There are 10 NBA teams that have an advanced camera system in their arenas which track literally every movement of the ball and players, giving teams big data — a wealth of images and numbers to sort through to find strengths, weaknesses and ways to improve.
Now eight teams are trying to bring something similar to practices.
Yes, practice. We’re talking about practice.
These teams are attaching a old-school pager sized electronic device (called OptimEye from Australian company Catapult Sports) to the back of players’ jerseys that tracks every movement they make — every cut, jump and sprint — then gives the team a report on how fast, how far and where the player’s heart rate was during the workout, reports Jeff Caplan at NBA.com.
“We just want to be able to get smarter about our players and how to train them and how to put them in a position to succeed,” said Mavs owner Mark Cuban. “So that’s just one component of a lot of different things that we’re doing.”
This is not new technology — a number of other sports use it, including some NFL teams. The Knicks used it last season on Jason Kidd.
Before Kidd returned from injury, he wore the device during workouts to track his acceleration, agility and force. As Forbes’ Alex Konrad reported, with a benchmark reading set in the preseason, the team got the numbers it needed to clear him to play. It allows for specific measurements to be met, rather than a player approximating his readiness. How many times have you heard an athlete say he’s about 85 percent? What exactly does that mean?
Mark Cuban wants to use it in preseason games to see what data they collect, he told NBA.com. Of course, the league may kill that idea but they haven’t yet. It would be interesting, and you would be able to tell which guys are kind of dogging it in games (although in preseason, a lot more guys do that).
But this is the wave of the future — technology bringing hard data to things that used to be feel. There are steps beyond this as well — genetics is starting to show that people with certain genes respond better to certain kinds of training than others, allowing workouts to be more tailored to get results. This is where things are headed at the elite levels of sports, technology and training blending together.