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NBA to install high-tech data cameras in all 29 arenas

Aug 23, 2013, 3:17 PM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game One Getty Images

Last season 15 NBA teams had partnered with STATS LLC to put special motion-tracking cameras that record every move a player makes several times a second. It’s a flood of information but it can be useful — the information can tell you how well a player shoots after two dribbles vs. a catch-and-shoot, then it can overlay that with a shot chart to show if the player is strong on the right or left side of the court. It can measure a player’s speed, leaping ability, where a rebound from a missed elbow jumper tends to go, pretty much anything and everything.

And now that system is  going to be in every NBA arena.

The league itself is stepping up to foot the bill, reports Zach Lowe at Grantland.

The NBA and an outside tech consultant have reached an agreement to install fancy data-tracking cameras in all 29 league arenas before the start of next season, according to several sources familiar with the matter…

The cameras cost about $100,000 per year, and the expense is one reason 15 teams hadn’t yet subscribed. Some of those teams were waiting in hopes the NBA would foot the bill, and the league has apparently decided to do so sooner than many of those teams expected. Installing the cameras in all 30 arenas will expand the data to include every game played, providing teams with a more complete and reliable data set. It also raises the possibility of the league using statistical nuggets from the cameras during television broadcasts. A few teams have used in-game data at halftime to show players specific examples of things like rebounds they didn’t contest aggressively, or evidence they weren’t running as hard as usual.

This information is great — I am a proponent of teams, GMs and coaches gathering as much data as possible from every source (cameras, advanced stats, traditional scouts, their own eyes) to help them make better decisions.

The challenge is twofold: 1) How to find useful information in the flood of data? 2) How to pass that information along to players in a digestible form?

Just like “big data” in business or the flood of stats in baseball (and increasingly football, soccer and other sports) NBA teams need to figure out how to mine this information for things they can use to both teach players and win games. Toronto has taken an interesting approach to this, but we are early in the “what do we do with this info?” phase. Some teams are far more adept at this than others.

The bigger challenge is making it work for players. While a handful of players such as Shane Battier can digest a lot of information and transform it into useful knowledge, most players do not. First, you don’t want a player thinking too much on the court, you need to get them information in a time and way that they can incorporate it and make it more natural. Second, a lot of players (like most people in the general population) are visual learners — it’s far more effective to show them video clips of what they did right or wrong, or what you want them to do, than it is to just tell them. You need to make it second nature so that if a player sees an elbow jumper being taken he moves instinctively to where the rebound is most likely to go.

It’s a process, but pretty soon teams are going to have a lot of data at their disposal.

  1. dirtydavis - Aug 23, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    Talk about a useless investment SMH

    • spursareold - Aug 23, 2013 at 3:45 PM

      Not at all, you fool. You can see EVERYTHING in this data. Where a player shoots the best and worst, how much (or how little) effort players exert, based on player movement, which teams pass the most and least, etc. Being a proponent of “old stats” like ppg, rpg, and assts is like being an advocate for the Model-T Ford.

      Nike might hate it though. Some of their golden children might not come off so well.

  2. doublezero74 - Aug 23, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    will it show how times Dwayne Wade behaves like a punk?

  3. sportsfan18 - Aug 23, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    Uh, Melo, come on in here… Let’s review some of your, uh work. Alright, cue the film and keep the volume down as I’ve heard this clanking sound too many times now in my reviews already…

    OK Melo, we’ve watched 4.2 seconds worth of film on you. Would you please tell me what you saw? Ooh I’m a handsome devil aren’t i?

    Uh, better ask La La that since you pay her to tell you those things…

    Anyway, what I saw in those 4.2 seconds was enough bricks that the game had to be stopped so we could repaint the rims on the hoops.

    One last thing Mehog/Mebrick, uh I mean Melo, you don’t get credit for a steal when you steal it from your own teammates… I know you want more shots…

  4. timb12 - Aug 23, 2013 at 5:29 PM

    I don’t know how you could write something that long and not realize that it never got funny.

    • sportsfan18 - Aug 23, 2013 at 7:08 PM

      To each his own sir…

      That’s what great with sports and the internet. We may express our own opinions.

      I didn’t say he was a bad person etc… He’s a good guy, but he’s overrated…

      He’s a volume scorer. He’s currently in 199th place on the all time true shooting percentage list in the NBA. He really isn’t a good shooter.

      Some, on other posts say well he led the league in scoring. Yes, he did. He did so last yr because he took 22.22 shots per game. Durant, who finished 2nd in the league in scoring only took 17.69 shots a game.

      So Melo was the scoring champ because he shot the ball, a lot… He had to shoot the ball a lot to score that much because so many of his shots didn’t go through the hoop…

      So I was simply trying to be cute with some things that his coaches will see when they review film from him with these new cameras…

      He’s a good player, very good but he isn’t quite as good as many think he is or make him out to be…

      • timb12 - Aug 23, 2013 at 7:10 PM

        I don’t think he’s that great either. I wasn’t a particular fan of the whole routine you typed up. If you had stated these facts the first go-round, I’m sure no one would have a problem with it aside from a few Knick fans.

  5. antistratfordian - Aug 23, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    This is going to change everything.

  6. losanginsight - Aug 23, 2013 at 5:48 PM

    This would have helped the Spurs in game 6 when LBJs foot was on the line on what was called a 3.. but never reviewed. Oh well

  7. ProBasketballPundit - Aug 23, 2013 at 9:34 PM

    So THAT’S why Allen Iverson made his retirement official. He knows better than anyone how poorly he holds up under advanced statistical scrutiny.

    • sportsfan18 - Aug 23, 2013 at 11:24 PM


      I have to say I agree with you…

  8. Anoesis - Aug 24, 2013 at 12:33 AM

    Here’s hoping the league uses all this data to rate their refs and get rid of the incompetents. This shouldn’t be reserved for just players.

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