Basketball / B. League

More to basketball than stats, says Jets' Ono

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

The Chiba Jets Funabashi don’t just look at the numbers that appear on the stat sheet, because the game of basketball is a team sport and the collective effort of the players gives teams a better chance to win games.

Jets head coach Atsushi Ono insists that if your staff puts too much emphasis on stats, the players might pursue those figures instead of aiming to win.

“You play to win,” Ono said during a summer lecture of the Japan Society for Basketball Studies, which was established in 2014 to study the game from all angles and promote it, at the Shin-Matsudo campus of Ryutsu Keizai University in Chiba Prefecture on Sunday.

Ono added that he doesn’t put much emphasis on player efficiency, a composite statistic derived from basic individual stats such as assists, blocks, points, rebounds steals, and turnovers.

He said the team instead pays attention to the intangibles the players possess.

The 40-year-old former star guard/forward said the Jets think defensive deflections are important, for instance. He explained by saying the field goal percentage of your opponents will drop by about 20 percent by just by making a deflection “with a tip of your fingernail.”

Ono cited point guard Tomokazu Abe, who was also at the lecture as a guest speaker representing the Jets. The head coach said Abe’s defensive intangibles and hustle largely contributed to the Jets’ 88-66 victory over the Kawasaki Brave Thunders in the All-Japan Championship title game in Tokyo in January.

“In the All-Japan final, Abe had two deflections on (center Nick) Fazekas. That was so huge because Fazekas had to be cautious when defended by small men (like Abe) afterward,” Ono said. “His contribution was huge. They don’t count as steals because he just touched the ball. If (a coach) doesn’t tell his players about their defensive contributions like this, they don’t really want to play defense.”

Ono also said that Chiba, which uses a lot of pick and rolls, values players who set good screens, something that doesn’t appear on the stat sheet.

“We count them as ‘assists,’ ” said Ono, who took over as the team’s bench boss before last season in the B. League’s inaugural campaign.

As an example, Ono cited former NBA big man Hilton Armstrong, who moved from the Jets to the Ryukyu Golden Kings after last season, saying that he “loved” the American.

“Some people think Hilton isn’t a good player because he doesn’t do much in the paint,” said Ono, who led the East Division club to a 44-16 record and a postseason berth last year. “But he’s extremely good on defense against pick and rolls. And he sets really good screens as well. He just doesn’t block many shots.”

Ono says that he asks the team’s general manager not to give bonus money to players just based on how many points they score or their efficiency.

While Ono and his assistants look at intangibles, the club’s medical staff tangibly supervises the condition of the team by using digital methods in order to help get and keep the players in peak physical condition.

The Jets apply a database system called “Climb DB,” which centrally oversees athletes’ physical matters such as their physical data, training progression, injury histories, medical treatment progress and nutrition.

Chiba athletic trainer Yuho Ikeda said the team also utilizes a smartphone app that allows the players to input their daily conditions, such as temperature and other measurements based on how they feel, on their own.

Abe, 31, has seen the effect these digital tools have had, saying he has not had to ask for massages “as many times as before.”

In the second half of the two-hour event, four researchers who study basketball academically joined the Jets staff on the stage and asked about different topics such as what kind of stretching the team does and how they communicate with and motivate the players.

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