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Mavericks getting scientific about sleep, fatigue and game performance


For a lot of NBA players, sleep is something they fit in around everything else. Especially younger players. They tend to stay up late, get a few hours sleep, go through practice/shootaround, get an afternoon nap then be ready for the game (or whatever is on tap) that night.

By the time that guys are in the league a while, you hear them talk about altering their schedules to make sure they are getting enough sleep because they see it impacts their performance on the court.

Now the Dallas Mavericks are trying to quantify that improvement.

Dallas is the first NBA team to partner with Fatigue Science out of Vancouver, reports Jeff Caplan in a fascinating story at How it works is the players will wear a wristband-sized device that will monitor their sleep — how long, how deep — and that will be tracked and paired with on-court performance. Here is the money quote from Fatigue Science founder Pat Byrne , who is working with the Mavericks:

“So if a player is sleeping six hours a night and says, ‘I feel fine,’ we can actually say, ‘we can make your reaction time better if you’re sleeping eight hours.’ We can prove it to you, we can show you.

“I told this to the Mavericks and I tell it to all the pro players that we work with: you confuse how you feel with how you can perform. Our technology will show you how your sleep will actually affect your actual performance during the games.”

This is information that can also be paired with the Sports VU cameras that will be in every NBA arena this season. In theory the Mavericks can go to a player and say “when you get those additional two hours of sleep your are four miles an hour faster dribbling the ball up court on the break” or relate it to movement and energy shown on the defensive end of the court.

This is where professional sports is headed — this is a billion dollar business and everything that can be measured will be, with people looking for efficiencies and ways to improve everywhere. Good for Dallas trying to be out in front on this.

All that said, good luck getting a 22-year-old with cash in his pocket to go to bed on time.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.