Shooting machine making massive Knicks difference

One of Tom Thibodeau’s mantras is “the magic is in the work.’’ The Knicks coach could have also used another slogan late this season: “The magic is in the machine.’’ In early...

One of Tom Thibodeau’s mantras is “the magic is in the work.’’ The Knicks coach could have also used another slogan late this season: “The magic is in the machine.’’

In early February, the Knicks installed a high-tech computerized shot-tracking device, designed by the company Noah Basketball, for each of the six practice courts at their Tarrytown campus.

The Noah Basketball Shot Tracking System measures each player’s arc/trajectory, his “left-right consistency’’ and “depth of shot.’’

Thibodeau pushed for the purchase after the Garden initially mulled the system in 2017. Though Noah has worked with about 20 teams in some capacity, the Knicks have the most operating shot machines in the NBA.

Coincidentally or not, the Knicks’ 3-point shooting soared, especially late in the season. They finished third in 3-point shooting at 39.2 percent.

The Knicks registered their four best 3-point percentages since putting the machines in place: February (40.1 percent), March (38 percent), April (42.4) and May (42.2). Noah’s arc, indeed.

”They’re the most equipped team in the league,’’ Noah’s CEO, John Carter, told The Post. “They put all six of their baskets with our technology. It was a substantial investment.’’

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau
Getty Images

A league source said the purchase price was less than $100,000, but worth every penny, considering their percentage rise in shooting.

“You better believe [we take pride],’’ Carter said. “We keep track of our customers closely. It’s pretty cool to see [the rise].’’

In 2017, the Alabama-based firm leaped onto the NBA scene, attending the Sloane Sports Conference, where it won in the category for research competition and got its first NBA order. Carter said he met with the Garden’s director of sports technology, Rich Dry, at the conference.

It wasn’t until Thibodeau and team president Leon Rose arrived that the Knicks became most fascinated. Noah and the Knicks met on Zoom in December, though, due to the pandemic, the system didn’t get set until midseason.

“It was Thibs, honestly [who pushed it],’’ Carter said. “It was a large Zoom call. Gosh, there were a large number of people on that call — front office, coaches. Everybody really listened — which I was impressed by. Oftentimes we’ll sell to another team and a couple of people are involved. It seemed like they set out to gain consensus as an organization.”

A chart showing data accumulated by the Knicks on their shooting tendencies and success.
NOAH/Knight Eady

Every shot taken at Tarrytown is now analyzed for those three important shooting categories of arc, depth and left-right ball position. Some clubs just have one basket hooked up. Noah’s analysts pore over data and provide reports — as does the Knicks’ expanding analytics department. The key part will also be the offseason.

“The great thing going on with the Knicks is every time they go in that gym to shoot around, we’re collecting data,’’ Carter said. “It will be a treasure trove for them especially as they go in the offseason. Our data will outline very succinctly what the player needs to do to improve.’’

The surprising revelation is many shot issues are regarding depth, not straightness. Players leave the ball short.

“It’s a big problem. There’s percentage points to be had by getting the ball deeper,’’ Carter said.

Carter said he’s not allowed to disclose which Knicks players are deficient in some areas, but it’s known RJ Barrett, whose 3-point percentages rose from 32 to 40.1, is a fan of the new machines.

“When I met Thibs and met people in the front office and their coaches, they are committed to player development,’’ Carter said. “No question about it, they’re forward-thinking with player development. They brought everybody to understand what we were doing, how we’re doing it and what it would do for their individual players.’’

A request for comment from Thibodeau on Saturday was not responded to.

Veteran Anthony Tolliver, a Noah board member now with the 76ers, has a machine at his home.

“It’s had a great influence on how I view shooting now,’’ Tolliver told The Post. “I had the best stretch of my career after being introduced to Noah and have used it on or off the last three years. If you use it regularly the analytics it provides, you have no choice but to lock in and get better at your craft.”

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman

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