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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.

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