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SBD/October 29, 2013/NBA Season PreviewPrint All
NBA data goes big tonight as Stats LLC’s SportVU technology, a series of cameras used to track every on-court movement, makes its league-wide debut with the start of the ’13-14 NBA season. For Stats, the installation of the motion-tracking system in all NBA arenas marks the turning point in its plans to market the advanced statistics SportVU makes possible. Stats Senior VP/Sports Solutions Brian Kopp said, “This league deal validates what we were doing with the teams, but more importantly, it now really starts the conversation on the media and the business side.” Stats for several years pitched individual franchises on SportVU, which enables teams to capture players’ exact moves on the court through a three-dimensional optical tracking system. SportVU produces a number of stats that go beyond familiar basketball statistics, including distance run, rebound chances and secondary assists (similar to those in hockey). After the Rockets became the first franchise to adopt SportVU in ‘10, the program rapidly gained momentum, with 15 franchises using it last season. But Kopp said that the technology’s exploitation was inhibited as both an analytical and marketing tool by its lack of a complete data set. A player cannot legitimately be called the NBA leader in rebound chances, for example, without data from all NBA games. With the new league-wide deal, SportVU will have its eyes-in-the-sky on every player, every play -- provided Stats can secure the league’s two international regular-season games in London and in Mexico City.
EXPANDED USE: Now the real game can begin, both on-court and off. While teams use the technology chiefly to analyze players, some franchises, the NBA and Stats are looking at multiple potential platforms for the new statistics, from digital media to in-arena uses to broadcasts. Kopp said the company’s data this year “becomes a whole new layer of officially branded NBA stats” on NBA.com. Kopp added that the site would feature several tables with the new data on its stats page. He expects the NBA.com information to be “skinnied down” -- that is, made less complex and more user-friendly -- from the types of data reports provided to teams. NBA Exec VP/Operations & Technology Steve Hellmuth confirmed the SportVU stats will be available online from the beginning of the season. Hellmuth said, “We’ve got people here cranking overtime right now. On NBA TV, the stats will be there from game one.” He added that the data also will be used in features and articles on NBA.com. Hellmuth: “People reading longer articles, it’s becoming rare. We’re really trying to focus on making it as digestible, as easy to reference as a box score.” Hellmuth said SportVU data will be “prominently displayed” on the NBA.com stats page. SAP currently is in the second year of multiyear partnership to run the page and also serves as a league sponsor.
CAVALIER APPROACH: Although franchises new to SportVU had a scant seven weeks to get the hardware installed and get up to speed on the service, Hellmuth said there was “no friction whatsoever with the teams.” He noted team execs are used to working in a world of big data in ticket sales and other areas, so they are comfortable with the idea of needing bigger, better data sets. He added it was not just the stats themselves, but the combination of the numbers and Stats LLC’s program to analyze it, called ICE, that got the league to commit to the deal. One team that quickly found a fan-friendly use for the new SportVU stats is the Cavaliers, who began presenting the data on their scoreboard after joining the program in December 2012. Cavaliers Senior VP/Communications & Broadcasting Tad Carper said while basketball analysis currently remains the main use of the data, the team has its eye on business applications as well. Carper said, “We’ve gone down sort of a two-lane highway on this from the start.” Cavaliers VP/Digital Mike Conley said that the team will continue to seek new uses of the data on the Quicken Loans Arena scoreboard. Conley said, “One of the biggest pieces of kryptonite in this process is to really get all the arenas up to speed on how to parse this data in real time and quickly. … We’re working on creating infrastructure that’s going to be able to take that data and parse it in real time and generate the graphics automatically in-house.”
AGGRESSIVE PUSH: Carper and the Cavs will continue to use the new stats to try to draw fans away from their TV sets. Carper: “TV and broadcast has become so slick and produced and full of information, it’s a very comfortable space for fans. We’re going to continue to enhance our broadcast, but at the same time, the in-arena experience is something we want to continue to enhance too.” Carper said that potential sponsors have shown interest in specific SportVU stats tracking qualities like speed, durability and distance. Conley notes companies now are much more likely to jump on an innovative idea. He said, “Where in the past, something would need to be in the market for three years before you start to see corporate dollars start to catch up with technology, everybody now is aggressive in wanting to be on the innovation front.” Hellmuth said that the type of stats the Cavaliers use in-arena come out about every 60-90 seconds, and "will also be used potentially in telecasts.” He added while NBA TV staff are “still working on that,” they are “definitely going to be using this data in conjunction with GameTime, our lead highlight show.”
FANTASY ISLAND: Beyond online and broadcast uses, Kopp sees potential for the SportVU data in fantasy gaming, an arena the company is already involved in as creator of the PGA Tour’s fantasy golf games, as well as video games. Kopp notes the NBA2K videogame series is a Stats client for traditional data, but says as the technology becomes more familiar, the SportVU data should enhance the games. Kopp said, “It could be anywhere from just integrating it into the game, like they do some of the box-score data, or it could be the ability to influence how those players perform, based on the data we’re collecting.”
