How 5G played a role in the Phoenix Suns’ historic NBA title run

The wireless technology gave the team an edge when it came to crunching the data on its players to find ways for them to improve.

Chris Paul and Devin Booker during the 2021 NBA playoffs.

The new tools helped general manager James Jones and the rest of the coaching staff better evaluate player performance and adapt in real time. Ryan Resh, the Suns’ head of data analytics, credits 5G with “pushing the NBA’s boundaries” regarding how the coaches train and teach their athletes.

The Suns’ use of 5G is an example of one of the many different applications of the wireless technology beyond higher speeds on your phone. The technology, rolling out across the globe, is expected to transform many industries, including sports. Professional and college teams are installing 5G in stadiums and arenas to improve the on-site experience, and apps are emerging that let fans view replays from different angles or feel like they’re a part of the action. Teams are exploring ways to use 5G to improve the performance of the athletes themselves by quickly collecting huge amounts of data — something that isn’t possible with 4G or Wi-Fi.

“5G is allowing us to … take those movements and those analyses and make them so real-time that the process just becomes iterative and seamlessly flows into the working procedure of our coaches and our players,” Resh said in an interview.

While sports teams have been using analytics to improve player performance nearly as long as sports have existed, 5G is emerging as a new way to make that analysis even more effective. The key is the technology’s high speed and low latency. Cameras and sensors can collect data and provide insight in real time, letting coaches instruct their players on the fly or detect injuries before they become bigger problems. For the Suns, the intersection between 5G and athletics made its mark this NBA season.

“The 5G lab keeps the Suns on the cutting edge,” Jones said in a statement. “That cohesion provides our staff with unparalleled opportunities to efficiently unlock each athlete’s fullest potential.”

The need for real-time data is becoming more and more important in sports. Prior to the rollout of 5G and installation of sensors and cameras in arenas, players were used to waiting until the next day to review film highlighting in-game mistakes. While players and coaches still review film after games, the 5G lab offers data within milliseconds — something that once took several minutes to calculate.

“Coaching has been around for thousands of years, where coaches go out there and with their gut, they watch things,” Brian Mecum, vice president of device technology for Verizon, said in an interview. “Well, how about if we trust data, and how about if we flip it and trust what science is telling us by what it can measure?”

While Verizon is building 5G in more than 60 stadiums and arenas, its partnership with the Phoenix Suns is different. No other team working with Verizon uses 5G to help with real-time analytics.

5G helps the Suns coaching staff quickly gather and crunch data from three different tools. With a technology called Noah, the players are able to get real-time feedback, live and automated in-game data, and in-depth post-practice and game analytics. For instance, the practice center’s hoop is equipped with sensors that allow Noah to track the arch consistency, the depth and the left and right trajectory of the ball. Coaches will be able to compare subpar performance against a player’s peak, letting them know instantly what places or situations on a court have the best odds for sinking a shot.

“It gets down to centimeter accuracy, and it also has the ability to look at things in three dimensions [along] the X, the Y and the Z axis,” Verizon’s Mecum said. A player may not be able to tell in real time why their shots aren’t going in without the in-depth arc and angle analysis Noah provides.

“This team took and learned that sometimes players were spending too much time shooting, for example, they were taking too many shots and that was affecting the effectiveness of their shots,” Mecum said.

Adding Noah to the Sun’s practice facility has shown real results for the team. One younger player had a tough time consistently sinking his shots. With Noah and the tracking sensors installed in the rafters above the hoop, the coaching staff was able to show the player where his jump shots typically landed and where his performance was the weakest.

“That was enlightening to him because it allowed him to accept that his mechanics may not be as consistent as he wants them to be, which is not something that you really feel, in real time,” Resh said. “His work did eventually pay off in the playoffs, and he was our best three-point shooter.”

