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Tom Thibodeau: “If you follow the analytics blindly, you’d be making a mistake“

Rest assured, Thibs still loves Net Rating.

Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Nobody is convincing me it isn’t a story to promote the wonderful work done by the NBA and the folks from Synergy Sport, but here we are.

16 cameras in each NBA arena! Ball-tracking at 60 frames per second! Enhanced subscriptions! OPPONENTS DOMINATION!

(For what’s worth, Stefan Bondy got the scoop that only 17 of the 30 NBA franchises are subscribed to the Synergy Sports system of cameras, which features on all 30 stadiums. Just saying.)

The Knicks, but the sound of that New York Post story and, let’s be honest, just by the mere fact that they have a local outlet writing about it, are one of those 17 teams paying bucks to SS for the tracking system and the data it yields daily from all NBA courts across the nation.

To be fair, if you’re a bit nerdy it makes for a nice, quick, touching-on-the-surface-of-things read. If you’re a proclaimed nerd, however, you won’t get any new information from that PR-influenced story.

The main takeaways: 1) Immanuel Quickley is Jrue Holiday Lite, 2) you should force Tyrese Haliburton to his off-hand and keep him away from the rim, and 3) Tom Thibodeau knew about all of this since Pat Riley started to comb his hair in NYC.

“When Pat Riley came here, he brought that many, many years ago, and now it’s gone to a different level,” Thibodeau is quoted saying in Bondy’s story. “Like most things, they keep getting better and better at it, and when you add in technology along with the analytics, you’re getting information a lot quicker.”

That’s the only good thing about this whole Synergy Sports system, which is certainly not fooling Thibs. More numbers? More stats? More analysis? More footage? More frames? Who cares!

“If you follow the analytics blindly, you’d be making a mistake,” Thibs claimed.

For Thibodeau, human brains come before AI and technology. “It’s, ‘OK, what is what do you? what [does] your experience teach you and tell you?’ What do the experts—coaches—say?” he explained, “and then you’re using the numbers to either confirm or to make you look at something differently.”

Thibodeau thinks stuff like this tracking system and advanced analytics make for “a very important part of decision-making,” adding “There’s certain numbers that you’ve looked at, or I know I have for a long time and I still look at, but I’ve added a lot of things.”

We believe you, coach, and Evan Fournier surely do too!

Grumpy Old Thibs attacked the rim next: “Before, you would have to do things manually—it might take you eight man hours to get the information you were looking for.”

Conceded Thibodeau: “Now, you can hit a button, and you got it in a second! It’s a great aid, but...”

Finished the coach: “The bottom line is you still have to put the work into each and every day.”

Believe me, I need no ChatGPT to endearingly believe that’s what my man Thibs preaches.