Minneapolis and T'Wolves officials yesterday announced a deal to "roughly split the cost" of a $100M Target Center renovation, nearly three years "after the plan was first outlined," according to a front-page piece by Eric Roper of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The renovation will "redesign the exterior of the 23-year-old building, create additional gathering spaces, improve pedestrian traffic flow, upgrade amenities, increase the seating capacity, add additional VIP clubs and fix loading dock problems." It is "expected to make the building more competitive for concerts, as well as a better home for the sports teams." The agreement, which "must be approved by the City Council, would commit" $48.5M in city sales taxes to the renovation, plus another $43M from the T'Wolves. Venue operator AEG "would kick in" another $5.5M. The deal keeps the T'Wolves, WNBA Lynx and AEG at the arena until '32. If approved by the council, construction "could begin in spring or summer" of '14 and continue for 18-24 months. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said that it will "occur in phases and allow for continued use of the building for most, if not all, of that time." The cost of the renovation was "initially pegged" at $150M, but that cost "was scaled down during negotiations." Rybak: "The bottom line is had this deal not been done, we still would have been putting money into this building ongoing. But it would have deteriorated much more rapidly.” The City Council will "hold a hearing on the agreement this Thursday, with a full vote expected on Nov. 12" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/29). In St. Paul, Belden & Brothers note the city's financial contribution "will come from local sales and hospitality taxes freed up under the 2012 state legislation that allowed construction" of the new Vikings stadium. Improvements also "are ahead for St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center, which sometimes competes for shows with Target Center." The Wild manage Xcel Energy Center, and a team spokesperson said that improvements "could begin next summer" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 10/29).
The Raptors and BMO today will officially announce a five-year agreement "in which the bank becomes the club’s presenting sponsor and the Raptors use an NBA pilot program to feature the bank’s logo on the team’s home court," according to Morgan Campbell of the TORONTO STAR. The Raptors "haven’t had a bank sponsor since their previous deal with BMO expired three seasons ago." With the NBA All-Star Game coming to Toronto in '16 and the Raptors "in the midst of an on-court rebuilding ... and an off-court reinvention," BMO "felt even more confident about the timing of its return to Canadian basketball." BMO Senior VP & Head of Brand, Advertising and Sponsorships Justine Fedak said, "It’s not an instant overnight transformation. We sponsored [the Blackhawks] when they weren’t on television and they had no Stanley Cups. Now they’re a double Stanley Cup winning team." The Raptors under the deal "will become the second team in the NBA to sell on-court ad space to a corporate sponsor," with a BMO logo "painted on the sideline in front of each team’s bench." The Pacers earlier this month signed a deal with the Indiana Economic Development Corp. BMO during its "three-year estrangement from the Raptors ... increased its investment" in Canada’s MLS clubs. Its logo "adorns the jerseys" of both the Impact and Toronto FC, and the bank also sponsors the Whitecaps. BMO in '07 paid a reported $27M "for the naming rights to BMO Field" (TORONTO STAR, 10/29).
BEAR NECESSITIES: In Memphis, Michael Sheffield reported the Grizzlies' sponsorship deals this season will put the name of local clothing retailer City Gear "on the back of the chairs players sit in on the sidelines, while Mednikow Jewelers will have its name on the floor seat holder lounge, the first time that area has had a title sponsor." Other sponsors also are "raising their profile this year." Jet’s Pizza "will serve its pizzas in FedExForum and have gameday specials in its restaurants." Lexus of Memphis is "giving away a trip to the April 6 road game" against the Spurs. First Tennessee Bank "will offer ticket deals." C-Spire Wireless "will host Fan Friday giveaways that will include tickets and promotional items." Artisent Floors "will give away floor seats to home games beginning Nov. 22." Chiwawa will be "the road game watch party site." Ashley Furniture "will sponsor Military Night Nov. 9" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 10/28).
The third ad in Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving's "Uncle Drew" series for Pepsi Max yesterday debuted online with appearances by Nuggets G Nate Robinson and WNBA Lynx F Maya Moore, but the "identity of the newest cast members was kept secret" until the premiere, according to Jason Lloyd of the AKRON BEACON JOURNAL. Irving, who wrote the script for all three ads, yesterday said, "They all signed a form that they had to remain silent until today." The six-minute film was "shot in one 12-hour day at Chicago’s Seward Park last summer." Robinson was "a fan of the first two pieces and began badgering to appear in the third." He plays "Lights," a "basketball star-turned-musician whom Uncle Drew finds in a jazz club." Moore is "his significant other and warns 'Lights' he can’t play again because he had his hip replaced." The two men "ignore her warnings and return to the court for typical Uncle Drew antics." Moore’s character "eventually shows up at the court and starts dropping shots, too." Irving said that there are "two more installments of the series, then he is ending it" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 10/29). Irving said of the ad, "I'm as excited to see it as you guys are. I'm looking forward to it. I think you guys will like it. It's a funny commercial, and I'm looking forward to seeing the reaction." He added of making more ads in the series, "I'm coming up with ideas every single day just thinking about it. But my focus right now is the season'' (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 10/29).
