Jaren Jackson Jr.’s stats they are not biased. A former NBA scorer explains the process

Jaren Jackson Jr.’s stats they are not biased. A former NBA scorer explains the process

This weekend, in a few hours, Grizzlies center Years Jackson Jr. he was accused and then vindicated of benefiting from hometown scoring bias that inflated his defensive stats. A viral Reddit post claimed that the Grizzlies’ scorers were potentially involved in a conspiracy to record all boundary calls while Jackson stole or blocked shots to further his Defensive Player of the Year case. It spread quickly before being debunked by reporters who saw footage from Jackson and the league’s blogs. (Reddit has now labeled the post “misleading”).

The saga highlighted how quickly attractive misinformation can spread and how good Jackson really is on the defensive end. But it also showed how little is understood about the league’s scoring process.

There is no single scorer N.B.A games, as the Reddit post claimed, but rather a four-person team that works in direct communication with league officials during a game to produce the play-by-play stats and data seen in any box score .

To understand more about the process, The Athletic interviewed a former point guard who worked for two different NBA teams over a nine-year span in the 2010s. We granted him anonymity so he could talk openly about the process, what really happens and why there are non-nefarious reasons why Jackson might have better stats when playing in Memphis instead of on the road.

(This interview has been edited and condensed from a 30-minute conversation for clarity.)

What is your impression of what people think the scoreboard is and how wrong are they?

The image I got growing up is the chubby old man in a sweater vest sitting trackside with one of those huge specialized notepads, like everyone does if they like that stuff when they’re kids, right? But it’s really a bit more complex than that.

So what does it really look like?

There is an official scorer in every NBA game. This person’s responsibility is only to keep the official score and fouls. They sit on the court and talk to the referees, and they are the ones who raise six fingers if someone commits a foul. What that person does has nothing to do with the stats that end up on

There is a crew (of) four people on each stage who are either part-time employees or contractors of the team. They are really separate from any part of the organization. There is an entrance. He and the spotter keep up with the action of the game as it occurs. There is a touch screen laptop and the keeper is calling out everything that happens on the track. Input is being entered into the system.

There is a third person, a secondary participant, who is basically listening and sitting next to the observer. He or she is listening and basically editing in real time. They are the first support for errors. The secondary observer also controls the DVR on a monitor that (has) it available.

So is it used to check plays that weren’t immediately clear in real time?

Yes, exactly. It’ll be like, “Hey, I think so-and-so has a part of it. Can you pull it up and check?” And they would look at that. If it’s close, in my experience, the whole team would take a look and say, “Hey, do we think this is a block? Do we think this is a steal?”

You can go really slow, like frame by frame, and see who got the last touch and what really happened.

right In Dallas, members of the media sit right behind the scoreboards, and I see them using this replay monitor during games.

I’ve done stats for every sport, and the NBA is the one sport I’ve enjoyed the most because I’ve done stats because they’re the best athletes at a ridiculous level. The elite of the elite, they move so fast (and) there’s a lot going on. It’s such a fast game. There are a lot of things that you have to go back and check because we’re mere mortals and we can’t understand what’s going on right away.

Ok, so we have the observer, the input, and the secondary input. Who is the fourth person involved in the marker operation?

In 2017, the NBA started to take a more homogenous view of stat-keeping, which was probably concurrent with (the embrace of) fantasy and gambling and other things.

As part of that, there was a fourth person included in the crew who was on a headset with someone in (the league office in) Secaucus. They serve as an intermediary between Secaucus and the statistics group. Depending on the game, it’s a pretty boring job. Many times, they help the secondary user or give their opinion on close calls. But this person is in communication with Secaucus and there is someone there watching the game as it goes on. They might point out, “Hey, we think that might be an assist, we think that might be a steal.” So this is something quite new for the scorekeeping operation.

So when you worked on this operation, what role did you work in?

I mostly provided secondary input (when I was working for the Western Conference team) and sometimes observed. Our main caller never missed games, but I was the backup (when he did). (With the Eastern Conference team), I was mostly the main participant. I saw and did primary. And then I filled in maybe once in the new role of the person talking to Secaucus.

And you never wore a sweater vest?

I probably wore a sweater at different times. I don’t think I’ve ever had a full sweater vest, which is probably my greatest failure as a scorer.

