NBA teams make gains every day in the world of analyzing on-court performance, whether that involves creating new stats to quantify value or figuring out which older metrics most readily correspond with winning. For the most part, these tools haven't carried over to practices, where vaguely defined goals make it difficult to determine exactly what matters most.
However, teams are trying by tapping into more scientific methods of judging performance in practices. The Austin Toros, a D-League squad owned by the San Antonio Spurs, have begun to check their players' vital signs during practice. They do it with high-tech man manssieres (or bros, if you prefer that term). From Andrew A McNeill at 48 Minutes of Hell (via TrueHoop):
Last season at Austin Toros media day, I quizzed new coach Brad Jones on if the Spurs had any plans to use the D-League as something of a petri dish. I didn't put it to him that way, however, I can't imagine Coach Jones feeling comfortable thinking of his new gig as a petri dish. Jones mentioned that the Spurs planned on testing out a new nutrition plan via the Toros, but didn't seem to know the specifics of said plan. As little time as I spent with the Toros last year, I didn't have much of a chance to follow-up with Coach Jones on whatever eating plan the Toros implemented.
This year at Toros media day, I was prepared. I mentioned to Coach Jones what he had told me last season and asked him if the Spurs had anything new they wanted to try in Austin this season. Sure enough, Coach Jones gave me what I was after.
"It's a load meter and it's a new sports science thing," he said. "It's like a vest you put on underneath [your clothes] and you wear it in practice and it keeps track of the energy you're burning."
What this load meter is, specifically, is from Catapult Sports, "a world leader in wearable athlete tracking technology" based in Australia. What the system does, according to my basic understanding of it, is track almost everything imaginable on the player wearing it. Think of it like Google Analytics for athletes.
"Everything: speed, heart rate, distance covered," Toros trainer Nixon Dorvilien said. "By gathering all that information, sometimes you'll be able to tell if an athlete is being overtrained or how they're recovering."
You can check out an image of the item at the link above. As you can see, it looks like some kind of futuristic training bra. And while that may be embarrassing for the players who have to wear it, this technology could help their careers and long-term health.
It's easy to imagine a future in which every NBA team wears these devices or a similar variation. If the D-League serves as a perpetual test environment for these kind of innovations, all the better. As long as they never have to try on toxic lipstick and makeup, at least. I've seen what happens to those bunnies, and it's not pretty.
- Austin Toros
- San Antonio Spurs