YOU KNOW, FOR KIDS: In Cleveland, Laura DeMarco reported Irving yesterday "launched another new venture," as "about 500 fans lined up inside and around" a Cleveland-area Target store for the release of the new handheld PlayMG Android gaming device. To get a "photo with Irving fans [needed] to purchase a PlayMG." Fans said that they "learned about the event and device when Irving tweeted about it" earlier in the afternoon. The "game-loving" Irving is not only a spokesperson for PlayMG but also a part owner, along with actress Olivia Holt and "several private investors." Irving said, "It's a generational video game, something for younger kids." PlayMG Founder Geoffrey DeStefano said that his company "first approached the Cavs star because of his youth." DeStefano said, "He represents our target market, the young sophisticate. ... We wanted someone from middle America, from the heart of America." DeMarco noted the PlayMG "comes stocked with 11 apps, with access to more than more than 60,000 more to play on the 4-inch touch screen." It currently is "only available at Target, Amazon.com and PlayMG.com" for a retail price of $179.99, "comparable to a smartphone." Irving said it is a "great thing" if fans have younger kids. Irving: "You give them this and they go crazy" (CLEVELAND.com, 10/28).
The NBA Kings to celebrate a new chapter in franchise history will be broadcasting tomorrow night’s home opener against the Nuggets commercial-free on their local broadcast partner, KXTV-ABC. The team, which was subject to a battle that could have seen it relocate to Seattle, ultimately was purchased by former Warriors investor Vivek Ranadive this summer. Kings Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Jeff David said, “There’s a large story to tell and we need to use every minute to tell that very positive story.” KXTV President & GM Maria Barrs said the station took into account the loss of ad revenue, but ultimately decided it would be worth the risk. “The Sacramento market has had so many ups and downs with the Kings," she said, "and we’re on a real up and we want to help celebrate it.” Health care provider Kaiser Permanente will be the presenting sponsor of opening night, and will be included in all of the promotional messages about the commercial-free broadcast. The sponsorship was sold by KXTV, but the station declined to provide details. KXTV is running ads on air and on its website to promote the telecast, while the Kings had in-arena promotions, website ads and mentions during all of their preseason broadcasts. Barrs: “We’re hoping to get people excited about the Sacramento Kings. That’s what we want. We have a partnership with the Kings where we’re going to be airing an additional 10 games after the first one, and we want people to watch, we want people to be excited, we want people to feel good and feel engaged with the team.” Kings President Chris Granger echoed that sentiment, saying, “If not for our fans, this team would not be in Sacramento right now. This is hopefully just a nice thank you for all that work that our fans have put in and we want to give back to them in as many ways as we can.”
VARIETY SHOW: The broadcast will produced by the Kings and essentially include three hours of commercial-free game action, as well as an additional hour-long pregame show produced by KXTV. In place of ad spots, the Kings will be airing a mix of in-arena entertainment, pre-recorded vignettes on community outreach and the new ownership, live interviews with NBA figures such as minority Owner Shaquille O’Neal, Commissioner David Stern and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, and highlights from the pregame fanfest. Granger said, “It’s a sold-out game. Not everyone is going to be able to attend the game live, so being able to view the entire experience from home is as good as we can get.” Kings Opening Night Broadcast Dir Mike Bird said there has been an “immeasurable” amount of planning that has gone into the telecast. His team will have 17 cameras on hand, up from the usual 10 for a regular-season home game, including wireless RF cameras and an Ultra-Mo camera. “We’re actively involved right now with the in-house entertainment people to come up with a solid format to give the fans at home watching the full experience they would get at the arena,” he said.
SOMETHING DIFFERENT: The Kings are the first professional sports team in North America to broadcast commercial-free, and SI’s Richard Deitsch said, “It’s an interesting experiment and I think as a one-time thing, I think viewers are really going to enjoy it because it’s going to be a different kind of unique game broadcast.” But he added it will be “interesting to see how the fluidity of the broadcast goes and the rhythm of the broadcast.” Deitsch did not think that a single-sponsored commercial-free telecast would become the norm in the NBA, but Kings and KXTV execs all seemed open to the possibility of doing this again. Granger said, “It’s fun to do something different. Our fans are responding very well to it right now. I think it’s pushed us creatively to think through every single timeout and what we might do, so I think you’re going to see the best out of the Kings organization and News10 that night.”
The NBA season begins with the league's network partners continuing to search for ways to appeal to viewers. THE DAILY conducted a roundtable with two leading media writers -- SI.com's Richard Deitsch and the L.A. Daily News' Tom Hoffarth -- discussing their views of topics including studio shows, on-air talent and live streaming of games.
