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How does old-school Rick Adelman deal with waves of new stats? In small bytes.

Nov 10, 2013, 9:22 PM EDT

Rick Adelman AP

Rick Adelman is advanced stats friendly — he was the coach in Houston with Daryl Morey as the GM for four seasons, if he was adverse to them he wouldn’t have lasted that long.

Now with the new Sports VU cameras providing even more data than Morey could pour at him, how is Adelman handling it in Minnesota? In small bites.

Speaking before his team took on the Lakers Sunday night, he talked about the biggest challenge for a lot of coaches dealing with this — how to get the information from stats across to the players in a meaningful way.

“Maybe I’m just old fashioned or whatever, but when they give us stats and everything like that I kind of know what’s coming,” Adelman said. “I’ve seen it, I’ve observed it, I may not know all the reasons, and they give you very good input, but I think it’s knowing what you run offensively, knowing what your tendencies are, those things all help…

“I think in the playoffs it gives you a bigger factor, because we play so many games in a week you know can have stats one game after another. So you pick and choose what you show players, you pick and choose how to reach them, and I think changes from week to week.”

The wealth of information is only as good as teams’ ability to break it down and convey it to a player in a way they can make use of it.

Teams have resorted to what is taught in “Creative Writing 101” — show it don’t say it. You can hand Shane Battier a page of stats and he can make sense of it and use it on the court, but for visual learners (which most people are) teams are working to splice video together to show what the stats are saying.

Adelman in the end said what most coaches and scouts say about the stats — they’re a nice tool, but just another tool.

“There’s so much out there now, we had a ton of it in Houston when we were there, I think all that stuff is a tool that you can use to be better to help your players be better, but that’s what it is,” Adelman said. “You still have to play the game out on the court.”

  1. miamiheatdynasty - Nov 10, 2013 at 9:58 PM

    This analytics thing makes Rudy Gay look bad for sum reason.

  2. antistratfordian - Nov 10, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    The advanced stats that fans regularly argue about aren’t really for coaches anyway – or, they don’t really apply to a coach on the floor who is trying to win a game. Being aware of Kyrie Irving’s PER or Win Share isn’t going to help Mike Brown much during a game.

    Those stats are more for GMs and agents.

    More relevant to the players and coaches are things like player shooting efficiency from certain spots on the floor, etc. And obviously opposing player tendencies in certain situation situations.

    Brad Stevens guessed right that Shane Battier was going to front the post against Gerald Wallace for a play they ran with 3 seconds left yesterday. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Celtics know the exact percentage of plays on which Battier fronts the post and against who and when. Stevens is a major advanced stat proponent.

  3. nbascreed - Nov 11, 2013 at 6:43 AM

    Kurt can you tell me what we mean when we talk about “big data” and “advanced stats” and also if you believe the teams have the algorithmic power and brains to actually turn the data and information into something actionable?

    I know your opinion on the stats but I’d also like to hear your opinion on the algos that they’re using to crunch this data.

    • Kurt Helin - Nov 11, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      Advanced algos to help crunch data is not my wheelhouse. Some teams are more advanced at it than others — the Raptors for one have a great program with “ghost” defenders where they want guys to be so they can show players — but a lot of that stuff is kept close to the vest. It’s hard for me to say who is doing what with it because team’s are not really sharing that in much detail.

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