Posted by Jeffrey Sanders on March 1st, 1:55 pm
PHOENIX — Suns guard Eric Bledsoe was a full participant in practice on Saturday for the first time since undergoing meniscus surgery on his knee, but there’s still no set return date.
“He said the knee felt really good and has recovered well every time he has pushed himself harder,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said. “Today, we did primarily 5-on-5 and it will be interesting to see how he responds tomorrow.
“He has done well,” McDonough added. “You still see the explosiveness, see the burst and the ability to get by his guy and finish at the rim. We are optimisitic he will help us down the stretch.”
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Tags: Eric Bledsoe
Posted by Jeffrey Sanders on March 1st, 12:49 pm
PHOENIX — The Suns signed 6-foot-10 forward Shavlik Randolph and released little-used center Slava Kravtsov Saturday morning. Randolph was recently playing overseas in China where he was averaging 22.3 points and 12.3 rebounds a game in six appearances. He just returned from China when he found out about the news.
“I just got back and was just working out in Miami when my agent called me, and I ended up meeting with Ryan (McDonough) in Raleigh,” Randolph said. “They wanted to bring me in and work me out, one thing led to another and I ended up staying.”
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Tags: Phoenix Suns
Posted by Ryan Weisert on March 1st, 12:00 pm
BOSTON — So much of the focus at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is on analyzing and optimizing performance on the court. SportVu cameras capture players’ every movement in real-time. Catapult smart shirts measure a player’s heart rate, total exertion, and distance covered. There’s even a basketball which can connect to your smartphone and make you a better free throw shooter. But that’s only one side of the technological and analytical revolution that Sloan highlights. The other, less-prominent but still vital side is the revolution in how teams learn about their fans, sell tickets, and actually make money.
The Portland Trail Blazers are enjoying one of their most successful seasons since Brandon Roy had two good knees. As you might expect, their ticket sales are up across the board. But after a closer look, it’s becomes clear that Portland’s uptick in on-court success doesn’t come close to fully explaining their revenue growth. For that, they have Sq1 to thank.
Sq1 is a data-driven sales and marketing optimization company with offices in Houston, Dallas, and Portland. Simply put, Sq1 uses data and technology to help businesses make more money. For the Trail Blazers, this meant increasing single-game ticket sales. So how did Sq1 deliver such impressive results so quickly? They focused on the fan.
Anyone who has ever tried to buy a single-game ticket to any major sporting event knows how unnecessarily difficult it can be. Seating maps, special offers, and clunky e-commerce take buyers in a million different directions when all they are hoping to do is buy a ticket and enjoy a game. Sq1 tapped into Portland’s dynamic pricing engine, cut through all the noise, and simplified the process. They made purchasing a ticket online more user-friendly and put in place advanced resources to generate a bevy of valuable data and help the Trail Blazers understand their fans’ buying behavior better than any team in the NBA. I had the opportunity to sit down with Vince Ircandia, VP of Business Operations and Analytics for the Trail Blazers, and Gabe Winslow, a Partner at Sq1, to discuss their partnership and the future of NBA ticketing.
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Tags: Phoenix Suns
Posted by Ryan Weisert on March 1st, 8:00 am
BOSTON — For as odd as it is to walk around a massive convention center, wading through a sea of over-eager students, journalists, Type-A millionaires, and certified numbers wizards, there are unique experiences to be had at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference that more than make up for the strangeness. You could share a Zen-filled escalator ride with Phil Jackson. You might fight over the last peanut butter cookie with Nate Silver. Or maybe you’ll have a deep conversation about ornithology with George Karl while waiting in the world’s longest bathroom line. If you can stand wearing a suit and fighting the ever-creeping jet lag, Sloan is one of the most interesting and innovative experiences in sports. Here are some notes from Day 1 of the 2014 Conference.
In-Game Innovations: Genius or Gimmick
This was by far my favorite panel of the day. Moderated by TrueHoop’s own Kevin Arnovitz, the panel of 2013 NBA Coach of the Year George Karl, baseball stat god Bill James, Houston Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey, and football coaching pioneer Kevin Kelley were candid and entertaining about how analytics has shaped the way games are coached and played. George Karl was the standout star. He gave great insight into his coaching philosophy, acknowledged that his propensity for speaking his mind has cost him jobs, and put forth some pretty awesome suggestions on innovations the NBA could implement right now. These included a four-point shot, 40 minute games, and a mid-season single-elimination tournament for all 30 NBA teams. I also really enjoyed Kevin Kelley, better known as the high school football coach who never punts, discuss the numbers, logic, and research that goes into his seemingly-cowboy style of coaching.
