The Boston Celtics have somehow allowed the Atlanta Hawks to take them to the edge in their first-round playoff series, and have to win at home Sunday to advance.
Still, they have made a huge improvement from last year, and part of the reason behind their improvement is the man Danny Ainge calls their "secret weapon," a guy named Mike Zarren, a stats freak who has really revealed a lot of things about the Celtics that they didn't already know through the magic of, well, obsessive observation.
The Celtics are somewhat skeptical, but they like him because, as Ainge says, "I donât think itâs realistic to think that a statistical model will ever be foolproof in basketball because there are so many variables, but I do think it can help us.â
It doesn't hurt that he's nuts for the Celtics.
He would like to put sensors in shoes and in the floors, which would be interesting, but it would be very cool to put some on or in the ball, too, and then to analyze where it goes. You could do this in practice, even if the NBA didn't allow it in games. You could take it a step further and put sensors on wristbands and monitor which hands are more active and productive, and the correlate all of that with some sensors in the net.
This is the sort of thing that some bright Duke students could apply themselves too (hint, hint).