INSIDER—Jazz use of iPads on bench creating on-floor success

As Alec Burks inbounded to Trey Burke with the Jazz leading 82-80 with 1:16 left in the game against Orlando, Gordon Hayward started his route from the left side of the floor along the baseline to the right side of the floor. Hayward’s defender (Tobias Harris) wasn’t following him he was shooting the gap. Hayward realized he had seen this before. He had seen it on the iPad with coach Brad Jones during his in-game film session earlier in the fourth quarter.

“We saw the way they are playing the weak side pin they were just cutting up the middle, so I started inside a bit more and faded and got a wide open shot,“ Hayward explained.

Hayward nailed the jumper and gave the Jazz an 84-80 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

This season the Utah Jazz coaches are using the iPad as a teaching tool during games. When players check out of the game after their first stint in the first or third quarter, coach Jones and coach Alex Jensen have a pre-loaded the iPads with anywhere up to five video clips from earlier action in that night’s game to share with the players.

Three players—Hayward, Burke and Derrick Favors—have been using the iPad scouting the most, and each in a different manner. For Hayward, it has been about seeing the floor and how teams are playing him. For Burke, it is about executing a new offense. And for Favors, it is more about the fundamentals of his game.

Hayward has been an enthusiastic adapter. “I think it is really good,” he said. “You can see how they are guarding you how they are  guarding different plays—what is open and what is not—and you can adjust the next time.”

For Hayward, it has been mostly about vision. “It’s hard to see all five guys when you’re playing, so if there are little things you can pick up on [the iPad] this allows me to see where all five guys are. I can see if they are going under the screen or I can see if the other big on the other side is really sagging in so I can hit him. Or if they are really sinking in on the weak side then the skip pass is open. Different things like that so when I go back in there I see it and make the pass.”

Hayward was originally only watching plays after his first stint on the floor, but after his first game using the iPad video he asked to watch plays after he checks out in the third quarter as well.

Understanding all the aspects of the Jazz offense has been the biggest challenge for Trey Burke, and the iPad video technology has allowed him to have a better understanding. “My biggest issues I see on the iPad are going off screens and setting my man up to go off screens. I see those things,” he said.

It seems strange to hear a 21-year-old hip kid get excited about new technology, but that is exactly how Burke was when explaining the system. “Every time I come out, coach Jones comes to me and shows me different things—from cutting to screening, to my pace on the pick and roll. I think it really helps me out. It’s me watching myself  two or three minutes after I did it. It helps me going back on the court. It’s really beneficial—it’s like new technology to me”

On one level, a lot goes into getting these cuts ready. On the other hand, Jazz video coordinator Jefferson Sweeney says, “It is really incredibly easy.” Particularly when you consider that Sweeney started with the Jazz 14 years ago when he was still editing deck to deck, and that was only if it was really important for the playoffs. Otherwise, it was all by hand.

The coaches tell Sweeney before the game what players they will be coaching with the iPad and what specific plays they are looking to show. Sweeney sets up on his laptop in the locker room and logs the game. When one of the specific plays arrives he marks it, makes a quick edit, turns it into a movie and puts it on the app.

Once he has the plays, he syncs it to the iPads before one of the Jazz strength coaches comes back to the locker room to get the iPad so the teaching session can take place on the bench. The league prohibits live video on the bench or video being transmitted to the bench, so the iPad has to be delivered to the bench.

The trick for Sweeney is getting the different plays for different players. Hayward and Burke talk about certain plays, but for Favors the coaching has been more fundamental.

“They show me most of my post ups and my jump shots,” Favors shared. “They will show me how I’m rushing or how I had a guy one way but decided to go the harder route. On my jump shots they show me body position if I am leaning back too far.”

While Favors says “it’s mostly fundamentals,” they have also shown him specific coverages from opponents that have helped him later in games.

“In Miami, if I got the ball on Bosh in the post, it showed me where they had the guards—they were right here instead of out on their man—and helped me get a read on it,” he said.

Favors has embraced the immediacy of the iPad sessions and the individual focus. “It’s like having film session at halftime, but you have it during the game. It’s helpful. I like it.”

Helpful indeed. Because last night when Tobias Harris cheated the route, Gordon Hayward was prepared to change his route and knocked down the game-clincher. Bench technology from the Jazz coaching staff is helping the immediate gratification generation receive on-floor gratification.