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“Chasing Perfection” by Andy Glockner

c.2016, Da Capo Press $25.99 / $33.99 Canada 274 pages

by Terri Schlichenmeyer, OW contributorAll air.

Is there anything better in basketball? It’s sheer poetry, absolute magic, and your team

can’t do it enough – especially when it happens from the three-point line. In the new

book “Chasing Perfection” by Andy Glockner, you’ll see how science is trying to

ensure that it does, as much as possible.

Ask any baseball fan about their favorite player or team, and you’ll likely hear stats.

Baseball is known for that but baseball, says Glockner, is a relatively easy game to

analyze. Basketball, on the other hand, is different. Players in basketball have no set

pattern for play.

Analytics for basketball, therefore, is a big business.

It all started, perhaps not surprisingly, with baseball when Bill James began his Baseball

Abstract in the late 1970s. Shortly after that publication appeared, a computer database

for basketball was created to “crudely… determine a value for adding a new player to an

existing team” but, amazingly, few people were interested in the information and work on

the system ended. Nearly twenty years later, “a handful” of analysts started working on

sophisticated, deeply-detailed basketball metrics, and an industry was born.

While it’s true that analytics may be of interest to fans, the information absolutely

benefits owners, coaches, managers, and agents. Through basketball analytics, coaches

can maximize each individual players’ time on the court. Analytics can show what

happens when a certain play is used, and where. The information even “comes into play

in actual roster construction…” says Glockner.

But numbers-crunching isn’t the only thing that is revolutionizing the game.

Glockner says that “cutting-edge professional sports diagnostics” can determine which

exercises and motions can enhance physical performance without causing injury. He says

that “sophisticated scales” now measure “force and explosiveness.” Team doctors use

technology to promote muscle balance and flexibility and they can predict specifically

where on the body an injury might take place.

And yet – it still all boils down to the human factor: coaches and general managers are

needed to sort through the information and determine what’s important. And even if they

do pick the right information, players are still fallibly human.

Okay, if you’re a casual basketball fan, you can stop reading now. You’ve probably

already figured out that this just isn’t a book for you.

Nope, “Chasing Perfection” is a fierce fan’s book, filled with metrics and possibilities

featuring names you won’t recognize, and some you will. That might include the name of

Andy Glockner, whose basketball-writing background gave him access to corporations

that are working to create perfection on the court. Glockner’s fascinating behind-the-

scenes research shows how computers are altering not only the human body but the game

itself and how, as technology becomes more refined, fans can expect even greater feats of

athleticism and deepened strategy.

Again, this is not a book for casual fans. It’s filled with head-scrambling information that

won’t make much sense to you if you don’t know the game well. But if the thought of the

upcoming off-season scares you and you need more b-ball, in “Chasing Perfection,” it’s

all there.