Q: What network does the best job covering the NBA and what do they bring that makes it successful?
Deitsch: Both Turner and ESPN do a good job of covering the NBA, but I would give the advantage to Turner, simply because its studio show is far and away the best NBA studio show and arguably best studio show that exists today along with ESPN’s “College GameDay.” The NBA is one of those unique entities where viewers are really into studio programming, probably because there are not as many pregame shows as there are in the NFL. So that gives “Inside the NBA” that much more prominence, and by virtue of Charles Barkley, it is destination viewing. ESPN’s No. 1 team of Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy is as good as it gets. I think so is Marv Albert and Steve Kerr. So in terms of game broadcasts, both Turner and ESPN do a really good job with their announcers, with their production. I would give ESPN an advantage with Doris Burke on the sideline even though I think David Aldridge, Craig Sager, et cetera are good. NBA TV would be a distant third; their studio shows are good, not great, in my opinion. And their game coverage is good, but I think a step behind Turner and ESPN.
Hoffarth: First, I’ll admit the NBA isn’t my first choice of sports viewing, especially in the regular season. So it takes something to really pull me in -- an intriguing matchup, a holiday game. A local Lakers or Clippers broadcast will grab my attention over any other national game as well, too. That said, TNT’s longer-term commitment with the sport makes me feel there’s more loyalty there in checking them out, especially in bigger moment games. An NBA game on ESPN seems like nothing really special, just part of the network daily offering. But if there’s a Breen-Van Gundy game on anywhere, I’ll gravitate toward that.
Deitsch believes continuity is a key to the success
of TNT’s “Inside the NBA"
Q: A lot has been made about the success of TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” How do you think the show could continue to replicate said success moving forward?
Deitsch: They replicate the success because of the continuity that exists between Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley. And as long as you have that trio, you’re going to have a terrific show. That trio is one of the best we’ve ever seen on sports television in terms of continuity, entertainment, watch-ability. They added Shaq a couple of years ago; I think he’s certainly better now than he was at the start, and the show hasn’t fundamentally changed with the addition of Shaquille O’Neal, and that’s why it’s worked. ... The other thing is -- and this is very important -- that studio show is one of the least-scripted studio shows I’ve ever seen on television sports; they allow their people to have spontaneous moments.
Hoffarth: I realize that I’ve stopped listening to things Charles Barkley says for a few years now. I just don’t find him relevant, more of a media creation at this point, someone who’s figured out the business of talking and getting attention. Shaq isn’t going to be Barkley 2.0, either. Kenny Smith seems to be the only one offering something, like he’s actually paying attention and has processed the information. But then, maybe that’s the beauty of this show -- a comfortable, barbershop setting where you don’t agree with everything said, laugh a lot and feel like you’re one of their friends. The person who’d really inject something special is Reggie Miller, but that would mean moving him from game coverage to the studio and forcing him to go to Atlanta, so I can’t see that happening.
Q: How do you foresee the chemistry of ESPN’s “NBA Countdown” developing now that there have been these recent changes just as league preseason games began?
Deitsch: Impossible to know. The thing about chemistry is you have no idea until the camera light comes on and the principles are interacting with one another, and not in any sort of rehearsal format. So we’ll see how Sage Steele interacts with Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose and Doug Collins; we’ll see how Doris Burke interacts with Avery Johnson. I think there are a lot of very smart people and interesting people on that show -- there’s been a lot of times where you have individuals who are interesting, but they cannot match up together.
Hoffarth: I found myself paying less and less attention to this show because I can’t figure out what it’s trying to achieve, whether it’s forced chemistry, a splash studio, virtual graphics and all that. The fact it’s based in L.A. shows some intent on making it relevant, but it never seems to exploit that advantage by being right across the street from Staples Center. I’m not sure what Bill Simmons brings to the conversation except maybe a fan’s perspective, and even that is suspect. Magic had the star power, and could be the most quotable, so without him there, and now Michael Wilbon missing, I think it’s very pedestrian. Jalen Rose seems to have talked himself into being a co-host, so I’m not sure how inserting Sage Steele makes this any more than just moving lounge chairs around. Bill Walton would be a great person to bring back here if he wanted it. Even someone like Stephen A. Smith could add some juice.
Q: How do you feel NBA TV ranks amongst the other league-owned networks in terms of both A) overall quality and B) unbiased coverage?
Deitsch: Most of the time, bias if it comes is going to come in a studio format, or the auxiliary-programming format, and I think NBA TV for the most part at least on their postgame shows certainly does not shy away from anything in terms of game action, in terms of coaching decisions -- good, bad or indifferent -- player decisions -- good, bad or indifferent. NBA TV is usually fine with that. The question with league networks is, how far do they go in their reporting and kind of the third-rail issues. ... Usually with league-owned networks, the day-to-day stuff, they’re generally pretty good about talking about a coaching doing something or whether a player is sort of doing something wrong or not, but usually it’s the larger issues -- the kind of stuff that takes some in-depth reporting on something that really makes league officials queasy -- that’s where I think I would not go to NBA TV.
