Photo / Cody Sharrett

Dr. Robby Sikka Leads Innovation Within Wolves Front Office

by Cody Sharrett

When Gersson Rosas joined the Minnesota Timberwolves as President of Basketball Operations in May 2019, the mission was clear: Rosas aimed to transform the Wolves through innovation.

Leading that innovation on the medical and technology side is Dr. Robby Sikka. A lifelong Minnesotan and Timberwolves fanatic, Sikka left a career in medicine to follow his dream of working in the sports world for his hometown team.

“Robby makes us better by challenging us to look at things in a different perspective, mostly out of the box, mostly outside of basketball, more from a physical, from a medical biomechanical perspective that we often don't look at the game,” Rosas says of his Vice President of Basketball Performance and Technology. “It's understanding the deeper layers, not only in terms of performance and health and wellness, but development as well... His perspective, his background, and his ability to question the norm in his own way allows us to be more well-rounded.”

Sikka’s responsibilities in the Wolves front office include the integration of medicine, technology, nutrition, player development, analytics, and strength and conditioning with the goal of improving basketball performance and player wellness. The goal in Sikka’s methods are to improve performance, reduce injury risk, and optimize return to play strategies.

“My task with the Timberwolves is to help make our players better in whatever way we can using health data, using information, using analytics and understanding their heart, mind, body, and soul, and trying to figure out how to develop them into the best player possible,” Sikka explains. ”We use data, we use talking to the player, we collect as much information as we can and we try and take that player when they get here and turn them into the best possible player and person that we can.”

Caring for each player on an individual level is imperative for Sikka, as he helps evolve the sports medicine industry through his role with the Timberwolves.

“Sports medicine is going to continue to evolve to become a more personalized field,” Sikka says. “Twenty years ago, we were thinking, ‘Are we going to have surgeons that only do right knee surgeries?’ because there's so many specific things and maybe you're a right-handed surgeon. We're going to continue to develop more individualized medical care, whether it's individualized load, individualized nutrition, individualized psychological assessments, all of those things are going to become more personal.”

With months to prepare for the 2020 NBA Draft coming up on November 18, Sikka has done his thorough due diligence in evaluation of every prospect from the mental and physical health standpoints. With the No. 1, 17, and 33 picks in the Draft, Sikka’s insight is crucial in the Wolves’ scouting process during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The challenge of scouting in the pandemic has led Sikka and the front office to further their own innovation.

“This is a unique year where, because of the ongoing pandemic, we haven't had a chance to have in-person draft workouts, and we're not going to have a chance to have our players here for interviews and for a real draft combine, and to do our testing,” Sikka expounded. “We're limited in the data that we're able to collect but it's something that we're being creative and maybe building new models and new ways to collect information on our players. So it's possible that we leave this being a better organization because we learned that, ‘Hey, maybe some of those combine tests that we would normally rely upon, maybe some of those in-person workouts aren't as meaningful.’

“My hope is that this helps give us the plan for what we can do in the future in a very creative way.”

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