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Dooby
12-31-2003, 02:56 PM
Wider court = bigger scores

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By Ric Bucher
ESPN the Magazine

Forget that two-front-teeth business. All I want for Christmas -- next Christmas is fine -- is two more feet. Not in height, but in width. And not for me, but the standard NBA floor.

It stands to reason that with players bigger, stronger, faster and far more advanced and committed defensively than even 10 years ago, the solution to opening up the NBA game is to expand the playing area. (Check the difference in NHL vs. Olympic hockey to see what space can do.) In any case, it's been made pretty clear by now that rule changes are akin to using free ointments and eyeblush to turn back the clock. As a 50-year-old hooker will tell you, the shelf life of that kind of deception is pretty short and when it falls apart, the effect is a heretofore unimagined ghastliness.

Why more width over more length? (Forgive that this is sounding like a penile implant infomercial.) One, because at least one NBA coach questions the value of more length. Two, I'm reasonable. In today's arenas, it would be harder to accommodate longer floors than wider floors.


A wider playing surface would give today's bigger NBA perimeter player more room to roam.
Now, what chance do I have of getting my wish? None. So why am I putting it out there? To make a point.

In an informal poll of coaches and GMs, every one agreed that a wider floor would be a sure-fire improvement. Every one also smirked and said, in one form or another, "Of course, it'll never happen. Because you're talking about cutting out some floor seats."

Well, yeah, if necessary. Raise the price of the remaining floor seats. Bump the luxury-suite tag. You're telling me a billion-dollar industry can't find a way to cover the bottom line on a row of missing seats? Or can't take a hit to upgrade what is supposed to be the sport's premier showcase? What is that "I Love This Game" smack about, then, anyway?

Granted, if this Christmas demonstrated anything, it's that talk about the NBA having fallen off since the good ol' days officially has zero cred. No one says exactly when these good ol' days were, but for argument's sake, let's place them in the mid-80s, when the Bird-Magic rivalry was as its height. To the revisionists and those who decry the way the game is played today: For starters, it wasn't half as good as you pretend it was. There were as many dog teams and dog players then as there are now. For every Lakers-Celtics Game 6 tilt, there were a half-dozen games like Christmas Day 1986, when the Knicks beat the Bulls in a battle of lottery-bound squads. This, of course, was back when, legend has it, every game broke 100 points as a matter of course. Except, of course, this one. Final score: Knicks 86, Bulls 85.

Sure, the game has changed. So has the entire world. All I know is, instead of watching one game on my rabbit-eared TV, I had three on my stereophonic flat screen that captured every dramatic plot line a hoops junkie could want. You want two great players trying to lift sub-par teams, a la Patrick vs. Jordan in '86? LeBron and T-Mac, at your service. You want the see-saw of two teams jacking it up, a la every team in the '70s and playing defense only when the mood strikes them? It was never better then than the Kings-Mavericks are now. Teams playing a balanced championship-caliber style game, complete with bona-fide, low-post-scoring big men, is more to your taste? Yao-Shaq/Lakers-Rockets delivered all that and, thanks to modern technology, I got to hear a miked-up Steve Francis to boot. (Not that all technology is good -- the floor cam is a perfect example of something taken too far, unless looking up shorts flips your switch. What next, a nostril cam, so we can appreciate the undulation of Sam I Am's nose hairs?)

None of this means the game couldn't be improved, of course, and the most obvious, irrefutable change needed is to make the playing field bigger. The logic is simple -- the offense would have more room to create shots, while the defense has more angles, holes, seams and space to defend. You can keep your hallowed length at 94 feet and the rim at 10 feet and the shot clock at 24 seconds. I'm just tired of seeing players inadvertently step out of bounds attempting to drive from the corners while remaining a 3-point threat. Ray Allen, for one, blames that on poor fundamentals and lack of awareness. I'll give him that -- but part of it is the increase in 6-foot-10-and-over perimeter players whose stance naturally takes more space than a 6-footer. The extra space also would provide that much more of an edge to the fundamentally sound.



"The idea of making the court wider is a good one," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "It doesn't even have to be two feet. A foot, total, would make a difference."