Hoffarth: I don’t seek out the channel out as much as I would MLB Network or NFL Network, or even the NHL Network, and the only reason I suspect is again because the NBA isn’t my No. 1 TV choice during this time of year. I tend to go to it if there’s a replay of an old game, or a special documentary, or this “Open Court” panel discussion. ... I don’t think it’s a quality issue or bias coverage. It seems to be just an extension of TNT’s coverage in a lot of ways, which makes sense considering how content is compiled for it. My suggestion would be to try to find a two-some like the MLB’s Chris Rose and Kevin Millar to do their own “Intentional Talk” show during the afternoons as a friendly place to stop by.
Hoffarth is a proponent of giving fans as many
options on how they consume games
Deitsch: I like it, a lot. I think it’s a really smart move by whatever entity made that move but I really think it’s a smart move, because having written about so many announcers and having talked to so many fans in multiple sports, they really do feel this connection to the local broadcasters and I think, whether it’s correct or not, it’s not necessarily about fandom but I think they get familiar and comfortable with a voice, and they believe that broadcast is tailor-made to them as fans as opposed to a more down-the-middle broadcast or a national broadcast or, obviously, the opposing broadcast.
Hoffarth: Whatever gives fans more options of feeling they can make a decision on how they consume games, the better. I’ve been impressed with the NBA TV’s ability to get fan votes to decide whichever game they want to see.
Q: Who is an underrated talent or is next to emerge as a top talent?
Deitsch: I continue to be impressed with Chris Webber and his growth as a broadcaster and a thinker on the air. I think he’s funny, thoughtful, smart, and I find myself always interested into what he has to say when he’s on either “NBA Countdown” or when he goes on “Inside the NBA.” He’s not underrated, but year after year, Steve Kerr becomes a better analyst on-air, to the point where I think he and Jeff Van Gundy by far and away are the top two game analysts in their sport and I think would be in the conversation for the top game analysts in any sport. I really appreciate that Turner kind of continues to push him and we continue to see a lot of him. I would be very interested in Sage Steele, who now gets into a very prominent role for NBA fans and in a way they have not seen her previously.
Hoffarth: I hope Doris Burke is able to make an impact on ESPN’s preview show, to show more of her personality and knowledge. George Karl is someone who I’ll stop to listen to when he’s talking now that he’s back. Doug Collins will always add tremendous value no matter where’s he’s placed.
New Suns GM Ryan McDonough has climbed the NBA front-office ladder at what seems like a sprinter's pace. Just over a decade ago, McDonough was a journalism student with ambitions of being a play-by-play announcer. He turned his first full-time job out of college into an NBA Championship and, as of this summer, a GM position. McDonough spoke with THE DAILY about his path to the top, the role of analytics in sports and how he plans to bring the Suns’ first NBA title to Phoenix.
Q: We all know how much of a legend your father, the late Will McDonough, was at the Boston Globe. What was it like growing up in his world?
McDonough: It was pretty neat growing up in a household like that where my father obviously wrote for the Boston Globe for a long time, was also on CBS and NBC. So when we were at home we’d get calls from sports legends. This is before cell phones and we’d get calls on the house phone from (Pro Football HOFer and former NFL Commissioner) Pete Rozelle or (Pro Football HOFer) OJ Simpson, legends of the game like that, Bob Costas, you know, whoever would call. As a kid you pick up the phone and dad wouldn't be home. You’d get to talk to those guys for a little while, so it was pretty neat. I also spent a lot of vacations travelling to either a Super Bowl or the NFL Owners Meetings, so it was a great experience from a young age. My brothers and I were fortunate that we were able to experience that and the three of us have since gone on to careers in sports.
Q: How much did that shape your career path, and was there ever a question about whether you wanted to work in sports?
McDonough: No. I always knew I wanted to do something in sports. I just wasn't sure exactly what it was. Obviously like any young kid, at first I wanted to play, and by virtue of growing up around my father and my brothers and just seeing how good the pro athletes were in all the different sports, I realized at a fairly young age I wasn't going to be able to do that for a career. So I figured I'd try to figure out other ways to stay in sports. I thought I wanted to be a broadcaster. I went to the University of North Carolina for that reason, they have a great broadcast journalism program down there, they have great athletic teams, so I did that for a year. I broadcast minor league baseball in 2001 when I was in college. Frankly, I missed the competition. I liked the broadcasting and I loved being at the games, but I missed feeling like you had something to do with the team winning and losing. I was fortunate enough to get hired by the Celtics the year after I graduated from college, and that was about ten-and-a-half years ago now.
Q: Journalism school is not the most orthodox route to the front office. Could you have imagined that you would wind up the GM of an NBA team?
