The bridge between the NBA locker rooms and the TV set has now existed for several decades, in the footsteps of Kenny Smith, the pioneer, then Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal as eternal gallery entertainers. But this footbridge obviously allows some intrepid spirits to pass in the other direction.
Like Mike Schmitz, draft specialist at ESPN since 2017 who agreed to join the Blazers staff as assistant GM last May. An original choice for Joe Cronin, GM of Portland recently.
“The most important thing for me is the journey, not the destination. And I missed that journey.” explains Schmitz in The Athletic. “When you start with the pre-draft and the training, then the war room [à la Draft], you get to know your colleagues. And I love that ! I live for those moments. Be with everyone, to progress and debate. »
The Blazers have pulled out all the stops to modernize their structure, with three new assistants in the Blazers front office, including Schmitz, but also Andrae Patterson and Sergi Oliva. Portland has also expanded its staff with three new scouts, including WNBA legend Tina Thompson, a new director of player development and several members of the group dedicated to analytical statistics.
With Schmitz, the Blazers think they have found the rare pearl. An elite scout, thus brought to take part in the decisions with the Draft (and more still in the future). Like last year for Shaedon Sharpe, the 19-year-old Canadian rear, the great enigma of the last vintage.
“I’ve always liked his eye for young talent”, advance Cronin. “And its engine has also always impressed me. He is at all the matches around the world, constantly in the halls. It’s very important to have this love and passion for the game. Because scouting can sometimes be really difficult with a lot of travel and long days. But he always had this energy that I found intriguing. »
The Tintin of the floors
As he learns to manage signing trades, the many nuances of the salary cap and other tricks of the trade, Schmitz will move closer to a full-time position as a GM assistant. Or even Chief GM eventually.
A transition that he hopes will be more serene than his abrupt end with ESPN in any case. Having reached an agreement with the Blazers on May 27, Schmitz was to continue his journalistic activity until the Draft.
But increasingly clearly caught in a conflict of interest, publicly evoking his opinions on the Draft when he was already known to be a member of the Blazers, he joined Portland before the Draft, participating fully in the event within his new franchise.
“I am very grateful to ESPN. I wouldn’t be here without this opportunity. They gave me the freedom to travel all over the world to see players and find out who was good. »
After a season as video coordinator in the G-League after leaving college, and a bunch of others in his role as Tintin on the international courts, Schmitz will continue to maintain his immense network of acquaintances on the circuit. But certainly more on social networks.
“It’s almost like a weight less”, he breathes. “I like having discussions and being able to share my work, but sometimes it became a burden. To always be glued to the phone and having to post, answer, put videos, and manage the phone calls… I’m very happy to go back a little in the shadows. »