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Trail Blazers watching game video from bench on iPads

Nov 27, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

Portland Trail Blazers v Boston Celtics Getty Images

Just four years ago, Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post wrote about a new technology that allowed NBA scouts to search plays by team, player and type and see video for each. At the time, Synergy Sports Technology seemed revolutionary. According to Saunders, four teams still hadn’t subscribed at that point.

One of the main perks of Synergy was the ability to load plays onto an iPod for players to watch at their convenience.

Now, iPods are becoming obsolete as iPads gain favor. And, as the technology grows, so is its usefulness in the NBA.

Ben Golliver of Blazers Edge:

If you think you’ve seen the Blazers looking at iPads on the bench during games, your eyes are not deceiving you. Multiple members of the team are indeed viewing game tape on the bench, during games, with an eye towards strategic adjustments.

A quick survey of Portland’s key players on this subject produced some interesting results. Lillard, Matthews, Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge all said that they are using iPads for help during games. Interestingly, they are pursuing individual approaches when it comes to what footage they want to watch, and they also have personal preferences about when and how they view the on-demand footage.

This video feedback comes almost in real time. Starters are able to watch sequences from their first shift when they check out for the first time, minimizing the delay from action to correction. What might once have been a “halftime adjustment” can now take place before a player checks back in during the second quarter.

“I get double-teamed a lot so I just have them put my double teams on there,” Aldridge, who had 18 points (on 7-for-20 shooting) and 14 rebounds, told Blazersedge. “I want to see how they’re double-teaming me, where they are coming from. Of course [it helps]. If I’m getting double-teamed and I can see how they’re doing it, that helps me and all my teammates.”

Click through to read Golliver’s post, because it contains fascinating specifics about how each key Portland player uses the technology.

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Honestly, I’m shocked other teams don’t do it, or at least not enough teams do it that it’s widely understood as a common practice. I also implicitly assumed the NBA had a rule like the NFL, which prohibits game-day technology use by players and coaches (though that seems to be changing soon).

The NBA’s information age is coming on so rapidly, this almost feels outdated already. If the rules allow it — and Tim Frank, NBA Senior Vice President, Basketball Communications, says they do as long as the video isn’t live — why weren’t teams doing this years ago?

I suspect that will change now. The NBA is a copycat league, and teams will want to emulate the Trail Blazers, who’ve started 13-2. I don’t think Portland is winning solely because it uses iPads on the bench, but that will just be the spark for teams doing something they probably should have already been doing.

There’s one way iPads on the bench during games won’t become en vogue – the technology is already outdated.

  1. mimaiheatdynasty - Nov 27, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    NBA will probably come up with a rule for this; probably something about competitive balance or unfair advantage. I mean they didn’t let Dwade wear tinted goggles becuz the defenders couldn’t see his eyes.

    • asimonetti88 - Nov 27, 2013 at 12:51 PM

      David Stern will veto it for basketball reasons

    • pbtunpaidwriter - Nov 27, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      …And the ban against tights, kinesio tape started by D-Rose, and so many other ridiculous bans.

      Can’t wait for Stern to GTFO already. Hopefully Adam Silver isn’t the second coming of Stern and doesn’t run the league like a dictatorship.

      • asimonetti88 - Nov 27, 2013 at 3:59 PM

        “Hopefully Adam Silver isn’t the second coming of Stern”

        He was hand picked and mentored by Stern, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  2. ohioteamsusuallysuck - Nov 27, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    Just wait for someone to get caught playing angry birds

  3. blahblah1000 - Nov 27, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    How funny is that being Paul Allen “Microsoft Co-founder” owns the team.

    Why no Surface tablets?

    • smosit - Nov 27, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      developer doesn’t support Surface?

    • asimonetti88 - Nov 27, 2013 at 4:00 PM

      Because then they’d have to use a Surface

      • pbtunpaidwriter - Nov 27, 2013 at 5:00 PM

        @asimonetti I LOLed at your response hahah

  4. pbtunpaidwriter - Nov 27, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    The Blazers are the dark horse in the west. They have two of the best at their position in Lillard and Aldridge. They have a very deep bench which is much improved from last year and I think they have a chance to make it to the WCF at best which is a huge jump from last year.

    I’ve always loved the Blazers going back to the Sheed, Pippen and Sabonis days, then the Roy and Oden days, and now the new era of Lillard and Aldridge. I hope they stay healthy and have a deep playoff run.

  5. antistratfordian - Nov 27, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    If you were a subscriber to Synergy you may have been surprised to find out that the NBA released some of its most attractive features free on their site. Fun!

    The NFL has to stop this nonsense with their black and white printouts and binders. It’s time for a revolution. Think of how many of our defenseless tree brothers we can save! Teams can save 5,000 pages of paper printouts per game.

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