McDonough: I guess I didn't really think ten years ahead, just tried to take it one day at a time and do the best I could with whatever opportunity presented itself. At that time, like I said, I wanted to do broadcasting, then once it came down to it ... when you’re young and in journalism, sometimes you have to go to some far-flung places, especially if you want to do play-by-play and make very little money and ride the buses around some low-level minor league baseball. I wasn't fully prepared to do that, to be honest with you, and I just moved back home to Boston. I actually had an internship with the Red Sox in 2002, and then probably the biggest break I got was later that year at the end of 2002, the Celtics were sold to Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca and their current ownership group. I was a guy who had just turned 23, right out of college, and I was willing to work for little to no money. I got introduced to those guys, and they wanted to pour some money into the team and try to build the best scouting staff in the league, and I started in the video room and worked my way up.
Q: At that point, how much did you really know about evaluating basketball talent?
McDonough: I went to University of North Carolina and worked in the athletic department all four years there and obviously was around some very high-level basketball in the ACC and watched the Tar Heels for four straight years. So I thought I was good at it, but a lot of young people think they’re good at it. Then I got put in the Celtics video room and just watched as much film as I could, you know, trying to get ready for the draft. I just kind of immersed myself in it, and the best thing that happened for me was (Celtics President of Basketball Operations) Danny Ainge came in and started asking me a lot of questions about the video I was watching. You could tell he really took an interest in seeing me develop and getting my thoughts and from there it just kind of took off.
Q: How much are big data and analytics changing sports on both the personnel side and the business side?
McDonough: The analytics are having a huge impact on both sides. On the business side, I'm certainly not an expert there, but I know you're seeing things like how to best price your seats for certain games, some teams are doing differential pricing and things like that. On the basketball side, where I’m much more familiar, you're seeing some things that were more theories 10 years ago, maybe even five years ago as I was getting started in the league, are more widely embraced now. The studies are proving that they're effective and the way you should be doing things. ... It’s more of an organizational emphasis from top to bottom starting with ownership staff and the front office, down to the coaching staff. ... It’s changed how we scout players in the NBA, changed how we look at guys for the draft. I guess everything’s more standardized, you have things that are minute-adjusted, pace adjusted. It's been a tool for me. In Boston we were at the cutting edge of some of that stuff, and certainly guys like (now-Rockets GM) Daryl Morey and (Celtics Assistant GM) Mike Zarren were smarter and further along with it than I am. I learned a lot and we're trying to emphasize that here.
Q: What makes you the right guy to bring success to the Suns?
McDonough: Well, I was fortunate enough to be part of a championship team in Boston and looking back to 2003 when Danny Ainge and I started in Boston, we were kind of in a rough spot. We had three max contracts at the time and the team was pretty good but not great, we certainly weren't a championship contender in my opinion. We had to kind of break it down, acquire draft picks and then build back up, and that took a while. That took four years and we took our lumps along the way, but I was to play a small part of having a team come from the second-worst record in the league with 24 wins one year to an NBA championship the next year. So I guess maybe just the fact that I've done it, I've seen it work. The good news is here, the Suns when I took over in May, were in a much better position than the Celtics were in 2003. ... We can win here. I see the path, obviously it's not going to happen overnight, the team’s been down. But if you build it systematically and make some good decisions and get a little bit lucky along the way, then hopefully you'll be back contending for championships after not too long.
In N.Y., Frank Isola wrote Knicks Dir of Player Personnel Mark Warkentien "could emerge as an important figure" in the team's front office. Isola cited sources as saying that Warkentien is "regarded as a top candidate" to become President & GM Steve Mills' "top lieutenant." Warkentien "is the most logical choice if Mills isn’t looking outside the organization." Mills "has called [Assistant GM Allan] Houston an up-and-coming executive but the former Knick doesn’t have the experience in managing the salary cap." Mills in "some ways is also learning on the fly and needs a more seasoned basketball guy" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/28). Meanwhile, CBSSPORTS.com's Matt Moore wrote of the Knicks' new alternate uniforms, "I'm torn. I'm a fan of bold colors, but the shade winds up seeming way too Syracuse Orange-y" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/25).
CHARLOTTE'S WEB: Basketball HOFer Phil Jackson said Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan has "brought in mostly people that he knows, close friends" and as an owner "sometimes you can't do that." Jackson: "You don't need people who are friends or think alike or your genre of friendship group to be on your staff. You need someone outside of that group." He added, "You don't want someone you can control. You want someone that's going to challenge you and make a distinction by doing that" ("The Seth Davis Show," CAMPUSINSIDERS.com, 10/27).
LUCK OF THE LEPRECHAUN: Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said of first-year coach Brad Stevens, "There's going to be an adjustment for him, his family, and just the lifestyle of NBA vs. college. There's some benefits that you don't have to recruit, but you play a lot of games. And the kind of people and the age of the players you're coaching are different. There's definitely going to be an adjustment period for him, but I think he's got really good support around him in his staff and support from management and ownership" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/28).
