Video and data used to dissect basketball’s every move

Basketball players are among the most intensely analyzed athletes in the world, and using a combination of highly detailed game data and video technology, Synergy Sports Technology has taken it to a whole new level.

Garrick Barr, video coordinator for the Phoenix Suns, and Nils B. Lahr, a former Microsoft engineer, run the Phoenix-based Synergy Sports, a service business designed to help NBA coaches study the game and their players’ performance.

Barr began in 1998 by logging every NBA game and then generating an “offensive tendency report” for every player. Now, in his partnership with Lahr, Synergy Sports adds a new dimension by bringing together those fine-grained statistics with associated video clips.

For example, a coach wants to determine the best way to stop Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. Synergy’s system has recorded every offensive step Nowitzki has made since he joined the league in 1998. The system allows a coach to click on any statistic and get video clips from the last three seasons of 20, 50 or even 2000 plays that show Nowitzki making a particular move.

Four teams signed up for Synergy’s beta service in the 2004-05 season. “The New York Times” reported that Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, liked the company’s service so much that he became Synergy’s primary outside investor.

When the service was formally launched for the 2005-06 season, the two teams that reached the finals happened to be the Mavericks and the Miami Heat, another Synergy client. Finding it hard to pitch his service to team executives, Barr told them, “It’s Google for basketball.”

This season, Synergy’s client list expanded to 14 NBA teams. Coincidentally, the NBA is well into an eight-year digitization project to preserve 400,000 hours of games and highlights from videotape. After two years, the project is now up to about a million gigabytes of data.