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Tags: Phoenix Suns
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on March 1st, 2:09 am
PHOENIX — An hour before the Suns faced the Pelicans on Friday night, Goran Dragic seemed doubtful to lace them up. He failed to go through shootaround because of an ankle sprain, and Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek wondered how to gauge the truth when the point guard was undoubtedly going to tell him he was able to play. After all, the Slovenian’s parents were visiting U.S. Airways Center, taking in a rare opportunity to watch their son live.
Hornacek consulted with trainer Aaron Nelson after Dragic claimed he was good to go.
“Aaron goes, ‘I can usually tell when he’s kind of fibbing about it,’ ” Hornacek said. “He goes, ‘I think he’s good.’ ”
Turns out, it was a solid decision. Phoenix won 116-104 behind Dragic’s 40 points on 14-of-21 shooting. By the end of the late finish, Dragic left to MVP chants as he finished off New Orleans at the foul stripe and then left for the final 10 seconds to join a rowdy Phoenix bench.
“I never thought they would cheer that for me,” he said later. “I heard that when I was here for Steve (Nash). It’s a great feeling especially, those four free throws when the whole crowd stand up and cheer. It’s something special in my career I am probably going to remember my whole life.”
How Dragic did it so effortlessly was clearly a combination of things.
For one, Dragic can score in a number of different ways. He hit spot-up threes and other deep balls off switches on pick-and-rolls. When he was guarded physically by starting Pelicans point guard Brian Roberts, Dragic used screens to cut between two players, his most impressive play came on a spin move that split a thin gap when he seemed wrapped up by two New Orleans players. When Dragic had a second-year pro in Austin Rivers guarding him, he bullied his way under the basket.
Did I mention he was looking like a scratch an hour before the game?
“All-NBA guys, they play through things and they play well through things,” Hornacek said. “They don’t sit out, bumps and bruises. Goran’s always been that way. Heck, he cracked his head earlier in the season and he wanted to go out in the second half, and I don’t know he could see what was going on out there so we had to take him out.
“I think everybody knows about Goran Dragic now. Or they should.”
It didn’t help that New Orleans’ defense was worse than broken.
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Tags: Goran Dragic · New Orleans Pelicans · Phoenix Suns Analysis
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on February 28th, 11:19 pm
PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns won’t make the playoffs like this.
They shouldn’t, at least.
But in the regular season when Goran Dragic puts in a career night on a bum ankle, maybe this is what happens regularly.
Phoenix got away with a much-needed win, rallying to end a brutal third quarter and then riding Dragic’s 40 points to a 116-104 victory against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. Dragic, who earned a well-heard MVP chant at the end of the game, won’t pull out games like this every night. But he’s done enough to keep the Suns pumping along, even as the rest of their machinery begins to wear out.
Phoenix created some separation in the Western Conference playoff race as the Grizzlies put a scare into the Oklahoma City Thunder before falling 113-107, and that’s settling news for the present — it’s a long season to finish out.
On Friday, the Pelicans were injected with a sense of purpose with Anthony Davis playing after suffering a shoulder injury, Tyreke Evans’ first start in 50 games and Evans’ escape from an elevator. They kept it a game through the first half and came out of the halftime break on edge.
Dragic and Brian Roberts were assessed technicals after getting tangled to start the third quarter, and after the dust-up, New Orleans took a few more shots at the Dragon. It was a message, one not well-received by Phoenix at first. The Suns only grew softer as the Pelicans bodied into their opponents off the ball, no matter if they were two feet from the hoop or 32.
The good news: the Suns charged back and brought a lifeless crowd back from the morgue, erasing a 79-69 deficit with a 12-2 run – all by Dragic and Marcus Morris – in the final 2:21 of the third quarter. The tough-guy lineup of Dragic, Ish Smith, P.J. Tucker and the Morris twins rallied Phoenix to beat the confidence out of the briefly-swaggy Pelicans.
And with the breath of the Dragon, the beaks of the Pelicans cooked.
Dragic set another career high, scoring in his eight 30-point game of the year on an ankle that kept him out of morning shootaround and made him slow to announce he was good to go Friday. He hit 14-of-21 shots and finished the game out at the foul stripe before exiting to a cheerier crowd than would have otherwise been witnessing a struggle.
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Tags: New Orleans Pelicans · Phoenix Suns Recap