What does this actually look like in terms of employment?

None of them are full-time jobs. More often than not, in my experience, this pool of talent will come from the sports information departments of nearby universities. Whether they started with that and went on to something else, but kept the scoreboard job as a side gig, or they still work in sports reporting departments. That’s how everyone I’ve worked started because you already know how to keep game stats and you probably don’t get paid. The extra money doesn’t hurt.

What is the most difficult play to determine?

I guess it must be the assistance.

I’ve always understood it to apply when a player scores after making two or fewer dribbles after receiving a pass. How accurate is this?

This is also something I heard at some point, and it may have been years ago. But attendance was cleared as part of the NBA’s streamlining of the league. The current definition of an assist is that you make a pass and the marker goes straight to the basket or shoots. There is no end point to a basketball move. There’s probably some wiggle room, but it’s like (an action) that immediately leads to some kind of (shot made) without any special basketball moves.

I remember watching YouTube clips of (Chris Paul having 15 assists) in New Orleans and always shaking his head as a scorer. I was always very aware that whatever I was doing was going to be watched. It was always a point of pride for the crews I worked with that we didn’t do stat stuffing.

So the reason we’re talking about (Jaren Jackson Jr.) stealing and blocking the controversy. How challenging is it to identify them when sometimes only your fingertip touches the ball?

In my experience, we all want to do well. I would also say that NBA players are not quiet when they block shots or get a piece. I haven’t gone back and watched videos of Jaren Jackson Jr., but I suspect after some of them, he either indicated he got a piece or said something.

Many of these cases, by default, we would just give a quick second look. If it was close, we would look more. For example (a player on the Western Conference team that I kept stats for) contested a shot, and let’s say it was Dirk (Nowitzki) or somebody. And if that player’s shot didn’t end up where you thought it would, but you wouldn’t know if (that player) got a piece, you’ll take a second look just to make sure you didn’t. don’t miss anything A lot of times, it’s something close.

In these replays, it can usually be seen quite easily, especially if you pull it up frame by frame. These DVR channels usually have multiple angles that you can pull from, making it fairly easy to find the right angles.

How often did you have direct communication with players or team members lobbying for players? Was it common?

So they’re not supposed to tell us about statistics, and they usually stick with it. It was certainly more the players who would point things out.

The (PR staff) on both teams would sometimes say, ‘Hey, you can watch this just to make sure.’ But that was even very rare because the teams wouldn’t have to converse with us. I don’t know if it’s a formal rule, but it’s definitely something we were told during the process. It happens, but not too often in my experience. The two teams I worked for generally respected this rule.

So why exactly would you say it’s now so difficult for a home goalscorer to keep stats in a biased way?

From my experience, I would give the people doing the work the benefit of the doubt because I think they generally want to do a good job and do things right. Second, with the introduction of NBA live auditing, this is very clearly an additional line of potential correction opportunities for the stat block or missing something. If you’ve given something they think isn’t (accurate), they’ll let you know. In my experience, you have to have a good explanation for why you’re against what they say.

The bottom line is that even after all that, the NBA goes back and reviews things after games. They used to go back and track, and I don’t know if they do that with the live audit anymore, but we were told they used to track stats based on post-game audits, where (a league employee) was watching the tournament to play at the end with the play-by-play (log) and review each play. If you screwed something up, you’d get an email saying, “Hi, your team missed it and this has been retroactively changed to this call.” I’d like to say, as a point of pride, that this didn’t happen a lot in the crews I was on.

Each of the scorers, we have to sign a commitment that no, we will not play. They do background checks every year. So there’s a lot to protect the integrity of these things.

Do you have any theories as to why Jaren Jackson Jr. would he have better numbers at home? The only thing I can think of that would apply to the local marker, and not in any malicious way, is that it could be more diligent about checking any cases where there was even a little bit of contact that caused a lock or steal that might otherwise have been missed.

I think this could surely be one of the reasons. They might be more willing to go back and check, whereas even an auditor might not, you know, pick up all the angles and go slow on each one. This could certainly be a reason.

What you are suggesting is that it is quite possible that some of these things are very small. You have to go back to the monitor and pull it up and look at other angles and say, like, the spin of the ball has changed. They can certainly spend the time to do so.

(Top photo: Joe Camporeale / USA Today)

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