In pro sports these days, analytics are everything. Forget about what you feel in your heart or gut — if a stat can't capture it, it's not real.
This includes how prolific teammates are at congratulating one another.
At the outset of the 2015 season, a Cal-Berkeley psychology professor — without wasting a penny of taxpayer or tuition money, one can only hope — tallied the amount of times every NBA franchise exchanged high-fives and fist bumps (mostly fist bumps, owing to Howie Mandel's vise-like grip on American culture) over the course of a single game apiece, and concluded that the more positive physical contact between teammates, the more selfless and cooperative the team.
On October 3, the Phoenix Suns opened their preseason against the mighty San Antonio Spurs. Never mind that these games mean nothing; the Suns, primarily veterans Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley, high-fived the fuck out of each other, thus achieving a rare result: a win. This was no accident. After the game, rookie head coach Earl Watson informed reporters that the Suns will be meticulously tracking the number of high-fives the team exchanges over the course of the season.
"I'm being honest with you … This is true," Watson insisted, so as to reassure the assembled media the they hadn't parachuted into an Onion headline, like the one where Phoenix's suburbs will soon cover two-thirds of the Earth's land mass before eventually colonizing Mars.
But that ain't all, New Times has learned.
The Suns' videographer got blitzed with Cindy McCain last week and left his duffel bag in the back seat of this newspaper's delivery van, which does double duty as an Uber vehicle on weekends (not sure if you've heard, but newspapering is a scratch-and-claw trade nowadays). Inside the bag were notes on all the other bizarre stats that the Suns' analytics crew will be monitoring over the course of the coming NBA season.
Here's what'll be tracked to within an inch of its life when all is said and done:
• How many times former Vanderbilt stud John Jenkins shouts, "I thought I got rid of you motherfuckers during conference play!" when he's forced to scrimmage against a team featuring five Kentucky Wildcats. (Indeed, the Suns could field a very short starting five consisting of former Calipari charges). Coincidentally, it was a Vanderbilt study that determined that even negative flashbacks could help NBA journeymen play like the top dogs they were in college.
• How many times former Kentucky guard Devin Booker drinks a tumbler of Booker's and says, "You know that's my family's business, right?" In fact, it was a 2005 University of Arkansas-Little Rock study that proved that lying about both business and booze are the marks of a survivor.
• How many times Dragan Bender goes on a bender. If the tally is more than zero, that means some local bar is fine with serving 18-year-old Europeans, which a 2002 Rotterdam Community College study determined is great for local electronic-music scenes and Rumple Minze sales.
• How many times Watson says, "Back when I played for the Sonics …" and nobody outside of Seattle collegiate project Marquese Chriss has a clue what he's saying. A 1995 University of Phoenix study found a direct correlation between youthful naiveté and living in Phoenix, which bodes well for the long-term cohesiveness of this Suns squad.
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• How many times Watson tries to lobby the front office to let him cut Tyler Ullis and play third-string point guard himself. A 385 B.C. University of Athens study shows that coaches think they've still got it.
• How many times Alex Len steals the Gorilla suit and sprains his ankle while dunking off a trampoline. A 2015 Washburn University study determined that the less a Caucasian seven-footer plays, the less the coaching staff has to explain why they kept a player with so much untapped potential chained to the bench.
• How many times Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe are in the lineup together. A 2012 MIT study concluded that backcourt pairings like this don't fare very well without the introduction of a second ball. Unfortunately for the Suns, NBA rules prohibit the use of two basketballs during competition.
• How many times Thunder Dan Majerle introduces himself as "Bigger Red" to a regional catalog model who shimmies her way into his luxury suite. A 1998 Florida Keys Wesleyan focus group concluded that 6'6" white guys with pebbly eyes, high cheekbones, and an affinity for launching 28-foot jumpers early in the shot clock have really small penises.