Another analytics source used by the Suns is called ShotTracker. Players and coaches are able to use a sensor-based system that generates shooting analytics stats to teams — and fans — thanks to a sensor placed on the ball. Players must also wear a small tracking device, and there are sensors in the rafters above the rim to pinpoint the location of the shot. Specifically, more than 100 sensors communicate to the coaches in real time what players are doing (or not). This allows both players and coaches to go back and review how many shots were taken and exactly where they were shot.

The final piece of the Suns’ technology expansion relates to lateral movement off the court. With the help of Simi’s motion capture cameras, coaches are able to track players’ abilities both before and after injuries. A returning player may feel they are back to normal, but coaches are able to see in real time if the player is healed or not by comparing the post-injury performance to the player’s baseline. The Suns are using Simi in the weight room to track static movements — but have hopes to one day use Simi to predict how players move on the court.

In the practice facilities, the Suns’ are also using Bertec’s 3D force plates in combination with Simi’s cameras. The Bertec plates, which players stand on, are able to track a player’s gait, jump and balance while Simi captures the movement in real time. Simi shows the coaches, the movement, while the Bertec plates provide data about pressure and other characteristics.

“While Wi-Fi can accomplish that, what 5G does is it makes it so fast [and] the latency is so low, that as soon as a player is done jumping, [the data is] there in front of them,” Resh said

Latency is the response or lag time between sending a signal and receiving one back, and 5G’s shorter latency is how it makes a difference in sports analytics.

“You want to reduce the delay as much as you can to give [people] real-time experiences,” said Technalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell. “Every little bit helps.”

3G networks had latencies in the hundreds of milliseconds, which is an appreciable fraction of a second. 4G networks, which enabled smartphones and all of the apps we use today, started with latencies of about 100 milliseconds and now are down to a range of about 30 milliseconds to 70 milliseconds. 5G aims to get to 1 millisecond, but it’s currently at about 20 milliseconds to 30 milliseconds, which is faster than the human eye blinks, Verizon’s Mecum said.

Fans are able to view a game from multiple camera angles.

An essential piece of the Suns’ practice facilities and arena is their use of millimeter wave 5G. MmWave is a band of radio airwaves that provides super-high speeds but can only travel short distances and gets blocked by objects like windows and trees. For sporting venues, though, those downsides aren’t an issue. Teams can easily install towers where needed in stadiums and arenas. MmWave’s ability to handle a huge number of devices on one network, at the same time, is ideal for fans during a game.

With the Suns’ stadium app, fans are able to receive feedback similar to what the coaches see while watching the game. The app is available to users with or without 5G phones. Seven different camera angles let fans view replays and real-time stats on the players. The app is available both in the stadium and at home. “You can go back and look at replays, and you’re in control instead of waiting for the jumbotron,” Mecum said.

Suns’ players and coaches are also able to get real-time feedback that lets them make live adjustments. The speeds needed to interpret this data captured during the Suns’ practice is only available over 5G, the coaching staff says. Neither Wi-Fi nor 4G can produce the results as quickly.

For now, the Suns are only using real-time analysis over 5G in the team’s practice facility. The NBA has strict guidelines surrounding what data collection is available in-game and doesn’t allow the kind of analysis the Suns perform in the practice facility.

The Suns aren’t the only ones interested in the numbers. Sports analytics bridges the gap between team stats and interpretation. When teams crunch data, the goal is almost always to figure out where performance fell short. After establishing areas in need of improvement, teams can optimize practice time using the data found from analytics. It’s a big business — the global sports analytics market size is expected to grow from $1.9 billion in 2019 to $5.2 billion by 2024, according to a report from MarketsandMarkets.

“When you are a professional athlete, standing on your feet just moving around a basketball court is actually considered work,” Resh said. “When you don’t have a ton of time to practice, you have to make your practices as efficient as possible.”

As the intersection between sports and analytics continues to grow, there is a need for 5G and real-time data, said Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin. Many sporting venues are incorporating 5G and mmWave to receive feedback as quickly as possible.

