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Celtics To Add Advanced Stats To TV Broadcasts

Jason Barrett

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The science and stats side of Mike Gorman’s brain could use a special app when he’s out to breakfast with Brian Scalabrine.

The Celtics TV announcer hears a fount of advanced analytical jargon when his Comcast partner builds steam. Out pour the numbers, categories and above all the philosophy, lots of emerging philosophy.

Even someone as connected to the sport for as long as Gorman admits that you have to start thinking a little differently under the circumstances.

“It’s hard to have breakfast with Scal without hearing it,” Gorman said recently. “He really believes in this, and a lot of people believe in it.”

Count the Celtics of coach Brad Stevens and assistant general manager Michael Zarren, who heads the team’s blooming analytical wing, in that group. Comcast, with an offer of help from the team, is delving deeper into advanced stats analysis this season.

Scalabrine tapped into a handful of popular categories during the C’s preseason trip through Milan and Madrid. Offensive and defensive rating (both measuring points per 100 possessions) were his two main reference points. Comcast also plans to draw from the categories of rebound percentage and pace (possessions per game).

For now the truly deep stuff — exotic numbers like player efficiency rating and usage rate — will be left alone. But Scalabrine, in particular, has been flashed a green light that used to be yellow on the broadcast.

“I did it all a bit last year, and they didn’t really want to do it,” he said. “They wanted me to dumb it down a bit.

“But now the stats I’m using, I’m going to use all year long. I’ll really get into points per possession. It’s the most relevant stat. It gives me a chance to illustrate just how effective Isaiah Thomas is on the pick-and-roll, for example. But that’s the extent of it,” he said. “Maybe as we move on we’ll use more (advanced statistics), but for the layman it also has to be clear enough to be understood.”

The Celtics have held at least two meetings with Comcast to discuss what will and what won’t work, with Zarren the sounding board. He’s one of the better-versed executives in the league in advanced stats, to the point where his reputation has spread beyond the NBA. He’s one of the annual stars at MIT’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

He considers it natural to share that knowledge with the C’s broadcast partner.

“We won’t do stats research for them, but if they want to run things by us, we’re happy to work with them,” Zarren said. “But I can’t see them getting into something their viewers can’t latch onto.”

At dinner in a restaurant near the Milan Central Train Station last week, Zarren, director of player personnel Austin Ainge, Gorman and Scalabrine were in deep conversation. This time even Scal asked questions, because wherever Zarren goes, so does his classroom.

“Sure. It’s a way to help our broadcast team,” Zarren said. “But we also have to keep it on a certain level. I don’t want to minimize any of it, but at the same time it’s still basketball.

“But if you’re going to talk about the best team in the league, then you have to go to points per possession.”

That’s points per 100 possessions, to be precise. For example, the NBA champion Golden State Warriors topped the offensive and defensive ratings last season. Their defensive excellence to the contrary, the Warriors finished in the middle of the league in scoring defense, with opponents scoring an average of 99.6 points per game. An utterly useless stat, as far as Ainge is concerned. The better number is possessions per game, which measures pace.

“If you score more, because of your pace you’re going to give up more,” Ainge said, also skewering another traditional stat for its inability to reflect 3-point shooting in a league that has gone downtown. “Field goal percentage is one of the most irrelevant stats there is.”

Gorman, though, knows that modern statistics can be equally irrelevant, simply because they don’t translate.

“We still have to communicate with the average guy,” Gorman said. “It’s a good thing, though, and it reflects what’s changing. You can’t watch a game now without seeing an ad for a place like DraftKings.”

Scalabrine, in the meantime, is looking for new and accessible ways to introduce the numbers.

“When the Celtics started talking to us about it, it was right up my alley,” he said. “You never move away from the traditional stuff. You just add more.”

Scalabrine’s analytics education was like that — a matter of radically adding more.

“I first got into it (playing) in Chicago,” he said. “If I wanted to have a conversation with (coach) Tom Thibodeau, then I had to know what he was talking about.”

To read the rest of the article visit the Boston Herald where it was originally published

Sports TV News

Robert Griffin III: ESPN Provided Chances to Showcase Versatility

“ESPN has put me in spots that have allowed me to showcase that and put me with the right teams to really fully maximize my own ability and add to the broadcast.”

