On Wednesday the Lakers announced several hires to their training and analytics staffs for the 2016-17 season. From their press release:
The Los Angeles Lakers announced today the hirings of Jennifer Swanson as Head Physical Therapist, Stacey Robinson as Massage Therapist, and Sean Light as Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach. The trio will report to Head Athletic Trainer Marco Nuñez, joining Assistant Athletic Trainer Nina Hsieh, Strength and Conditioning Coach Tim DiFrancesco, and Equipment Manager Carlos Maples on the training staff.
The team has also hired Lorena Martin as Director of Sports Performance Analytics, reporting to Assistant General Manager Glenn Carraro and Jae Kim as Basketball Data Analyst, who will report to Director of Basketball Analytics Yuju Lee.
Not all of these names are “new” as we have already discussed the hiring of Swanson (and her replacing the departing Judy Seto) at length. And while at least one of the other hires (Stacey Robinson) is also filling a position which existed last year, it would seem — at least based on last season’s media guide — the other positions are either brand new or were not made public previously.
This may not seem like a big deal to many and, I guess, I am open to the idea that I am overthinking this. However, when I see the Lakers adding these types of positions to their training and analytics staffs it signals they are taking more steps to invest in player development. And, maybe more importantly, doing so in ways which they have not in the recent past.
This is important for a variety of reasons. One, it shows that the organization, even during a time where their on-court record isn’t expected to be great, they are putting money and resources into the team. Some teams pull back spending during lean times (the Lakers even did this during the 2011 lockout). But more than that, they are investing in the well-being and development of the players in ways which show an emphasis of pushing the organization forward into the information/analytics era.
With that in mind, the hire which stood out to me most is that of Director of Sports Performance Analytics Lorena Martin. Per the aforementioned press release, Martin is well versed in several scientific disciplines, has taught courses at multiple universities on topics which include sports performance and data science, and sole-authored a book on Sports Performance Measurement and Analytics. Martin also presented at the 2016 Sloan Sports and Analytics Conference on the same topic*. In other words, she appears to be a subject matter expert of the utmost authority in this specific area.
For a team which as recently as two seasons ago was talked about as being in the stone age of sports analytics and mocked for not having team representatives attend Sloan at all, a hire like Martin’s not only helps shift the perception of the team, but, hopefully, adds a knowledge base to the organization which positively impacts on-court results.
Over the years I have consistently repeated my desire for the Lakers to leverage their financial resources in ways which are not limited by the collective bargaining agreement. Teams can only spend so much on players, but there are no limits on what they spend on coaches or other staff members. I think these new hires — not to mention the building of a brand new, state of the art practice facility — speak to the Lakers putting their wallet in a position to better affect their win totals.
*(h/t to friend of the site @basquiatball for the clip of Martin at Sloan)