bit of an easier read for the casual fan since there's not a lot of advanced metrics being broken down. Don't be fooled, though, Macri will use numbers when appropriate.
Macri was gracious enough to take some time to answer a few questions concerning his life as a coach and a writer, and also provide some analysis on the Orlando Magic, the NBA in general, and more.
Click after the jump for the full transcript.
How long have you been working with IMG Basketball Academy? What are your current responsibilities?
I have been at IMG Basketball Academy for the last eight months. There, I am the Recruiting Coordinator, mainly responsible for attracting basketball-loving athletes of all ages and skill levels to us for both weekly training and for full-time training. I also get on the floor with all levels, in particular with the pro and college players that wor k out at IMG during their offseason.
What did you do before you arrived to IMG Basketball Academy?
Prior to joining the staff at IMG Basketball Academy, I coached and taught at a small private high school north of Baltimore, Maryland. I was very fortunate to get hooked on to a program on the ground floor with a new head coach, and helped to revive that program from nothing to national notoriety in just three years. During my time there, I had the good fortune of getting to know Coach David Thorpe, and then he helped me get a foot in the door at IMG!
You have done work on the court with professionals & collegiate players for the Pro Training Center at IMG? Which players have you worked with specifically?
I was there at the tail end of Courtney Lee's pre-draft training, so I got to spend some time with him. I also worked with Kevin Martin (Sacramento Kings), Rob Kurz (Golden State Warriors), Daniel Santiago (now in Spain), Elton Brown (now in Greece), and was there during the stint both Luol Deng and Tyrus Thomas (Chicago Bulls) were on-campus. In terms of college players, I worked with two of the better players on Xavier (BJ Raymond and CJ Anderson), Dave McClure at Duke, and quite a few others. I suppose this summer I had the chance to work with about 40 college and pro players in total.
What's it like working with Coach David Thorpe?
Coach Thorpe is fantastic. He is a great mentor and helpful both in terms of my coaching IQ and experience and in the way I look at the business of basketball. I knew when I first contacted him three years ago that he was the kind of coach that I wanted to be around: not only was he extremely successful and charasmatic, but he was also an honest, upright, and genuine person. That mean s a lot in this business. Being a family man was also great to see, because so many successful coaches feel they have to spend so much time at work that their family life suffers. Not the case with Coach Thorpe. The rest of the staff at IMG is also fantastic. The Director of Basketball, Mike Moreau, is cut from the same cloth as Coach Thorpe, and it is really a pleasure to go in to work every day.
How long have you been writing for Basketball Prospectus? Do you consider yourself more of an analytical writer or a statistical writer, or maybe a little bit of both?
I started writing for BP in May of last year. Basketball Prospectus had started in the fall of 2007, and I was lucky enough to get started with them the following Spring. I had been writing a blog for a while, and been linked up by Henry Abbott at TrueHoop here and there, and really liked and respected the work Kevin Pelton and Bradford Doolittle were doing for Basketball Prospectus. I sent one of my blog posts over to Bradford and asked if he thought it could make a cut at a place like BP and he said he would forward it on. Thankfully, it did!
I am definitely not a statistical writer. I use the statistics to back up the opinions and observations I make watching games. As a coach, I think I can get a real sense of the game separate from statistics, and then the statistics tend to confirm my thoughts and analysis. I think my contribution to Basketball Prospectus is to deliver scouting analysis on players, teams, and games.
Who do you feel, currently, is the best team in the NBA? Why? Is the team you chose your favorite to win the NBA Title this season?
Not just because of the rash of injuries to the other top teams (though it makes my point more acute now), I think Boston is playing the best right now. When you look at the way they defend, with a purpose, on every possession, and their numerous offensive weapons, they are just tough to beat right now. Factor in the injuries to Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Orlando, and it makes the Boston pick a slam dunk.
With all that said, I don't think Boston wins it all this year. In fact, I think Boston will fade with about 25 games to go or so. I'm not sure if they'll fade enough to lose the #1 seed and obviously the injuries in Cleveland and Orlando will have an impact on who wins the Eastern Conference, but I just think they are playing the big three major minutes right now. Cleveland will get all their players back in time to really start making a push after the All-Star break, and my guess is that they will return to the level they were at early in the year. I think the Cavs make the NBA Finals, and I think the Lakers get Bynum back and cruise to the Finals as well. At that point, we get to watch Kobe against LeBron. I think the Lakers get it done this year ... and that is my pick. For right now.
