heinnews’s David Hein went to see Brose Baskets Bamberg blast TBB Trier in the German Beko BBL and ran into Spaniard Antonio Marceiras, the head European scout for the Los Angeles Lakers since mid-December 2011. They discussed his good friend Ettore Messina’s influence in him getting the Lakers position; what is expected of him; the likelihood of the Lakers drafting a European player; the German Bundesliga’s goal of becoming the top domestic league by 2020; how the NBA is becoming more Europeanized; and where American players still hold their own over Europeans.
heinnews: First of all congratulations on the new position with the Lakers. What was it like when you got the news that you would be joining an organization with your good friend Ettore Messina?
Maceiras: Thank you very much. I’m very proud of being part of the Lakers. I was very lucky in my career to be with FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, two of the biggest sports organizations in the world. And now I am working with the Lakers – I think the biggest basketball organization in history.
heinnews: What was the main idea or area you wanted to help the Lakers when they hired you?
Maceiras: Actually this is a job I have been doing most of my career, evaluating players. In my previous jobs I did this while also doing various other administrative issues. Right now I am focused just on evaluating players. And doing this for such a successful organization like the Lakers is an unbelievable opportunity, and I am really excited to be doing this.
heinnews: How much impact do you think Ettore Messina had on the Lakers choosing you?
Maceiras: Mainly I think they trust Ettore’s opinion. We had a very good cooperation when we worked with Real Madrid. We have a good relationship and we have a very high opinion of each other, professionally and personally. Ettore gave his reference for me and I think that was the key for making this decision.
heinnews: What do the Lakers want from you in this new position?
Maceiras: The Lakers mainly want – like every NBA team – to get control of the European market. It’s clear that in the latest seasons that the flow of European players to the NBA is steady or even increasing so they want to keep this market under control. And I think I can bring to them my expertise in this business and my knowledge of the European market and my experience.
heinnews: The Lakers have not really drafted many European players over the years. Do you think that’s something that might change over the next couple of years?
Maceiras: This could change at any moment. Previously, the only European player I can think of that they drafted was Marc Gasol when I was the GM with Alasvayu Girona. This was a very successful pick because that allowed them to trade Marc for Pau. Right now there are some interesting options in the European market. The draft though is a complicated process. It’s not like one player will fit what you like in the order of the picks. You can never predict what’s going to happen. I’m working as if this market is going to be very, very important for the Lakers.
heinnews: So you are the Lakers international scout for Europe. You are based in Barcelona but are you going from Scandinavia to Israel and everywhere in between?
Maceiras: Actually the last two months, I’m traveling an average of five days per week so I forgot where my home is. But it’s exciting to travel and watch basketball and meet people you know for a long time. I consider myself a very lucky person doing this job.
heinnews: The Lakers seem to need help at the three position. Is that something the Lakers might be looking at – obviously it depends where you are in the draft and what players are available.
Maceiras: I don’t think it’s about concrete positions. For example, depending on trades the rosters can change very much before the end of the season. I mainly focus on the highest potential players. And this is more important for the draft than thinking about a specific position. Thinking about a European rookie coming and reinforcing a specific position is very utopic. It’s much better to focus on the players with the highest potential and get them under control so that if the Lakers decide to go for one of them that they have someone with big upside.
heinnews: Where do you think the Lakers are scouting wise on the European market and where they are heading? Not having drafted many Europeans over the years, do you think they are slow to the market?
Maceiras: To tell you the truth, I cannot give you a right answer on that. I know what the background is. And I know that I am doing my best in bringing in the best possible information. I am not going to think that my job is successful or not depending on the Lakers’ decisions. I cannot predict what the Lakers will decide. And to tell you the truth I prefer to just focus on looking for the players and doing my job than thinking about how the players will fit in the next draft.
heinnews: One of the goals of the German Bundesliga is to become the number one domestic league in Europe, overtaking Spain. You have seen Germany now a bit and know the Spanish ACB from your years there. What do you think about this goal?
Maceiras: It’s a very good question. When I was coming to the gym, I was thinking Germany is really the biggest hope for European basketball, if not the latest hope. I think the organization here is great. The teams are real professional organizations and very consistent. And this is the biggest market in Europe. And also the ethics of the German people is great for basketball. The combination is excellent. It’s just a matter of keeping the development that the German basketball started some years ago. I think the league is getting better all the time. The teams are good and the organization of the games is good. The attendance is good. And I think this Bayern Munich project is something that can really push not just German but European basketball. So in my opinion they are going in the right way. And if they keep going how they are going then they have all the tools to become the best domestic league in Europe.
heinnews: What do you about the level of European players going back a few years?
Maceiras: I think the European players’ level is continually improving. You just need to look and see how many Europeans are playing in the NBA. Some people think this is because the American players’ level went down. But it’s not that. And you also realize that when you watch international competitions. European players are becoming better and better and you are finding more and more talented players. I think European basketball needs to find a consistent organization, consistent national leagues, to be the sport they deserve to be.
heinnews: What is one characteristic of European players that keeps them slightly behind the elite of the American players?
Maceiras: I will say mainly the athleticism. The American players used to be more athletic and stronger and jump higher. The European game compared to the American game is less physical, less athletic. But at the same time it’s more elaborate and the players shoot the ball better. I would say those are the biggest differences between the games.
heinnews: How much do you think the experience and skills of the European and international players are changing the NBA game?
Maceiras: Really, I think there is an effective influence of European players in the NBA because I remember some years ago for example that the Utah Jazz team was the quintessential example of the pick-and-roll game with the other three guys not disturbing the two guys who were playing the pick-and-roll. Right now there are more teams playing let’s say a more European game involving the five players on the court at the same time. I couldn’t say exactly how this process happened but I realize this type of game is more implemented in the NBA and the European presence definitely has something to do with it.
heinnews: You mentioned that you have traveled a lot recently. Where have you been lately?
Maceiras: Yesterday I was in Artland – Quakenbruck. To my friends I say you can ask me about the Adriatic League, the French league, the German league but don’t ask me about the Spanish league. That is the one I have watched the least in the last month.
heinnews: I know that you said before we started the interview that you cannot talk about draft eligible players. But can you tell us who you are watching here?
Maceiras: I prefer to not talk about that, but you could just check the ages of the players.
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Note to readers: The only draft eligible player at the Bamberg-Trier game was Trier’s 22-year-old Maik Zirbes.