Kirk Goldsberry Rumors
He became an innovator and celebrity. When he wasn’t writing for FiveThirtyEight or “Grantland,” the former ESPN product, NBA execs were seeking his counsel. He had both vision and the promise of more to come, and that took him to another place altogether this month. Now Goldsberry works for the Spurs. Behind closed doors. The hiring itself seemingly goes against the nature of a franchise that brought America the Gregg Popovich on-court interview. The Spurs have never been particularly media friendly, and Goldsberry is a self-described “media guy.” He has Matt Bonner stories in his clip file.
Buford and the Spurs see the advantages, too. They were among the first teams to install the SportVU tracking system, and Buford has admitted in the past that they haven’t always been sure what to do with the immense amount of data. Maybe Goldsberry can find a way to incorporate it. Still, when it comes to what he does for the Spurs, and how his research might help, that’s private. An attempt to interview Goldsberry last week was denied by the franchise. “Numbers guys are off limits,” was an explanation. What the Spurs didn’t say: They are trying to gain an edge in analytics, and there is no reason for Goldsberry to share what he knows anymore.
David Lee’s key to any defensive improvement, as he’s often struggled in a defensively important position. Bigs tend to matter more on D, as the art is about occupying space. Lee has especially poor agility when hedging back towards the paint from the perimeter, so the sink strategy was meant to mitigate that flaw. Kirk Goldsberry’s Lee-skewering Sloan paper on interior defense, titled “The Dwight Effect,” came at the right time for Kirk and the wrong time for D-Lee. The Warriors were imploding defensively and Lee was getting plenty of blame. After the victory, I asked Lee for his thoughts on the paper: “At this point I could care less. I’ve worked hard to improve my defense. I think I’m a much better defensive player today than I was a year ago and definitely to start my career. There’s a lot of different numbers to support a lot of different things. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say me putting up 20 and 10 doesn’t matter because ‘numbers don’t matter,’ but at the same time, ‘charts at MIT matter.’ You can’t have it both ways.”
“We need better people not at doing the stats, necessarily, but at communicating the stats — at building the bridges,” said Kirk Goldsberry, who co-wrote a paper with behavioral analyst Eric Weiss that uses the SportVU data to examine interior defense, long one of the under-explored elements in analytical work, during a late Friday panel.
Kirk Goldsberry, a visiting scholar on geography at Harvard, is one of the people at M.I.T.’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference dabbling into sports after developing skills in another field. He has worked as a professor, and creating maps that give insight into public health issues. He set out to answer who was the best shooter in the N.B.A., a quality that traditional metrics like shooting percentage do not fully address. (Tyson Chandler currently leads the league in field-goal percentage, for instance, largely because he specializes in the kind of jump shots that end with both of his hands touching the rim.