Adam Filippi, a Dearborn, Michigan native, is the Director of International Scouting for the Los Angeles Lakers. Grew up living between the US and Italy, he played professionally in the Italian B League. After numerous knee injuries and a playing career that never really took off, at the age of 25, he prefered to start a career in Basketball Operations. As a Player Development Coach he has trained many NBA players such as Kobe Bryant, Chauncey Billups, Joe Johnson, Al Harrington, Corey Maggette, Maurice Williams, Baron Davis, Antoine Wright, Sebastian Telfair, Antoine Walker, Joe Smith, Drew Gooden, Melvin Ely, Michael Ruffin, Kevin Garnett, Cuttino Mobley, Chucky Atkins, Dahntay Jones, Shawne Williams, Kelenna Azubuike, Calvin Booth, J.R.Smith, Jermaine O’Neal, Danny Granger, Quincy Douby, Roger Mason Jr and many other NBA and Overseas players.
Over the past 13 years his job has taken him all over the world, including Africa, South America, Russia, Australia, Japan and China. Between scouting the globe and teaching fundamentals on the floor, he lives basketball 365 days a year, keeping abreast of anything & everything happening in the world of hoops.
Bounce met him in “Basket City” Bologna, Italy.
-You grew up in Italy, how was your basketball experience and how you hit the scouting way?
I was lucky to grow up during an incredible era. I spent time in both continents in the 80s. In the US, the Lakers vs Celtics rivalry was at its height and the Air Jordan era was beginning; in Italy the game was really blossoming, and former NBA stars were coming over to finish their careers… Bob McAdoo, Michael Ray Richardson, George Gervin and many more…. The Europeans were starting to show that the international game was catching up with the Pros, and guys like Drazen Petrovic, Sarunas Marciulonis and others were proving they were ready to join the League. I was surrounded by unbelievable basketball in both worlds. It was hard not to fall in love with the game, and dream of becoming a player! I didn’t know it back then, but I was already preparing myself for my future job just by being a fan, player and observer…. At age 25, in 1997 I stopped playing and accepted a scouting position with an elite Italian team. At that time no teams had scouts, so the position was seen kind of as a mysterious profession. I could’ve never imagined it would take so many different twists….
-How’s your work with the Lakers?
My job is complicated yet simple, and for a basketball lover it’s a dream job. Scouting is a “behind the scenes job”, that is crucial for the organization’s decision making during the Draft and free agency processes. I evaluate countless players, and at the end it is more a procedure of “elimination” rather than picking the ideal player. As the Director of International Scouting, I must be up to date with everything going on overseas. And it’s not only about judging talent or finding a player that fits the Lakers’ needs, but also dealing with player contract situations, agents, and networking with coaches, reporters, executives all over the world.
-The best player you scouted?
So many. At 17, believe it or not, Darko Milicic was so advanced it was scary… in fact he was drafted #2 overall ahead of C.Anthony, Wade, Bosh. At 18 Kirilenko, showed the most upside I think, despite not being all that polished. Pau Gasol was so smooth and skilled, and you could tell he could become a star. Manu Ginobili blossomed at age 23, so later than others…. But he became so dominant overseas that I knew he’d become a star in the NBA also.
-In the NBA Draft there are a lot of evaluation mistakes. Is it normal or it’s stuff the insiders can prevent?
Sometimes I look back at the last 12-13 drafts since I’ve been in the NBA. I honestly feel my reports were pretty accurate. But you don’t have the crystal ball: sometimes a player’s attitude may change, an injury may occur, or somebody drafted later may just blossom because of an ideal setting (sometimes a poor team where he may get big minutes). But you do not know a player until you have him. You can prevent mistakes simply by PREPARING! A good staff will analyze, evaluate all aspects of a player, and cover every geographical area. Some teams have been too superficial, not “digging” deeper into a guy… just looking at the talent, and not worrying about the kid’s intangibles or figuring the most obvious question you should have “DOES HE LIKE TO PLAY?”. But remember EVERY team (all 30) missed out on Carlos Boozer, Gilbert Arenas, Manu Ginobili, Marc Gasol and many other 2nd rounders… not to mention undrafted guys like Anthony Morrow. So scouting is not a perfect science.
-Your work as a player development coach is more physical or more mental? What’s percentage? Could you explain that?
The way I train guys it’s definitely both. 50-50. I like to get “into” it during a workout, playing defense, snapping quick passes, penetrating and dishing to re-create game like situations, running in transition drills, just being active! Until my body allows it, I want to be part of the workouts, so I must stay in shape all year long. I feel players respect this, and also realize that you really care about their development. It’s always mentally challenging in different aspects. First of all you have to know how to motivate and challenge your player. Second you must be prepared, have an organized practice plan with proper progressions and drills that fit the payer’s individual needs: either for correcting a specific skill, learning a new move, or just keeping somebody’s fundamentals sharp.