Where the NBA Goes For Scouting
Synergy CEO explains why NBA teams rely on their service.
SLAM: For this video player, say a video coordinator wanted to provide a player with Chris Bosh’s last 40 field goal attempts. Would the coordinator be able to edit it so that the player could just see those 40 shots and not have to run through the entire play in which the shot was taken?
GB: We don’t do that because that’s more of a fan application. Teams want to how Bosh got open for the shot. They want to see the play that was run so that they can see what they can do as the play unfolds to prevent Bosh from getting the ball in the first place or getting it in such great position or getting any switches that put them at a disadvantage. We’re providing them what the teams want, and what the teams want is the entire possession.
Say one of your players is in a shooting slump. Now, you just want to pull up just the shot, a couple seconds before and a second after. Then what the video coordinator does is he goes to our online editor – he can do it anywhere, at the beach with a 4G card – he can pull up the editor, he can look at 50, 100, 1,000 shots, he can start watching spot-ups. Say the player’s spot-ups have plummeted. He can create an edit for his coaches and scouts to look at to try to figure out what he’s doing wrong. He pulls up an edit of that player’s spot-ups and then he starts watching them. You pull up all of his misses and you start looking at them. You’re watching them, you find a good example…as soon as you find it you set a new ‘in and out’ point, you trim the clip – takes a second or two – and you move on the next. When you’re done, you have an edit of all the player’s shots and you can send that to anybody within your organization. It comes into their Synergy inbox, they click on it and they can watch it. You can be on the beach doing this and as soon as you’re done, you click ‘send’ and within seconds every coach, every scout is watching your edit of those player’s shots.
Typically, [video coordinators] don’t trim clips, though. They tend to want to see the whole play except for special projects as I just described.
SLAM: Is there a difference in how you provide this kind of information whether it’s for a tablet or for a laptop?
GB: No, it doesn’t. We’re just a website. So, you can surf on your iPad or you can surf to it on a big PC with a 27-inch monitor – it doesn’t matter. Once you get to the website, you can see all our visual tools, our views that display the players, teams and games. There are different tabs for offense, defense, normal stats. We have an interactive shot chart that you can filter for just players, starters, the bench, first quarter. It’s all interactive. And you can click on a number on any view anywhere and the video that corresponds to whatever you’re looking at starts to play. It’s an instantaneous edit. Without Synergy, the video coordinator is spending all night long creating an edit for the staff and by the time morning comes around maybe they’ve already made decisions and they got the video too late. That’s the real world; that’s what all the other companies provide. You have to stay up all night and build that edit yourself. With us, you can follow your nose in seconds and look at anything you want.
The only limitation, which we’re addressing literally as we speak, is when you look at this on an Android or an iPad – any portable device – when you click on any of the numbers or any place where you would normally expect to get an edit, you don’t get one yet. Those operating systems are alien; they’re different. You can surf to our site because it’s built in HTML, which works everywhere. But the video is very specific. We’re using our own video player that we wrote for PCs and Mac OS 10. We need to write an identical one in HTML5, which is not a big deal. We just haven’t done it yet. We’re currently writing that. As soon as that is finished, then the last piece of the puzzle will occur, where a coach can surf anywhere on our website on an iPad and click anywhere, and our video will start playing.
SLAM: What have you found about teams’ interest in using iPads for scouting/player development purposes?
GB: We’ve had feedback from teams. Again, all the teams are using our product. We get requests about the iPad all the time, and they’re all anxious to watch video [on it]. So, lots of teams are using the iPad. It’s the latest, greatest fun thing to have. Coaches are the first guys to have a cell phone, the first guys to have an iPad. They use it. The players all have them, too. The players get edits like crazy from the staff using the Synergy system, sending them edits of the guy they’re going to guard, or looking at their own minutes in the previous game. All of that is happening; they’re just not able to watch the video yet on the iPad. They’re watching it other ways, usually on laptops.
Up until when iPads came out, every player had a laptop. They played the games on the airplane. Now, the iPads are everywhere because everyone has bought them for personal use. They lend themselves really well for watching video, as everybody knows. So, teams already have them. They might as well do some work on them, too. In the past, people bring DVD players – the little portable DVD players – and some of the old-time coaches were resistant to that. But things evolve. So, then everybody was using the DVD players. Well, that’s starting to fade away because there are no more physical disks. Everything is going in Synergy’s direction, which is online, digital files, come to you streaming or come to you to download to our hard drive so that you don’t even have to be online with 4G cards. Everybody is going to be able to stream video – you have four megabytes. Our video is 1.5 megabytes and it’s amazingly clear. You can go full-screen with it on a big monitor and it’s like you’re watching television. With a 4G iPad, they’re going to get gorgeous video. The stage is totally set for moving in that direction.
The tablet market is exploding. It’s just lagging a little bit behind the iPad. But it’s also exploding and those devices will be used as well. You can buy whatever size screen you want. Androids are gaining ground, as you know. They’re wildly popular. The NBA teams that proliferates throughout….everybody has them. They surf to our site all the time when they’re in their office or around their laptop or whatever. So, we have to imagine they’re surfing so much to our site on their iPad now. That’s why we’re getting so many calls to watch video [on the iPad]. And our response to that is, “very soon.” We’re programming the player right now.
SLAM: Are you noticing this kind of trend in other sports?
GB: I’m not noticing it first-hand, but I have to surmise that the same thing is going on in other sports, in terms of teams having them. But the question is, is there a company like Synergy where they can, on the spur of the moment, look up information. Where you can pull up the situation that just came up, you look at every missed shot of a player. It’s a miracle. It used to be that an hour or two later your video staff had to do it. If you’re on the road, you don’t even have them. You have your one video coordinator, who has to get busy and pull all those clips out and watch them.
By the time he’s done, you’re off the bus, you’re in the meeting – it’s too late. With Synergy, everything is real-time. You can investigate anything that occurs to you. It can make the difference between the win and the loss. That’s the nature of coaching – you have to get information, adjust your game plan, be more effective. If you’re more effective, you have a chance to win. If you have an iPad that you carry with you all the time versus a laptop, which you might not, and you can surf to the situation that comes to mind in your discussion with your coaches, you can see the data and watch the video to verify what you’re going to do. That’s a huge advantage.