When Matt Bollero, the basketball operations assistant who pitched the idea of SportVU to the Timberwolves, initially began talking with STATS LLC, he was interested in creating a scouting tool that would be a place where the team could access everything from camera data to scouting notes.
He called down to New Orleans, where the Saints had worked with STATS to create something they called I.C.E., which is short for “Interactive Collaboration and Evaluation.” They were the NFL's beta test for the platform, which they used to create virtual player cards for everyone in the draft for the first time in 2009. Each card contained analytics, medical reports, video and so much more.
Bollero discussed I.C.E. with the Saints and then proceeded to work with STATS to adapt it to basketball, and in doing so, the Timberwolves were on the cutting edge of the SportVU system's use in the NBA. Even though they were in the third wave of
teams to install the cameras, they added another layer that teams could elect to use along with the output.
Throughout the summer and fall of 2011, Bollero met with representatives from STATS to tailor I.C.E. to basketball's needs. Even though it was being created for basketball as a whole, the Timberwolves were the sport's test case, and as such, they were able to affect its creation with their own wants and needs. There's camera data, statistics, scouts' notes – everything a team might need to evaluate its personnel. After hammering out the details, I.C.E. debuted for the 2011-12 college season, and it was ready to go when the NBA lockout ended.
Now, half of the teams that have purchased SportVU also use the scouting tool to provide a one-stop shop for all of their basketball information, and while the camera data is shared among teams, the scouting notes remain proprietary to each team that inputs them.
All of the sudden, they can shoot: On Tuesday, I wrote about the Timberwolves' struggles all season with long-range shooting, and then they went to Philadelphia and made me look like an idiot. Thank goodness I pointed out that they'd improved on Friday, and that maybe it was becoming a trend.
In their 105-88 win over the 76ers on Tuesday, the Timberwolves shot 52.0 percent from long range and 53.2 percent from the field, their highest marks in either category on the season. In fact, it was only the second time they'd shot more than 40 percent from long range (the first time was Friday).
So despite their scoring falling off in the second half – at halftime, the Timberwolves were on pace to score 130 points on the game – the team finished the night looking, I'd imagine, like the team Rick Adelman has been dreaming of in recent weeks. Six of the 11 players who logged minutes in the game scored at least one 3-pointer, and of those six, only Kevin Love and J.J. Barea shot less than 50 percent from long-range.
The team also finished the night with seven players in double-digit scoring, of which Kevin Love was not a part. He finished with six points, 10 rebounds and five assists, which proves that the Timberwolves can win when Love isn't scoring. When Alexey Shved (17 points) and Josh Howard (16 points) lead the team in scoring, Love is second in assists and Malcolm Lee logs 10 points in 18 minutes – and they win – well, that early-season magic might be back, at least in part.