Quentin Richardson hasn’t played professional basketball since the 2012-13 season, but his place of work is still an NBA arena. The 37-year-old can be seen most nights at the Amway Center in Orlando, where he scouts opposing teams for the Detroit Pistons’ front office. Richardson was previously the Director of Player Development for the Pistons, but now he has transitioned into a scouting role.
Over the course of his 13-year NBA career, the sharpshooter averaged 10.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 26.5 minutes per game. He hit 1,167 three-pointers, which ranks 63rd in NBA history, while shooting 35.5 percent from long distance. Richardson had stints with the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic.
He won the NBA’s three-point contest in 2005, the same year that he played with a stacked Suns team that also featured Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson and Leandro Barbosa among others. That 62-win squad lost in the Western Conference Finals, but they were ahead of their time – running Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced, high-scoring offense that attempted a ton of three-pointers.
HoopsHype caught with Richardson to discuss his playing days, his work as a scout, his long-term front-office goals, his thoughts on Detroit’s roster, the best shooter in NBA history, what separated Kobe Bryant from his peers and more.
What are the keys to being a good scout? What are some characteristics you need in order to have success in that job?
Quentin Richardson: I think you definitely need to learn a lot about all of the opposing teams. You need to be able to evaluate players’ talent and then once you have that down, you need to be able to do something productive with that information, something that helps your organization. You also need to figure out exactly what your organization wants [from their scouts] because not every front office does things the same way.
Who are some executives that have mentored you or took you under their wing as you made the transition from playing to working in a front office?
QR: Working with the Pistons, I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with and pick the brain of Otis Smith, who was previously the general manager of the Orlando Magic when I was there. He pretty much went through all of the different steps that I’m going through, starting off in player development, which is what I did, and then working his way up to become a GM.
There are a lot of other people who have helped me. I got to know a lot of the front-office people when I was playing; I always tried to be really outgoing and approachable. So now I see a lot of those people around the league and can pick their brain. I talk to them a lot and whenever I’m around them, I try to pick up on what they do well and learn something from everybody. I communicate with the other people in our front office all the time too – whether it’s the other scouts or the assistant GM or other members of the staff. We have conference calls all the time, so we have a lot of opportunities to get together and talk about different things.
Is your long-term goal to eventually become a general manager?
QR: Yeah, that’s definitely something that I want to do, something that I consider a long-term goal. I’m trying to set myself up to be in that position. But I do realize that’s a lot – a lot – of hard work and I have a lot to learn, so who knows how long that could take? But I’m just trying to get my feet wet, learn as much as I can and continue to grow.
You were a great shooter and now shooting is more valued than ever in the NBA. Do you think your game was somewhat ahead of its time?
QR: Maybe. I mean, I think when I was with the Suns, we were right at the start of that shift. I only had one year there with that team, but I guess you could say that. Looking at the league now, me and my peers have joked that I would be a stretch-four in today’s NBA. I probably would make a lot of money in today’s league! (laughs) It is what it is, though. I wouldn’t change anything about my career, and I’m a huge fan of the game the way it is now. It’s changed a lot since I was playing, but I still enjoy watching.
I’m sure the players in Detroit have even more respect for your game because they know the value of shooting and how important it is. How do today’s players view you?
QR: Most of the players know me from when I played. Then, they really got to know me well when I first came in as the Director of Player Development and I was traveling with them all the time and I was really hands on. At that point, they kind of looked at me more as a veteran, like an elder statesman on the team, since I played for so long and my career had just ended recently. They knew that I had played and that I’d been in some of the same scenarios and situations that they were going through. I could relate to them in that way.
I recently interviewed a shooting coach named David Nurse, who worked with the Brooklyn Nets and now trains players individually. He thinks Steph Curry is the best shooter of all-time. Do you agree?
QR: Hmm… I would probably agree with that. I’m a huge Ray Allen and Reggie Miller fan, but just the way Steph does it separates him. Nobody else has been able to be so deadly and effective off the dribble the way Steph is. He’s at least in the top half of every three-point category in the record book and he’s not even close to being done yet. By the time he’s done, I think he’ll be at the top of the list in all of those categories, so I definitely I agree.
