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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

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Charles Barkley Announces He Will Retire From TV After Next Season

“Next year, I am just going to retire after 25 years, and I just wanted to say thank you and I wanted y’all to hear it from me first.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Screenbrad from NBA TV with Charles Barkley
Screengrab: NBA TV

Charles Barkley is not waiting. After voicing his frustration several times with the way the media rights negotiations have been handled by his current employer, Warner Bros. Discovery/TNT, Barkley is no longer waiting for them to make a decision, he has announced his own decision.

After Game 4 of the NBA Finals concluded between the Dallas Mavericks and the Boston Celtics, Barkley took time on the postgame show on NBA TV to announce no matter what happens, he will retire as an NBA commentator after next season, which will be his 25th with TNT.

“I’ve been thinking guys,” Barkley said “I want to say this, because you guys are my family. I really love TNT, all the people who work here, NBA Television. You guys have been great to me for 24 years and I just want to say thank you to my entire NBA family. I love you guys.

“There’s been a lot of noise the last few months and I just want to say, I’ve talked to all of the other networks, but I ain’t going nowhere other than TNT, but I have made the decision myself, no matter what happens, next year is going to be my last year on television. And I just want to say thank you to my NBA family, you guys have been great to me, my heart is full with joy and gratitude.

“But I am going to pass the baton at the end of next year. I hope the NBA stays with TNT, but for me personally, I wanted you guys to hear it from me, because I am not doing any more interviews, don’t y’all be calling me, nobody calling me, I am not talking about this again. But I wanted to tell my NBA TV and TNT family that I am not going to another network, but I am going to pass the baton to either Jamal Crawford, Vince Carter or you Steve [Smith]. Next year, I am just going to retire after 25 years, and I just wanted to say thank you and I wanted y’all to hear it from me first.”

The NBA’s current media rights agreements with Disney/ESPN and WBD/TNT expire after next season. Many reports have said the NBA will soon sign agreements with Disney, NBCUniversal and Amazon to be the league’s new broadcasting partners beginning with the 2025-26 season. The Wall Street Journal has reported the total value of the new media rights packages is expected to be $76 billion over 11 years.

Rumors of a possible fourth media package being made in order for the NBA to keep its 40-year relationship with Turner Sports going have surfaced, but it looks like either way there will be changes coming to Inside the NBA, the award-winning show Barkley is a part of along with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal.

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FOX Sports Moving UFL Games to Friday Nights in 2025

“The regular season average television audience of 816,000 was more than 30% higher than the pace from the previous year.”

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The United Football League logo

FOX Sports CEO Eric Shanks recently confirmed a report from Deadline last month that said United Football League games would move to Friday nights in 2025. The Deadline report had said FOX planned to replace WWE Smackdown with sports coverage from college football and basketball as well as games from the UFL.

Shanks’ comments were made during a Zoom with reporters about the news of their new agreement with the NTT IndyCar Series. SI’s Mike Mitchell reported that the UFL worked with FOX to move the games so they could complete their auto racing deal.

Shanks said many of FOX’s UFL games would be moved to Friday night when asked about the change but did not provide more detail.

The UFL was split between FOX and ABC/ESPN this season. The regular season average television audience of 816,000 was more than 30% higher than the pace from the previous year and the recent conference championship games were up 57% over the averages from the USFL and XFL last season. According to Mitchell, the league saw a large increase in the 18-49 demographic on FOX compared to USFL programming in 2023.

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Report: WNBA Could Quadruple Media Rights Fees

Under the current structure, the WNBA makes a reported $60 million annually from its media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, Amazon’s Prime Video, CBS and Ion.

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(Illustration) | Courtesy: Women's National Basketball Association

The NBA is reportedly in the process of formalizing new media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal and Amazon’s Prime Video expected to be worth a collective $76 billion over the course of the deal. At the same time, the NBA is also negotiating media rights for the WNBA in which it has an ownership stake of approximately 60%. The WNBA could quadruple its annual media rights fee within these negotiations, according to a new report from Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports.

Under the current structure, the WNBA makes a reported $60 million annually from its media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, Amazon’s Prime Video, CBS and Ion. Throughout the season thus far, the WNBA has seen its ratings increase, drawing more than 1 million viewers across several matchups throughout the regular season. Moreover, discussion surrounding the league is further assimilating into the sports vernacular surrounding stars such as Caitlin Clark, A’ja Wilson, Sabrina Ionescu and Breanna Stewart.

Ben Strauss of The Washington Post outlined how the NBA is in the process of considering one total bid from media companies that combines the value of media rights for the NBA and WNBA. With the league itself determining the value of media rights for the WNBA, he argues that it could either be “rocket fuel” for the league or that its augmented popularity “is more of an afterthought.” The possibility exists that it could be a combination of both extremes as well, but by having the league negotiate its media rights deal, quantifying the true value could be a more difficult task.

In a report from earlier in the year, McCarthy stated that the WNBA is likely to negotiate its own separate media rights deal if it is not receiving the remuneration that it wants. The WNBA attained its most-watched opening month in league history, averaging 1.32 million viewers for games across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, Ion and NBA TV. Moreover, the league had its most-attended opening month in its 26-year history with 400,000 fans at games through the end of May and a rise in sales of WNBA-branded merchandise by 236% year-over-year.

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