PRINCETON, N.J. — Traditional X's and O's have been tossed aside for video cameras and televisions in the changing world of the NBA.
Virtually every NBA team uses videotapes for scouting and teaching. High tech has become as vogue as high fives.
"Each coach has two video machines at home and we have six or eight in the office," said Brendan Suhr, the senior assistant coach of the Atlanta Hawks.
Suhr is responsible for the Hawks' scouting of opponents and bench strategy.
"The coaching staff spends about 50% of our time in the office studying video tapes, trying to get an edge," Suhr said.
Los Angeles Lakers' coach Pat Riley got into using video when he was a color man doing broadcasts of Lakers games and pioneered the art six years ago. His team of video experts can edit out 79 plays in 3 1/2 minutes.
"It's the ultimate truth machine," Riley said. "We use the tapes as motivation, for funny bloopers we make up and we set them to a montage of music.
"We break it down, edit it more than any other team in the league. It's an effective weapon."
Dave Wohl spent three years as an assistant with the Lakers before becoming the New Jersey Nets' coach during the off-season. His responsibilities with Los Angeles included breaking down videotapes of opponents before, after and during games. Wohl intends to continue this practice with the Nets.
"We do a lot of sessions where we'll spend 15 or 20 intensive minutes with film," Wohl said. "We'll have one offense after another edited out where there's no stoppage of play, where there's foul shots or time outs, so the players' attention span doesn't wander."
While football teams have spotters communicating with the sidelines from upstairs, the Lakers and now the Nets will use cameras.
"We try to use (video) at halftime," Wohl said. "We take a couple of plays out of the first half where we could show mistakes we were making or adjustments we wanted to make. It's a lot easier to do it on film than to do it just on the blackboard. You can put it on the blackboard, but if you can really show on a film--where the guys are on the court and the angles--it's more effective."
The Hawks believe in a lot of homework.
"We have a lot of young guards," Suhr said. "We'll take cuts just of their player that they will have to cover and voice in what we want to do defensively and they'll take it home and watch it. Each kid has his own machine.
"It's a matter of mental conditioning. We condition our players that 'you are going to be prepared to do your job."'
Unlike the NFL there is no exchange of tapes in the NBA.
"We tape off satellites and we have a person in every NBA city who tapes games for us," Suhr said. "Our owner, Mr. Ted Turner, has a large satellite dish in his office, about the size of the Empire State Building."
Turner Broadcasting System also owns the cable rights to broadcast NBA games.
There is a limit, however, to what video can do.
"The key to this is, you can have all the video equipment in the world," Lakers assistant Bill Bertka said, "but players win ballgames, not video machines."