The GM's Office with Andy Elisburg: Part II
After Dallas in 2011, how did things play out coming up with the best way to change and evolve the team? What was the interaction between you, Pat Riley and Coach Spoelstra?
Everyone worked and has worked at it together. We had to see what kind of players work for how Spo and Pat want for us to play and then see what are the opportunities that are available to get those type of players. You look at the free agent market and trade market that year, you look at who’s available and who is realistically in your ballpark that you could have an opportunity to do something with where financially where it can work. It’s sort of an ongoing process and everyone kind of works through their ability to contribute to it all.
Shooters were clearly always on your mind since before 2011, but did getting players proficient at shooting corner threes start factoring more into things or was that more of a byproduct of what you were trying to accomplish?
It’s probably a little bit of a byproduct. You’re looking at people and you say, ‘OK, how do they fit with their skillset into how Erik wants to play, or how Pat wanted to play or how Stan [Van Gundy] wanted to play.’ You try to find players that fit into that style, but also within the challenges of continuing to improve the talent and finding the best players possible. I think you’re always looking at that particular aspect to it.
In terms of evaluating guys who you think you might get or you might move, how has analytics changed things in your time here?
The biggest change is that it’s now called analytics. Working for Pat for years, it was called Stats. Analytics just wasn’t a term that was used. I believe, Pat’s been a proponent of advanced statistics since he's been a coach. There’s always been aa importance of statistical information. What you have now, is with the advent of technology, is a greater access to the amount of statistical information you can get. Now it’s called analytics. But it’s essentially the ability to breakdown more information in a shorter period of time. You could always sort of do the breakdowns, but it would be more limited sample sizes due to time and information restrictions as opposed to now you can have a far greater number of games and you can get that information instantly. Whereas before it would take you a little more time to put together that information. It limited the scope of your searches. Now the scope of your searches is so much broader because there’s so many ways to get the information with the push of a button.
Within that, there has to be a discipline to it. Because on some level there can be so much information that it all begins to run into each other. Then you have to analyze. What’s the most important piece of information? What particular aspects of it do you value? Then how do you filter it down to where it can be utilized? Otherwise there can be such an information overload.
It’s a piece of the puzzle, but it’s not necessarily the whole puzzle. At the end of the day it’s information, but you’re also dealing with people. People that change at various points in time. That may change what the information is. Statistics are very important because it’s a good predicator of what can happen. But it’s not the only thing. For instance in free agency, you have to look at the information and see what happens when you take a player from one team and then put him on another team. That’s a changed circumstance. You’ve now changed the environment, so how does that change the result?
Were you excited when the SportVU deal with the league went down last summer?
It’s exciting and interesting to see all the new information. Again, it’s going to be how you take the information and what pieces of it you take and how much more information is there. You have to drill down to the next thing, but any time there’s a new way to get information I think that’s always interesting. The challenge of it is how to utilize the information.
Talking to Shane Battier recently, he was a little apprehensive about how the new data will actually affect how guys play. His take is that for now it’s going to be more important for player evaluation than for on-court application. How soon do you think the camera information is going to affect how they play?
People will use pieces of it. I’m not sure how much it will change how the guys play. It will help the coaches with more information. Over the course of the regular season it will probably help more because you’ll have more information that you wouldn’t normally break down because of the preponderance of games. You may see more trends than you would have seen otherwise.
Is there an adjustment period where you will have to learn to trust the camera data? I assume eventually it could replace some of the manual tracking that your staff does.
I take the view that it’s not so much that you don’t trust it, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you all that’s there. At the end of the day, this business is still about being able to extrapolate all the various information that’s out there and at some level make decisions. You have to use your identification, your eye, your knowledge, your ability to continually positively affect people, along with the statistical/analytical information to determine what the right choices are.
The thing with people is that they constantly change. Players are people. They’re not numbers. And people are always evolving.
So how can you determine some of those factors? Eventually we’re going to have better psychological information and data on players, but when you’re meeting a player and watching tape on him, how can you tell how he’s going to perform in that Game 6?
You don’t, totally. You look at how people have performed in previous situations. What’s been in their DNA? At what level do they relish the pressure aspects of it? How well do they mesh with what your team wants to do? They may be good for one situation but not good for another type of situation. You’re always looking at what those things are.
You’ve been looking at those things for a long time, but you were recently named General Manager of the team. Does that change things for you?
You’re doing the same things you’re always doing. You’re just finding the best way to be able to help the team, the best way to be able to work with Coach Riley and Nick [Arison] and Spo and the staff and finding a way to improve the team. In that sense, it’s the same challenges and responsibilities that it’s always been. Whatever is needed to be done, you do.
When you’re sitting in your corner spot across from the HEAT bench, how do you watch the game? What are you watching?
First and foremost you’re watching the game, you’re watching the team and how we’re playing. You are also looking at the opponent. You’re watching a little of the benches and how everyone is sort of interacting with each other.
You’re also looking for things to make sure we don’t have issues of, both on and off the court. I have years of experience operationally, so I am looking at what’s working and what things are not working. If there’s something that could lead to a problem, you’re looking at how to minimize it as quickly as possible. There are issues that they stop the game and those that they don’t stop the game for. Obviously issues that they stop the game for are an immediate priority. You’re looking at all those different kinds of situations, and then of course you’re watching what’s happening on the court.
Does that leave much room to have fun and be entertained.
There are times when you have to step back and enjoy what it is you’re doing. In some ways the job has ruined me for just enjoying sports and entertainment. I find that, obviously at a HEAT game I’m watching everything that's going on, but I’ll go to a baseball game in the summer for fun and I’ll be paying attention to the security or the advertising or how something is happening operationally and not the game, so I’ll catch myself and say, ‘Hey, watch the game’.
But there are moments where you can sit back and enjoy it. Ray [Allen’s] shot was right in front of me and I’ll be able to remember forever being in that corner watching it happen. You always have to step back and enjoy the moment. I’ve always considered myself very, very blessed to do what I do and to do it here in Miami with my HEAT family.