You said in a well-written article a little over a week ago that the Orlando Magic are beginning to make a believer out of you, when it comes to them legitimately having a chance to win a Title this year. Has your sentiment changed at all since then?
The injury to Jameer now is obviously an X-Factor. There is no way of knowing if he will be able to return and what level he'll be at if/when he does come back. Prior to the injury, the Magic were my pick to win the #1 seed in the East, though I thought they would have trouble with Cleveland and/or Boston in the conference finals, but either would have been a series they could win. However, by likely dropping from the top seed, Orlando would have to go through both Boston and Cleveland. I think that would be a tall task for any team--including the Magic.
What are the main obstacles in the way of the Orlando Magic winning a championship this season? What could the team do to improve on those obstacles and possibly eliminate them?
This question is almost unfair to answer. I do think their rebounding situation needs to impove for them to win games without Jameer. I know that doesn't quite make sense, but Jameer's penetration and solid shooting helped to neutralize their rebounding disadvantage (or at least mitigate it). Now the margin for error is a lot smaller. I think they can still weather the storm and give Jameer the chance to get healthy. I am not a medical doctor, nor do I presume to know enough to offer advice. But in my mind, making the decision to go with rehab, work, and attempt to come back later in the year in this case is not a bad decision. We'll see what they decide.
Courtney Lee, Orlando's promising rookie, graduated from IMG Academy this past off-season while prepping for the leap from college to the NBA. What are your thoughts on Lee's season so far this year? What can Magic fans expect from him in the future (his ceiling/potential)?
Though I didn't get spend a lot of time personally with Courtney, the small amount of time I was with him was very instructive. He is obviously very gifted athletically and is a tremendously hard worker. He has all the tools to be a lockdown defender at both guard spots. He can also shoot it better than most realize. I think the thing with Courtney that folks have to understand is that he is capable of doing a lot of different things and can tailor his game to the needs of the team he is playing for. If SVG needs him to score more now with Jameer out, he can and will do so. He can play against at least fair teams at the point guard position if needed as well.
In terms of his ceiling, I think he can be a starter or at least a significant-minute backup on a championship-caliber team. He is unlikely to ever be an All-Star, but he is a career NBA contributor, and can fill a lot of different roles for different teams. Versatility is definitely a plus for Courtney and for the Magic.
With the 2009 Draft class slowly taking shape, what type of players do you feel would be a good fit for Orlando? Which specific players do you think the Magic can realistically target and draft?
This is, without a doubt, a relatively weak draft. I think with Orlando's likely draft position somewhere in the mid-to-upper 20s, I would draft the best player available, leaning toward a young, hardnose, lunchpail forward. Tyler Hansbrough (UNC) could be available at that selection, and I think he'd be a great fit. In my mind, he is underrated on a lot of NBA draft boards. He will never be a star, but he is a career NBA player. There is value in the draft for a guy like that. Dajuan Summers (Georgetown) could also drop that low. He is very versatile, and can play both the three and four. He is a fit for how the Magic are tooled right now. If I were considering someone as a guard, I'd stay in state and take a good hard look at Nick Calathes (Florida). I think he is the kind of guard that would thrive in the way they play right now: he can shoot it off the bounce (think Jameer off ball screens), hits open shots, and is an extremely capable passer.
Thanks so much for the opportunity. Please let your readers know we have an pretty unique training environment right here in Florida at the IMG Basketball Academy, and we'd love to have them check us out and spend some time here. The website is http://www.imgacademies.com/basketball-academy/. Thanks again and we'll talk soon!
I like to thank Anthony, once again, for taking the time to partake in a Q/A session with me. Expect to hear from him soon.
On tap for next week (I think, still working out the details), I'm proud to announce I have an interview lined up with ESPN writer & IMG Academy executive director, Coach David Thorpe. Needless to say, Thorpe is a high-profile individual in the basketball industry so he should be quite the read. Stay tuned for that.