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At NBA draft combine, interviews can be telling

At NBA draft combine, interviews can be telling

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At NBA draft combine, interviews can be telling

CHICAGO Approaches vary. Some NBA teams believe in interrogation-like tactics, with the potential draftee seated at a round table, surrounded by officials firing tough questions from all angles.

2017-05-16

Others prefer a relaxed setting, maybe a one-on-one interview on a couch chill, as they say.

There are good-cop/bad-cop methods, including a table with a single light set up next to it, just as in your basic television police drama. And some forward-thinking clubs have psychologists lead the session, asking personal, probing queries.

In the end, NBA teams at the leagues predraft combine, which began Wednesday and runs for four days, want to learn as much as possible during interviews with prospects, often by whatever means necessary.

About 60 prospects will attend the invitation-only combine, the leagues largest in advance of the June 26 draft, and teams are allowed to interview as many as 18, for up to 30 minutes.

Of course, interviews are only part of the combine, where prospects also will go through drills, and be measured and medically examined.
But some teams consider the interviews to be the most valuable part, especially as the combine no longer features five-on-five scrimmages.

Its all for the interviews, said an Eastern Conference scout. Theres nothing else to it.

Said a Western Conference executive, The important thing for me right now is the interview process with these guys, just getting to know them a little bit better, finding a little bit more about them, just adding a little bit more to the whole package, and then making your decision.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the interview is that agents go to great lengths to prep their clients, drilling them on exactly how to answer a wide range of questions.

Theyre machines, expecting what questions to answer, said an Eastern Conference executive. That usually lasts 5-10 minutes, and then you start throwing curveball questions and you really start to see who these kids are and you can kind of get them to open up.

I just think its an interesting process and its a lot of fun.

Naturally, prospects often face many of the same questions in every interview.

Every team is asking the same thing, the scout said. Every team already knows the answers to most of the questions theyre asking.

But Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge believes that even if the prospects are trained on what to say, it might not help.

They dont know what questions were going to ask, he said.

The interview can also be a test of sorts, because teams have scouted many prospects all season long in some cases, for years so they know full well the players background.

Thats one thing you can sometimes tell in an interview, if a kid is honest or not, Ainge said.

To get honest answers, or something beyond scripted responses, teams use differing techniques.

For me, its not important to be combative with the kid, said one Eastern Conference executive. I think its important to have a kid relaxed and hell show more of himself. Thats just the way I approach it.
Said the Western Conference executive, I try not to put them on the spot. Ill occasionally ask them a difficult question if theyve had anything happen in the past to see if they answer it truthfully.

But these kids are nervous enough. You want to get a truthful answer out of them, so I put them at ease.

League sources said some teams, including Dallas and Indiana, have used psychologists to lead their interviews with prospects.

I dont know which teams did that, but I know there was one team where, literally, the kid, he just introduced himself to the coach, GM, and scouts and then talked to the psychologists, said an Eastern Conference scout.

Other teams can be more aggressive in grilling prospects, executives said, and the settings for those interviews can seem intense.

In general, one Eastern Conference scout said, putting prospects through a battery of interviews with different teams is not an accurate evaluation of a young person.

So lets say someone at North Carolina graduated as a student in the business school and they went to go interview with IBM. Theyre interviewing at IBM. Theyre not interviewing for Google, Yahoo, Xerox, and Hewlett-Packard. Theyre going in to interview with one business. Theyre prepping for it that particular day, whereas with us, its a cattle call.

The top dozen or so players who might be drafted in the lottery will also be interviewed by the national media.

So thats compounded, the scout said. So for 3-4 days, weve set up an unrealistic evaluating combine. But, look, at the end of the day, its a business, its entertainment, and the league uses the four days as a great advertising tool prior to the draft.


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