Ricky Keeler

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Robert Griffin III

Former Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III never really thought he would be in broadcasting at this stage in his career. However, fans would not get to hear him on Saturdays analyzing college football games or on Mondays doing Monday Night Countdown on ESPN if it weren’t for one person.

Griffin III was a guest on The Dave Pasch Podcast this week and he said that broadcasting was never really on the radar and after a few years, he finally gave in to his current agent to give it a try.

“To be honest with you, this was never on my radar whether I played 20 years or 5 years. It wasn’t something I ever thought this was going to be an avenue for me. I say this with all good intentions. I was bothered for 3 years by my current agent, Mark Lepsetler out of New York. He just saw something in me, felt like I could do this and do it at a really high level for a long time.

“After 3 years, I finally gave in. I did an audition with FOX. ESPN heard about the audition. I did an audition with ESPN and the rest is history.

“I just think you have to be yourself. Whenever you step foot on screen or in a TV booth, you got to be yourself because that is the easiest thing to replicate. Over the last year and a half, I’ve been able to do that, have fun, do it in a unique way that is unique to myself. I am beyond blessed to work with Mark Jones, Kim Belton, and Quint Kessenich on that crew because we make it fun and you kind of see that on the broadcast.”

Belton is the producer on the Saturday games that Griffin III calls with Jones and Kessenich and Griffin III mentioned that he has impressed with how he and Belton see the game the same and he credits Belton for helping him transition to being in tbe booth.

“Kim has been in the business 41 years. He’s been doing it, doing it for a long time. My agent told me when I was partnered with Kim that this was the  best possible scenario. He does an amazing job of helping guys transition from going on the field into the broadcast booth. I looked at him as a teacher.

“As I’ve gone on to work with other producers in other studio shows or other aspects, there’s a defining quality about Kim. He is like the boss, but he just commands a certain level of respect that I enjoy the conversation with Kim throughout the game. When we are talking and I see something and he sees it, we see the game eerily similar. For a basketball guy to really see football the way that he does, it is extremely impressive and I enjoy that part of it.”

Griffin III told Pasch that he enjoys both calling games as an analyst and doing studio work as well as he knows the more versatile a broadcaster can be, it can only help them.

“For me, I enjoy both studio and the games. It’s extremely fun doing NFL and also being able to do college has been really fun. As you know in this business Dave, the more you can do, the more versatility you can have, the more opportunities that come your way. I’ve just been blessed enough that ESPN has put me in spots that have allowed me to showcase that and put me with the right teams to really fully maximize my own ability and add to the broadcast, whatever broadcast it might be, whether it’s studio or on the games…I’m here to entertain, add to the games, and be a storyteller.”  

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Sports TV News

Tom Crean Returns to ESPN As College Basketball Analyst

“You look around, you realize everybody is working at an extremely rapid pace. I might get emails for the next morning’s ‘SportsCenter’ at 2:30 in the morning.”

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Tom Crean is returning to ESPN as a college basketball analyst.

A report from Front Office Sports details Crean returning to the worldwide leader after previously working for the network during the 2017-2018.

“The game has changed completely,” Crean said. “There’s a 1,000-foot level of what people want you to think this is all about. But here’s the 10,000-30,000-foot level of what it really is. I don’t think I will have any fear of talking like that. There’s so many things changing around the game with how you recruit. And I had to live it.”

Crean was fired as the head coach of Georgia after four seasons on the job. He added that the work ethic shown by ESPN employees is a motivator for working for the network.

“You look around, you realize everybody is working at an extremely rapid pace. I might get emails for the next morning’s ‘SportsCenter’ at 2:30 in the morning.”

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Sports TV News

ESPN Plans 20 Hours of College Football Playoff Selection Coverage

The College Football Playoff teams will be unveiled at 12:15 PM ET, with the rest of the New Year’s Six matchup being revealed at 2:30 PM.

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ESPN has more than 20 hours of studio coverage planned for the selection of the College Football Playoff.

The College Football Playoff teams will be unveiled at 12:15 PM ET, with the rest of the New Year’s Six matchup being revealed at 2:30 PM. Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, Joey Galloway, Jesse Palmer, and David Pollack will be on the main set as the selections are revealed.

Several other personalities will join the show including analysts Greg McElroy, Robert Griffin III, and Dan Mullen, in addition to Paul Finebaum, Matt Barrie, and Chris Fowler.

ACC Network and SEC Network will also separately produce shows discussing the bowl selections.

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