Tony Barone Rumors
With that precedent, even Pau Gasol in the early 2000s was a tough sell to Grizzlies higher-ups. He was barely on anyone’s radar when scout Tony Barone Sr. and then-GM Dick Versace first saw him in Greece. They were there scouting Anthony Parker, an American player who was playing in Europe at the time. (He’s the lesser-known brother of one Candace Parker, WNBA star.) Parker played poorly and Gasol barely at all, but what the two men saw in warmups from Gasol was enough to convince them they need to invest time scouting him. Grizzlies ownership and upper management were skeptical, but they placed enough trust in the scouts to let them pursue Gasol further. The rest is history. “Once you have your first one, such as a Pau, you start to kind of pay attention a little more,” Barone Sr. said. “Once you kind of invest in that area and start paying attention, I think you really open your eyes a little bit more in terms of what’s out there.”
They have evaluated more than 1,700 players since the NBA moved to Memphis in 2001. Tony Barone Sr. and his son, Tony Jr., have served as the common denominator in the Griz war room each June. Barone Sr., director of player personnel, and Barone Jr., director of scouting, are partly responsible for a 2010-11 Griz roster that has nine players acquired through the draft. Entrenched in the team’s front office, the Barones answer questions about their past and present roles with the franchise: Q: What did you see as the challenges of helping to remake this franchise once you moved to Memphis? Sr: It was a total upstart. You’re limited initially in terms of your roster. When you come into any new franchise, you’re going to throw some darts at the wall to start with. You try to re-structure yourself based on what works and what doesn’t work.
Q. Why, Tony Sr., did you recommend Hasheem Thabeet with the No. 2 pick in 2009? Sr: I’m one of those guys who you have to prove me wrong. Thabeet is going to have to prove me wrong. I am a fan of Thabeet. I told (team owner) Mike Heisley this in the draft room. Thabeet is going to be a three-year project. We were going to have to wait. If you don’t want to wait, don’t draft him because this is a league of instant gratification. I think Thabeet’s a difference-maker defensively. I understand he’s raw. I firmly believe he’s going to be a player. Am I going to be right on every player? Absolutely not. But the player has got to prove me wrong before I jump off the bandwagon. Having said that, if a guy like Thabeet refuses to work and do the things that he needs to do to become a player, then I was dead wrong. I don’t see that in him. He’s made progress.
Q: How has NBA scouting changed over the past decade? Sr: Numbers and statistical analysis have really come into the game now. We’ve become more numbers oriented. We’re into point per minute, which is a statistic that’s mind-boggling to me. I get a little concerned about that. But we’re getting more information. You have all the statistics. I give that to Tony Jr. It hasn’t changed me. It might be a negative. But I’m more touchy feely. That’s why I got to a lot of (college) practices. Some guys don’t like to do that. I want to see the little things. Jr: The biggest change for scouting has been the age limit. When we first started, nine out of 10 nights, I was in a high school gym. When there was a sniff of a 7-footer at a high school in Alabama, you’d have 15 scouts there. Now, you don’t have to do that and it saves us a ton of time. Now, we know what we’re getting into.