In Memphis, Kyle Veazey wrote in the "culture of the Grizzlies’ current front office, dissent is encouraged." Ideas are "submitted with the expressed intent of having people shoot holes in them." Team execs, including CEO & Managing Partner Jason Levien, Dir of Player Personnel & Basketball Development Stu Lash, VP/Basketball Operations John Hollinger, GM Chris Wallace and General Counsel David Mincberg, said that the "goal is simple." It is to "bring enough divergent viewpoints into the decision-making process that every base is covered, every idea vetted to the extreme with open minds" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 10/28).
PELICAN BRIEF: In New Orleans, Nakia Hogan wrote after an offseason that "saw the team rebranded, its home arena renovated, its practice facility built and its roster overhauled, the Pelicans appear to be heading in the right direction." Team Owner Tom Benson said, "The excitement is real with our players and coaches ... The new practice facility and the new improvements to the arena are just a couple of off-the-court improvements we have made that certainly I believe the team is excited about. I believe our fans are also excited about the new talent we have acquired this offseason in addition to the new name, colors and logo." He added, "Our fans want to see that the team is heading in the right direction, and I believe they see that in this team" (NOLA.com, 10/25).
THE SUN ALSO RISES: USA Basketball Chair and former Suns Owner Jerry Colangelo said the Suns "seem to finally have a direction," adding they "seem to have taken some positive steps forward." In Phoenix, Dan Bickley noted though the "local optimism is striking," it "doesn't mesh with the pundits." Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said, "People are embracing the clarity in which we're rebuilding." Bickley wrote the "civic anticipation also confirms the Suns' unique status in Arizona." At their "best, the Suns have transcended their sport and the region." Bickley: "It might even suggest that we are, above all else, a basketball town at heart." The Suns have "gained respect by admitting mistakes that littered the road behind them," as Owner Robert Sarver "has owned up to his own misdoings." Babby: "New people come in and they want to make changes. And I think we did have to make changes" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 10/27).
WEST L.A. FADEAWAY: Lakers C Chris Kaman, who played for the Clippers from '03-10, said of his former team, "I respect what they're doing and what they’ve done, but still, they're nothing like the Lakers. You look up here at all the championships. They're never going to have that." He added, “Before, the owner, Donald Sterling, didn't care about winning. He cared about sharing that luxury money. I think it was all about save as much money as I can, get as much highlight players and still people will come watch. That’s what he did for a long time.” Kaman: "I don’t know if he’s getting older, I don't want to say that out of respect, but I think he is getting older and he wants to see the fruits of his labor and he's willing to spend some more money" (LATIMES.com, 10/28).
Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob yesterday said the cost of as much as $170M to rehabilitate the S.F. piers where the team's new waterfront arena would be located "is a lot higher than we originally started with," according to John Cote of the S.F. CHRONICLE. Lacob said, "It's a big number. But look, we're privately doing this, and we've made the decision we're going to do it. It's more expensive than we thought, but you only live once." Warriors co-Owner Peter Guber said that their "determination extends to navigating San Francisco's fractious politics." Guber: "We've become dyslexic. 'No' means 'on.'" The team is facing "a shrinking and aggressive time frame to get its arena project approved and built in time" for the '17-18 NBA season, when its lease at Oracle Arena in Oakland runs out. Former S.F. Mayor Art Agnos, a leading opponent of the project, said, "At some point, when they get a price, it may be too expensive." Current S.F. Mayor Ed Lee yesterday said that he "was confident the city's financial exposure would not increase." Lee: "I don't think the city can chip in more. I think the numbers are what they are. They rose the last six months. ... We want to support (the Warriors), but we also have limitations on the city. And they know" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/29).
BREAKING THROUGH: In S.F., Ann Killion wrote Warriors G Stephen Curry has had the team's top jersey in sales for three years, but nationally in the past 12 months he "leapt from 26th to 12th in the league." Curry on a trip to China this month was the "second-most popular player behind Kobe Bryant." He received the "second-loudest ovations and was greeted with screams when he was getting on and off buses at the hotels and arenas." Curry's jersey "was sighted everywhere." A Warriors exec said of Curry, "Other than Kobe, he was the Man." Killion noted Curry has "an appeal that makes him compelling to watch." He is a "soft-spoken, two-tattooed player in a look-at-me league." Curry is on the cover of SI's NBA preview, "one of only three athletes to be on the cover twice this year." He also will be "featured in ESPN commercials, including one in the ESPN RV" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/27).