Perhaps the best-known example of sports analytics was captured in the 2011 film Moneyball. The movie, based on the Oakland Athletics baseball team, explained how analysis and statistics alone could lead to victories.

Brad Pitt played then-A’s general manager Billy Beane, who put together a winning team utilizing analytics and minimal funding. He studied sabermetrics, “the objective knowledge about baseball,” to rebuild the team on a low budget. Through studying these analytics, he led his team to a 20-game winning streak, the longest one in franchise history.

While the Suns can use 5G to track performance in the practice arena, the coaches aren’t able to do such analysis in the arena. Instead, Second Spectrum exclusively partners with the NBA, as well as soccer’s Premier League and Major League Soccer, to provide in-game player tracking.

After an initial response, Second Spectrum didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Players, coaches and fans can use Second Spectrum to access years of game history and find game playbacks within seconds. The company uses machine learning and computer vision to form a tracking system. It’s able to collect 3D data live from cameras within the arenas and then generate reports showing player location, player stats and the type of play in progress.

Even though the Suns didn’t come out on top this season, the conversation around what 5G has provided is just beginning.

“That real-time feedback is what we found to be the best method of teaching and learning for our players and for our coaches,” Resh said.

CNET’s Shara Tibken contributed to this report.

Correction, 11:19 a.m. PT: This story initially misstated the Phoenix Suns’ history with the NBA Finals. The team has made it three times, in 1976, 1993 and 2021, losing each time four games to two.

Max Verstappen wins F1 championship in season closer, Mercedes launches appeal

A winner has been crowned at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Red Bull’s Verstappen won the Abu Dhabi GP.

Hamilton held an 11-second lead over Verstappen prior to a safety car due to a crash by Williams driver Nicholas Latifi with five laps to go. Verstappen pitted during the safety car, with a controversial decision by the FIA then allowing all lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to pass before the race restarted. The FIA’s decision put Verstappen directly behind Hamilton on fresh tires when the race restarted on the final lap.

Mercedes has launched a protest against the decision, arguing it was a breach of regulations. The FIA dismissed the protest late Sunday, with Mercedes now appealing that decision.

Verstappen finished the season on 395.5 points, while Hamilton finished on 387.5. Both rivals started the race with 369.5 points. Coming in third for the championship was Hamilton’s current Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who finished the season with 226 points. Rounding out the top five were Perez on 190 and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on 164.5 points.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas won the 2021 constructors’ championship, with both of its drivers in the top three.

Verstappen broke his rival’s winning streak, but Hamilton and Michael Schumacher hold the record for most championship titles, at seven. Hamilton, who is also spearheading an initiative to push greater diversity and inclusion in motorsports, won the F1 championship in 2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The drivers get just three months off now, with the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship kicking off on March 20 in Sakir with the Bahrain Grand Prix. Hamilton will continue racing for Mercedes with new teammate George Russell, while Verstappen remains at Red Bull with current teammate Sergio Perez.

Season four of F1 Drive To Survive will be coming to Netflix in 2022 to recap this year’s dramatic and controversial racing championship.

Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort: Start time, how to watch or stream online, Trump commentary

Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort are fighting today! Alongside Anderson Silva with Trump on commentary.

Apparently, Trump will be commentating? 2021 is a helluva year.

Originally, legendary fighter Oscar De La Hoya, 48, who retired in 2009, was set to fight Brazilian ex-UFC champion Vitor Belfort, 44, in an exhibition bout. But earlier this month, De La Hoya posted a video shot from a hospital bed. He has COVID-19 and can’t fight.

“I have contracted Covid and am not going to be able to fight next weekend,” De La Hoya tweeted. “Preparing for this comeback has been everything to me over the last months, & I want to thank everyone for their tremendous support.”

Evander Holyfield, 58, agreed to step in and fight Belfort. Holyfield turns 59 on Oct. 19.

The event begins at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on Saturday, Sept. 11.

