Grantland's Zach Lowe put together a really interesting story yesterday about the NBA's foray into "the Holy Grail" of sports analytics: health and medical information to inform injury prevention.
Or as Golden State Warriors assistant general manager Kirk Lacob said recently at the San Francisco Sports Analytics Innovation Summit, predict injury outcomes.
The entire article -- and budding movement as a whole -- is really interesting on its own, but of particular interest to us is the Golden State Warriors' involvement.
The Warriors rested Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry last March after data from Catapult devices (used in practices) and SportVU cameras indicated their bodies had reached extreme fatigue levels, as Ken Berger of CBS Sports reported during the Finals...Several teams with respected medical personnel, including the Hawks, Warriors, Pistons, and Bucks, nonetheless overhauled their training staffs over the summer in search of cutting-edge researchers.
On a really basic level, this helps us better understand why the Warriors decided not to renew their training staff, as Diamond Leung reported last week: it very much looks like the move was done in the name of progress as much as, if not more than, any underlying drama. On a bit deeper level, this is one more reason to appreciate Chris Cohan's greatest achievement as Warriors owner: selling the team to Joe Lacob.
Kirk Lacob discussed the issue of injury prevention/prediction during his talk at the SF analytics conference and opened by noting that the Warriors has the fourth-fewest games lost to injury in the NBA. The change in training staff included the addition of positions dedicated to managing this new wave of medical information. This also underscores the value of the Warriors' purchase and relocation of a D-League team: as Lowe notes, NBA teams are testing out new technologies with D-League teams in order to determine their efficacy so having control of a team allows for greater interaction with new data and how to implement the technology.
Of course, the value of this stuff -- as with SportVU and other analytics tools sports folks are using -- is still very unclear, both in terms of how you communicate it internally and how the league will manage privacy issues (as Lowe alludes to, can you imagine what kind of burden this kind of data would add to someone slapped with the "injury prone" tag?). Nevertheless, the Warriors are taking advantage of their relatively newfound popularity and location in the Bay Area to explore and invest in the best of what exists in order to give their team the maximum edge possible as they pursue a second consecutive championship. And if they are able to use this information to help keep players fresh for peak performance for even one or two more playoff games, that could make a difference in terms of their ability to repeat as champions.
Now...if they can just find a way to get 70+ games out of Andrew Bogut, somebody should be declared a genius.