Right now, Detroit is 17-16, which is tied for the sixth-best record in the Eastern Conference. How good can this team be if you guys play your full potential and how excited are you about the core that’s in place?
QR: We’re excited. I like our core guys; we have a good mixture of youth and good veterans, and they all play together and try to play the right way. I’m excited. How good we can be all depends on how hard we work, but I definitely like our group of guys and the way we’ve been playing. We’re doing well, but we can always get better. We’re just trying to improve every single day. That’s the mentality all of our guys have.
How much has Avery Bradley helped the team this season and what do you think of his game?
QR: Everybody knows that he was an elite defender even before we added him, so obviously he’s bringing that. He brings a championship pedigree from Boston, having learned so much from guys like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo and that whole group. He brings a wealth of knowledge and veteran leadership. He goes about his business and definitely sets an example with the way he works and the way he approaches each game.
Andre Drummond is playing well, averaging nearly 14 points, 15 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. But I’ve really been impressed with his passing, as he’s averaging nearly 4 assists per game. What’s his work ethic like behind-the-scenes and how much has his passing helped the offense?
QR: Well, I wasn’t on-site with him [over the offseason], but from everything I’ve heard and what I’ve seen from him, he worked really hard over the summer. He came into the season in great shape; he slimmed down from last season. From everything I saw, he’s worked really hard. When it comes to his passing and ball-handling, that’s been something he’s been able to do for a long time. He’s definitely continued to work on it and he’s gotten better, but he’s just being put in a different position where he can do more and showcase those skills. He’s playing more from the top of the key and he’s doing well there.
Is there a lot of paperwork when you’re a scout?
QR: I wouldn’t say it’s a crazy, crazy amount. I think when you’re in a situation where you don’t have to go into an office daily, you just have to structure your time wisely and make sure you’re putting in the time to watch the games and do your work. You really need to get your stuff done in time because games happen every day. If you don’t do your reports in a timely manner, that’s when they can pile up and it becomes tough. I talk to scouts from other organizations and some do things similar [to Detroit], but some are really particular and do things differently.
Right now, a lot of people are looking back at Kobe Bryant’s career since he just had his numbers retired by the Los Angeles Lakers. You played against him a lot throughout your career. Do you have a Kobe story or thoughts on his legacy?
QR: Man, shoot… I got drafted by the Clippers in 2000 so I came into the NBA, into Los Angeles, right in the middle of their three-peat. This was No. 8 Kobe, just a crazy athlete. It’s probably the most athletic he ever was. It really didn’t matter what number he had on, 8 or 24, every time I played against Kobe, he was a killer. By the time I was in the NBA, he had been through his growing pains for the first couple of years and was great. Every time I saw him, it was like, “Here we go… I’m not going to let him embarrass me.” (laughs) You still might get embarrassed a little bit, but I mean, the dude was just that good.
Here’s what really stands out to me and one thing I will say… We were both in L.A. I was there for four years and I never saw him anywhere except for the Staples Center. Like, ever. He never went out or anything.
His life definitely revolved around basketball. What was it like guarding him?
QR: For me, it was never a fear or anything. It was just… there are a lot of guys who can do a bunch of moves and who are really talented, but he was one of only a handful of guys who would shoot anything. Maybe Allen Iverson was like that too. Actually, no, Kobe is the only one who would shoot anything. Like, he’d put up a left-handed three-pointer. A lot of guys have moves, but will they actually do it in a game? Kobe would do things that nobody else would even think of trying in a game. Like, he’d get hurt and start shooting left-handed! Who does that?!
He was the first one throwing the ball off the backboard to himself in a real game. Not the All-Star Game! In a real game, he thought, “Alright, I’m going to throw it off the backboard, jump between you guys and get it back, so now I have a live dribble again.” People don’t do that! People don’t try that kind of stuff, but he did and it worked! And you know that he’s been in the gym working on this stuff that nobody else would even think of doing. It takes so much confidence. That’s what made him so tough to guard, the fact that he could do anything. And even if you were stronger than him or bigger than him, you couldn’t punk him. He knew that most players don’t really want to fight and, if you did try him, he’d try to put 50 or 60 points up on you. And he could do it too, for real.