The event was supposed to take place at Staples Center in De La Hoya’s hometown of Los Angeles, but it’s been moved to The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. According to a report from ESPN, the California State Athletic Commission refused to sanction Holyfield-Belfort.

The coast-to-coast move certainly makes it more convenient for the Florida-based former president, who reportedly will be at the fight in person.

To watch the fight night on pay-per-view, go to Fite TV to purchase the $49.99 package, which includes unlimited replays until Dec. 11, 2021. Or order it through your existing cable, satellite or telecommunications provider.

To hear the Trumps’ commentary during each match, viewers will need to use the secondary audio function (SAP) on their cable box or TV set, pay-per-view provider iNDemand said in a statement.

Donald Trump is hardly new to combat sports. He’s a longtime friend of Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Trump’s past involvement with hosting major boxing events at his hotels and casinos earned him a place in New Jersey’s Boxing Hall of Fame.

For the Sept. 11 event, the Trumps will offer commentary on all four of the evening’s fights. But they’re not the only soundtrack available. Viewers can pick between the Trumps narrating the fight, or regular commentators Jim Lampley and Shawn Porter.

Here’s everyone fighting on the card…

England storms into Euro 2020 final, memes say it’s coming home

Get a kick out of the reaction to the big win. Also, are we seeing double, or were there two balls on the pitch at the same time?

Liam Gallagher, lead singer of the band Oasis, was one of many to tweet the line after the victory.

Since England now moves on to play Italy, Italian fans had a twist on the slogan, arguing that, “It’s coming to Rome.”

It wouldn’t be soccer (er, football) without controversy, and this game had some too. Raheem Sterling of England drew a penalty on a foul that, USA Today notes, “really didn’t look like a foul at all.” That led to the hashtag #DivingHome.

There also appeared to be two balls on the pitch at the time of the controversial penalty. Whoops. Some fans pointed out that when this same thing happened later in the match, play was stopped, but that didn’t happen earlier.

“England invented football so they can do what they want apparently,” said one Twitter user.

The game was played in London, and some tweets suggested that Queen Elizabeth II was working some royal magic with VAR, aka video assistant referees.

There’ll be plenty more social reaction come Sunday, when England meets Italy at noon PT at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Carl Nassib is first active NFL player to come out as gay: What to know

Nassib, who plays with the Las Vegas Raiders, donates $100,000 to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on LGBTQ+ suicide prevention.

“I just think that representation and visibility are so important,” Carl Nassib said.

“I actually hope that one day videos like this and the whole coming out process are just not necessary, but until then I’m going to do my best to cultivate a culture that’s accepting and compassionate.”

Nassib also donated $100,000 to the Trevor Project, a US nonprofit that focuses on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ+ youth. June is Pride Month.

Although Nassib is the first active NFL player to come out, Michael Sam, another defensive end, came out as gay in 2014. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2014 but ultimately didn’t make the final roster after playing in the pre-season.

Other NFL players, like David Kopay and Roy Simmons, came out as gay after retiring from the NFL. Simmons said he never came out during his playing career for fear of destroying his career. “The NFL has a reputation,” he once said, “and it’s not even a verbal thing — it’s just known.”

Carl Nassib is a defensive end who currently plays for the NFL team the Las Vegas Raiders. He is a five-season veteran of the NFL, having previously played for the Cleveland Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He played for Penn State Nittany Lions in College and was extremely successful, becoming a consensus All American and winning the Hendricks Award for the nation’s top defensive end in 2015. He also received the Lombardi Award as the best college football lineman or linebacker.

In March 2020, Nassib signed a three-year, $25 million contract with the Las Vegas Raiders.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he was “proud” of Nassib for “sharing his truth.”

“Representation matters,” he said. “We share his hope that someday soon statements like his will no longer be newsworthy as we march toward full equality for the LGBTQ+ community. We wish Carl the best of luck this coming season.”

The Raiders also showed their support. “Proud of you Carl,” the team tweeted.

While some social media reaction has sadly been focused on Nassib’s coming out not being an important issue, most have universally supported the athlete.

