Minnesota Timberwolves Assistant General Manager Tony Ronzone.
By Yi Wu
AAP staff intern
MINNEAPOLIS (September 24, 2010) – The start of the new season is full of excitement as each team in the National Basketball Association prepares new and veterans players to be the team that comes out on top. For the Minnesota Timberwolves that optimism stems from a new head coach, Kurt Rambis, and helped along with new assistant general manager Tony Ronzone, the first American to coach the Chinese National Team and the man who discovered Yao Ming.
“I was fortunate in 1997 to have found Yao Ming playing in a 3-on-3 tournament in Shanghai. He was 7′ 2″ and grew to 7′ 4″,” said Ronzone.
Ranzone is also in charge of player relations for the team and took some time to talk about the role of international players in Asian and American basketball at Timberwolves Media Day last Friday.
The Timberwolves are adding two international players to its 2010-11 roster, Darko Milicic and Nikola Pekovic of Serbia. This is Milicic’s seventh NBA season. He was acquired from the New York Knicks, and Pekovic was signed to a multiyear contract in July.
According to Ronzone, the difficulties for international players include cultural exchanges and language differentiation. He said takes time for referees and international players to interact on the floor. The hardest thing, he added, is that the coach needs to gauge his speech so that the words are not too fast for players that need to translate.
“But the great thing about basketball is that the terminology is the same pretty much around the world,” Ronzone said. “Those familiar terms such as defense, deny in the wind and rebound enable players adapt easier.”
Ronzone mentioned that the Japanese and Korean leagues are getting better, but that the best organized professional league in Asia is the Chinese Basketball Association. This is due in large part because of the NBA players leaving the U.S. to play in the CBA.
He said the CBA is developing into a very impressive league with the help of these highly talented NBA veterans that now play alongside former American college stars that never played in the NBA, and the Chinese players that are improving with a much stronger amateur basketball system.
One recent CBA addition includes Stephon Marbury, who started his professional career with the Timberwolves in 1996, and played for several teams before winding up with the Boston Celtics in 2009. He opted to play international ball in 2010 for the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons and has reportedly extended his contract.
Ronzone said China is ripe with emerging talent in addition to Yao Ming, including Yi Jianlian and Sun Ye.
“There are a lot of big players in China and they are going to continue to have players that will come to the NBA.” US colleges and NBA teams are now scouting this talent, he added.
Ronzone has coached or conducted clinics in over 55 countries about the world. Based on his affluent international experience in basketball, he believes that player exchange between countries “is developing basketball to be better.”