Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey doesn't play video games for fun or fantasy.
Morey uses the EA Sports NBA game for professional reasons. He uses it to help evaluate talent. Morey says he is a statistical junky, an admirer of Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane and a mathematical nerd. "I've always loved numbers," Morey said. "I don't play EA Sports as a game. I use it as a tool."
While the kids plug in NBA 08 to "ooh" and "aah" over how real it looks when Kobe Bryant dunks or LeBron James runs the court and finishes, Morey plugs in for more serious purposes.
"Say if you're thinking about acquiring Ron Artest," Morey said from Hawaii, where he was evaluating talent in person at the Maui Classic college tournament.
"On the game, you can see how adding Artest can change the dynamic of your team. You can program it to run offensive sets with Artest and any combination of your players."
Morey said that even this early in the season, there are enough statistics available to evaluate rookies such as Minnesota's Kevin Love (from UCLA) and Memphis' O.J. Mayo (from USC)
"For example, you can tell how often, if Love throws an outlet pass, how often his team scores on the possession," Morey said. "You can tell how often Mayo goes right versus left, how effective the team is with Mayo pulling up and shooting versus when he pulls up and passes instead."
According to the NBA, about half the teams are using the video game as part of personnel evaluation. In the quiet of his office, Morey said he can see how often a player posts up and gets shots on cuts to the basket as well as about defensive and offensive tendencies.
So what is Morey doing in Maui? Just sipping mai tais on the beach?
"Simulation is great and will have a bigger and bigger place in the process," Morey said. "But at the end of the day you can't simulate a player being out too late the night before or his body language on the bench or how he interacts with teammates. Some things you have to do in person."
Especially if the games are in Maui.
If you are a fan of shows such as "The Office" (British and American versions), the Ricky Gervais sitcom "Extras" of a couple of years ago or Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," then you will appreciate Kenny Mayne's new project called "Mayne Street."
It's an ESPN digital production and totally a creation of Mayne's skewed, cynical and very funny mind.
The loose plot is that the episodes, which debut each Tuesday and Friday on ESPN.com, are a fictional and digital diary of a guy (Mayne) working for a network (gee, wonder which one?). The episodes are three to five minutes long.
On the first installment, Mayne is anchoring a "SportsCenter" segment and he has trouble coming up with an exit line. "Even for those of you who use this only for background during sex, thanks for watching 'SportsCenter,' " Mayne says.
Scott Van Pelt is playing Mayne's co-host. Van Pelt's look of dismay is priceless.
Mayne said he had proposed the idea originally to run on television. "It got put on a back burner," he said. "When my contract came back up, I proposed it again. We decided to try it online only first."
The first couple of episodes have drawn an average of 2.5 million web hits. Mayne said future episodes will feature Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen and celebrity chef Bobby Flay.
What to watch today
It will be a little like taking medicine, this UCLA at Arizona State football game at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The Bruins need a win to keep slim bowl hopes alive (hopes that will most certainly be crushed next week against USC . . . and, yes, I do remember 13-9, I've seen the T-shirts). Arizona State was in early-season conversations as a possible Pacific 10 and national title contender. The Sun Devils are 4-6.
What to watch Saturday
It's a college football buffet, and so many games matter. Kansas at Missouri at 9:30 a.m.; Auburn at Alabama, Baylor at Texas Tech and Florida at Florida State all at 12:30 p.m. (national title hopes could be affected by all three games); Oregon at Oregon State at 4, Oklahoma at Oklahoma State and Notre Dame at USC at 5.
What to watch Sunday
In women's college basketball, No. 4 Oklahoma is at No. 1 Connecticut at 5:15 p.m. on ESPN. Yes, I know about the NFL but sometimes it's nice to mix it up a little.