“I am just one person,” said Nassib. “I am a lanky walk-on who is living his dream. Thank you everyone for your support.”

Kevin Durant’s Swagger trailer dunks on youth basketball for Apple TV Plus

Apple’s basketball drama is inspired by the life of the NBA superstar Brooklyn Nets player.

Young actor Isaiah Hill stars as Jace Carson, a young basketball phenom with a bright future on the court. Shinelle Azoroh plays his mother, while O’Shea Jackson Jr. plays a former star player now coaching youth basketball. The youngest ever Oscar nominee, Quvenzhané Wallis, appears as another talented young player. Durant is credited as an executive producer alongside showrunner Reggie Rock Bythewood, the writer and director behind Shots Fired.

The first three episodes of Swagger premiere Friday, Oct. 29 on Apple TV Plus. Each new installment of the 10-episode series will then follow each Friday.

Just 2 months ahead of Olympics, US issues do-not-travel advisory for Japan

Team USA says it’s “confident” it can safely compete in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The US has issued an advisory against travel to Japan.

Read more: The Tokyo Olympics: Will the games be canceled, expected start date, full schedule

Team USA said it’s aware of the updated travel advisory, but is “confident” it can safely compete this summer.

“We feel confident that the current mitigation practices in place for athletes and staff by both the USOPC and the Tokyo Organizing Committee, coupled with the testing before travel, on arrival in Japan and during games time, will allow for safe participation of Team USA,” the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in an emailed statement.

Last month, the US issued Level 4: Do Not Travel advisories for around 80% of all nations. The travel advisories were updated to reflect the CDC’s COVID-19 health notices about other countries. Japan was initially left off the Level 4 warning list, but was added Monday.

Read more: Vaccine passports for COVID-19: How they’ll be a part of global travel

WWE is using TikTok to find its next SummerSlam ring announcer

Applicants with the “most entertaining” videos will win a trip to Vegas for the August event.

WWE is looking for fresh talent to serve as a ring announcer.

WWE will review each video submission before selecting two winners from its TikTok channel, which has more than 11 million followers, on Aug. 16. The company has also been using TikTok’s Resumes feature, which lets job seekers post video resumes to TikTok for positions with partner companies like Chipotle and Target, to find and recruit its next generation of Superstars. Selected applicants will attend a multiday talent tryout in Vegas as part of SummerSlam.

SummerSlam will stream live at 5 p.m. PT (8 p.m. ET) on Peacock in the US and on WWE Network everywhere else.

See also: TikTok has a new resume feature for job seekers

US Open 2021: TV schedule today, how to watch and more

See your streaming options for watching the toughest test in golf, no cable required.

Here’s what you need to know to watch the golf this week.

Phil Mickelson will look to make it two straight Majors at the US Open starting Thursday at Torrey Pines.

Golf Channel has the early round coverage on Thursday and Friday before giving way to NBC for weekend coverage for the final two rounds.

Here’s the TV schedule (all times ET):

For $5 a month, you can watch Golf Channel’s coverage on Peacock. In addition, Peacock will have exclusive live coverage at the start of the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday from 9:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET. Peacock will also show live coverage all four days of the tournament of feature groups and featured holes (11, 12 and 13).

If you’re streaming on a PC, phone or tablet you can watch on NBCSports.com or the NBC Sports app, but you will need to prove you have a pay TV subscription.

If you don’t have a cable or satellite TV subscription, you can watch the tournament with a live TV streaming service. All five major services offer NBC and Golf Channel. The catch is that not every service carries every local network, so check each one using the links below to make sure it carries NBC in your area.

Sling TV’s $35-a-month Blue plan includes NBC. You can add Golf Channel as part of the Sports Extra package for an additional $11 per month. You can see which local channels you get here.

Read our Sling TV review.

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and includes NBC and Golf Channel. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks are available in your area.

Read our YouTube TV review.