In Baton Rouge, Jaquetta White wrote the Pelicans' opener tomorrow against the Pacers at New Orleans Arena "will be more than just the debut of a rebranded team in a renovated facility." Team officials also hope that it is the start of an era in which the Pelicans and Saints "no longer need to rely on annual cash payments from the state to keep them afloat." The arena underwent a $35M renovation this offseason, the first of a two-phase, $50M improvement "aimed at relieving the state of having to pay annual subsidies to the team." Many of the changes were "made to the arena's club and suite level, which now feature expansive common areas and more diverse dining options." Pelicans President Dennis Lauscha said that the team hopes to cover the $7-10M annual payment that the state "formerly made to the team." He added, "I'm fairly confident these improvements are going to sell the naming rights" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 10/27).
MAGIC THE GATHERING: In Orlando, Mark Schlueb wrote the $1.7M that the Magic could receive from the city to build a sports-and-entertainment complex "will ensure downtown Orlando gets something it badly needs: conference space." Magic sister company SED Development is "negotiating to buy city-owned property across the street" from Amway Center for $12.7M. The company "plans to tear down the buildings" and erect a $100M entertainment complex "with office space, bars, restaurants, retail space, a parking garage and an outdoor-festival plaza." The Magic's plans "already include a hotel and conference center as well." The conference center would be "about 40,000 square feet, able to accommodate at least 1,000 people." The tax money has been "approved by a city advisory board, but it still requires a City Council vote." The overall purchase agreement with the Magic is "expected to go to before the council" Nov. 25 (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/27).
BRIDGE THE GAP: On Long Island, Nick Klopsis reported the "much-anticipated Chase Bridges" at MSG were a "hit with Knicks fans" during Friday's preseason game against the Bobcats. Fans in the section had "nothing but praise for their new seats." Knicks fan Dan Wood said, "It's a great perspective. It's basically a TV perspective, but slightly higher up." Tickets to the bridges range from $110-150 per seat. The North Bridge is "devoted entirely to fan seating; the South Bridge is split between media and fans" (NEWSDAY, 10/27).
GO LOCAL: In N.Y., Jeanette Settembre reported Barclays Center has "expanded its Brooklyn Taste food program just in time for the Nets’ Nov. 1 home opener, upgrading to 55 Brooklyn-based vendors from last season’s 37." Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said, "We want people to come in and taste the best of Brooklyn. Wherever they sit, we want them to be treated like celebrities, whether they’re in a $15 seat or a $1,500 seat." Barclays Center chef Lisa Brefere has worked in conjunction with arena food operator Levy Restaurants to "implement new vendors and selections bringing Brooklyn pride to the palates of hungry ticket-holders" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/27).
As the '13-14 NBA season gets under way, the Nets have proved that a move to Brooklyn -- along with efforts to improve the team and rebrand -- have paid off as the team has nearly tripled its number of social media followers over the last year (Facebook and Twitter). Teams that also made major strides in new followers include the Pacers, Grizzlies, Warriors and Clippers, who each had playoff runs last season. All four of those teams added over 85% of total additions. When analyzing the data by just total additions, popular franchises such as the Bulls and Heat were the only teams to add over three million new followers in this time period. On the opposite end, the teams with the lowest percentage of new followers were popular franchises with a large social media base following that saw disappointing seasons such as the Celtics, Magic, Lakers and Mavericks. Listed below are combined Facebook likes and Twitter followers for NBA teams’ official pages/feeds from October last year, compared to Oct. 25 of this year.NBA TEAM SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWERS THROUGH OCTOBER 25
TEAMFACEBOOK LIKESTWITTER FOLLOWSTOTALTOTAL % +/- Nets1,229,166334,6481,563,814181.9% Pacers454,802255,951710,753138.9% Grizzlies380,216211,374591,590110.1% Clippers1,017,541408,8741,426,415107.4% Bobcats238,665159,324397,98992.0% Warriors623,142283,081906,22388.9% T'Wolves399,400190,894590,29479.7% Rockets911,259292,7301,203,98974.9% Bucks351,387172,603523,99073.0% Kings348,359172,443520,80268.3% Hawks429,294165,150594,44466.2% Pelicans400,733185,939586,67263.3% Wizards237,238178,976416,21460.5% Raptors454,332275,431729,76357.0% Thunder2,257,720604,7542,862,47454.1% Spurs1,915,752477,4912,393,24353.8% 76ers398,700236,164634,86452.3% Trail Blazers538,258195,754734,01246.1% Pistons584,067199,241783,30844.5% Jazz466,729207,425674,15443.5% Bulls9,581,1861,118,37610,699,56241.3% Knicks3,930,358771,1344,701,49240.6% Heat8,799,9741,905,08110,705,05539.5% Nuggets1,112,752237,9371,350,68938.2% Cavaliers1,102,263245,0631,347,32630.8% NBA18,283,3018,438,85126,722,15229.5% Suns903,663218,1881,121,85129.2% Mavericks2,663,937354,2103,018,14718.3% Lakers16,993,8663,420,24920,414,11516.7% Magic1,922,5881,131,8313,054,41915.1% Celtics7,085,7801,261,2648,347,04410.6%