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The Apple iPad: Could It Be a Game-Changer for the NBA?

One of the bigger advancements in the NBA recently has taken place off the court. The concept of processing advanced statistical data in a sophisticated analytical manner has only recently entered its infancy in the NBA, with some teams like the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks having fully (and publicly) embraced it while others, at least from the outside looking in, seem to be a bit slow in catching on. This year’s wildly successful MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (for more info I highly recommend ESPN Truehoop’s excellent coverage of it) has proven that this is more than just a viable option for teams; it’s a necessity in this modern age. The NBA is at a crossroads with a new generation ready to run teams and they’re big believers in using the latest technology to gain an advantage over other teams. The Miami Heat, for example, are led by two wildly different generations of coaches. Legendary Pat Riley runs the franchise but the coach Erik Spoelstra is the youngest in the NBA with a background in video and data analysis from all his years rising steadily within the Heat organization. One of his first acts as the head coach was to give all his players a customized iPod Touch
Spoelstra is a little more technologically savvy than his Hall of Fame mentor. He also found out that one of the best ways to communicate with his players is through technology they already use. In addition to handing out the traditional paper-bound playbook, the first-year head coach issued every HEAT player an Apple iPod touch. On the iPod, players can find a condensed version of the HEAT playbook, game clips, NBA and team rules, quotes, and even newspaper articles.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="308" caption="James Jones is down with the program"][/caption] So let’s not forget that technology can now deliver this type of data right at your fingertips. But can Apple’s latest device take this new information that these experts are processing and analyzing and take it into a whole new level of integration and into an actual live NBA game? While everyone is saying that the iPad, due to be released on April 3rd, is just a large iPhone it could just as easily be viewed as a new-generation clipboard through the eyes of a basketball junkie like me. The device looks like it would be perfect to draw up a play quickly with your hands during a timeout, maybe even with a real video overlay Madden-style displaying various video clips where the team had successfully ran the play in a previous game or during a practice. (Maybe the Heat could use it to draw up a game-winning play that doesn't involve giving Wade the ball 30 feet away from the basket.) Imagine an assistant coach during a game being able to launch a specialized app that can quickly list his team’s best 5-man unit, statistically speaking, to match up with the current Hornets lineup with either Chris Paul or Darren Collison playing the point. A scout, general manager or even an NCAA coach could use it as a recruiting tool. There are no limits to how creative and innovative such apps could be for the iPad and teams could commission their own exclusive ones with security codes locking them away from unauthorized personnel (or media). [caption id="attachment_1121" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="If I was better at Photoshop you wouldn't have to imagine Phil holding an iPad."][/caption] Wrap a Spaulding basketball "case" on it so it looks like the old NBA clipboard and it could be gripped during a timeout in any sweaty NBA player’s hands (okay maybe not Kwame Brown). Any real time score, stat, video or other relevant info would be available to a player, coach or team executive with a device this portable that has 3G/Wi-Fi connectivity. Now it remains to be seen if any team will actually adopt the iPad in any of these ways but for a relatively inexpensive price tag it would be foolish not to at least look into it.