Hulu with Live TV costs $65 a month and includes NBC and Golf Channel. Click the “View channels in your area” link on its welcome page to see which local channels are offered in your ZIP code.

Read our Hulu with Live TV review.

FuboTV’s Standard plan costs $65 a month and includes NBC and Golf Channel. Click here to see which local channels you get.

Read our FuboTV review.

AT&T TV’s basic $70-a-month package includes NBC, but you’ll need to spring for the $95-a-month plan to get the Golf Channel. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels are available where you live.

Read our AT&T TV review.

Peacock offers three tiers: a limited free plan and two Premium plans. The ad-supported Premium plan costs $5 a month, and the ad-free Premium plan costs $10 a month. You need one of the Premium plans to watch the US Open. Peacock will show Golf Channel’s coverage of the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday along with exclusive live coverage at the start of rounds 1 and 2 from 9:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET. You can watch feature groups and featured holes (11, 12 and 13) all four days of the tournament.

Read our Peacock review.

All of the live TV streaming services above except ESPN Plus offer free trials, allow you to cancel anytime and require a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our massive streaming services guide.

If you live in an area with good reception, you can watch the afternoon action on Saturday and Sunday on NBC for free on over-the-air broadcast channels just by attaching an affordable (under $30) indoor antenna to nearly any TV.

Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier at UFC 264: Start time, how to watch, fight card

UFC 264 is happening today! Here’s what you need to know about McGregor vs. Poirier.

McGregor and Poirier face off this Saturday for the third time.

This will be the third time the pair have faced off. The ledger currently stands at one a piece. McGregor defeated Poirier at Featherweight back in 2014, with a first round KO. Poirier returned the favour earlier this year at UFC 267 with a second round finish. The third contest will be the rubber match, and will almost certainly determine who fights the current UFC Lightweight champion, Charles Oliveira, next.

Who wins this time? Current odds have it almost exactly 50/50. Many expected McGregor to make short work of Poirier in the second fight given how conclusive the first was, but Poirier’s improved defence, along with an improved chin at Lightweight, allowed him to withstand early pressure in the first round before taking over the fight. An accumulation of calf kicks, and some sharp boxing, allowed Poirier to take McGregor out in the second round.

Can McGregor find an answer to those calf kicks? Will he switch his current boxing-heavy style for a return to the light-footed karate movement of his earlier fights? Can Poirier make lightning strike twice?

Make no mistake, there is extra heat on this fight. After McGregor promised a $500,000 donation to Poirier’s Good Fight Foundation, Poirier took to Twitter when the donation was delayed, which started a back-and-forth feud between the two. While their second fight had a cordial and respectful lead up, the third fight will no doubt be a far more personal affair.

In short: expect fireworks.

The UFC 264 main card starts at 10 p.m EDT (7 p.m. PDT) but here are all the details from multiple timezones.

The UFC now has a partnership with ESPN. That’s great news for the UFC and the expansion of the sport of MMA, but bad news for consumer choice. Especially if you’re one of the UFC fans who want to watch UFC in the US.

In the US, if you want to know how to watch UFC 264, you’ll only find the fight night on PPV through ESPN Plus. The cost structure is a bit confusing, but here are the options to watch UFC on ESPN, according to ESPN’s site:

You can do all of the above at the link below.

MMA fans in the UK can watch UFC 264 exclusively through BT Sport. There are more options if you live in Australia. You can watch UFC 264 through Main Event on Foxtel. You can also watch on the UFC website or using its app. You can even order using your PlayStation or using the UFC app on your Xbox.

Need more international viewing options? Try a VPN to change your IP address to access those US, UK or Australian options listed above. See the best VPNs currently recommended by CNET editors.

The UFC press conference is done and dusted, but you can watch the event in its entirety above.

Unlike the last fight, a loss seems have brought Conor to his old, far more aggressive self. He seemed like a different person in there. How will the trash talk and tension affect the fight? It’s impossible to tell at this point, but this fight has a far more dangerous air about it.