Carlisle, though, has his own ideas. He mentioned one earlier this season that struck some as either sacrilegious or a condemnation of the current talent -- make the basket bigger. He was being semi-facetious, in that he believes that would instantly increase scoring and shooting percentages. The facetious part is he doesn't believe scoring and shooting percentages need to be improved. The ball going in the basket, in and of itself, is only a payoff. For me, the actual beauty of the game is the way in which the ball going in the basket is created. Having examined the topic with the same acute attention to detail he does everything, Carlisle has two simple suggestions -- make the 3-point line a true, shorter arc, which would encourage coaches to run plays for high-percentage 3-point shots all over the floor, not just in the corners, and re-set the shot clock in the frontcourt to 16, rather than 14 seconds.

"I think the extra two seconds would make a huge difference, especially attacking zones," he said. "That's the defense you see most inbounding the ball from the sidelines. You've got 10 to 20 sideout situations every game. Those two seconds would allow you to get a much better shot and they'd add less than a minute to the length of the game."

Carlisle also sees moving in the 3-point line to a uniform length accomplishing the same goal as widening the court -- open up the corners. I'm leery of that idea because it was tried, several years ago, when the league went to a uniform 22-foot arc. It didn't work because everybody in the league thought they should be shooting 3s.

"The overall conditions have changed where there's a need to do something significant," Carlisle said. "They've tried all the subtle changes."

Except widening the floor, which would hardly be noticeable except, maybe, in the profit margin. But I'm fully aware the NBA is in the entertainment business, not the basketball-caretaking business. I just always get struck by a case of perfect-world rumination this time of year, thinking less about what is than what could be. I should be over it any day now.
Ric Bucher covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine. Also, click here to send Ric a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

Drbio
12-31-2003, 10:03 PM
Not sure how I feel about this yet......

Speedy
12-31-2003, 10:19 PM
For the X's and O's guys, how does this affect zone vs. man-to-man defense and press up-tempo offense vs. half court, if any?

u2sarajevo
01-01-2004, 04:40 AM
Originally posted by: Speedy
For the X's and O's guys, how does this affect zone vs. man-to-man defense and press up-tempo offense vs. half court, if any?

I'm no X and O guy... but I would think that it would affect man to man D moreso than zone unless the stripes are moving also.

And it might make up-tempo Offense more fun with a wider field of play.

I'm not sure I like the idea though. There are some things that should remain sacred, IMO.

Dooby
01-01-2004, 09:47 PM
Originally posted by: u2sarajevo


I'm not sure I like the idea though. There are some things that should remain sacred, IMO.

Considering some things "sacred" is what has doomed baseball. Not saying this is a great idea, but I refuse to believe that any rules come down from up high, as the baseball purists do.

Bayliss
01-01-2004, 10:02 PM
I'm not sure how I feel about it. Personally I hate rules that are formed because players have become inept. In a way it's a "dumbing down" of the league. You can't shoot? That's okay. We'll move the line closer in. You can't dribble? That's okay... you now get as many steps as you want. You can't shoot free throws? That's okay... we'll make sure people can't foul you in the last 2 minutes.

Stern and GMs need to force players to grow up some and learn the basic art of shooting. I would rather them take away from the players and make it harder for them than give them something to make it easier for them. For example... if you make the hoop bigger then it's easier for them. That is not any good. But if you remove the dunk it is harder for them. Players like Darius Miles, etc would have to learn other fine arts. And in the short run it might make the game ugly. But in the long run... 18 year old kids will stop trying to dubk it on everyone and start coming into the league a little more sound in shooting. Which is whole point of the so called rule changes.

Chiwas
01-01-2004, 11:06 PM
I don't think the idea would prosper for several reasons, among others, the mentioned in the article about cutting out seats.

Personally, I'd prefer to put the three points line closer, as in the NCAA, or to remove -or increase the time- the three seconds violation, or to let one more offensive and one less defensive players in the free throw lane during free throws, or to let one offensive player be in one of the closest to the basket spots in free throwing. Or....

I could stand and want a shortening in the length and widening of the width in soccer fields and figure out inmediately good results, but I can't visualize evident benefits on basketball courts. However, as any new idea, why not to prove it in some not official games to see what happens?

Max Power
01-02-2004, 12:16 AM
I can't imagine it being successful. The last "innovation" to increase scoring was to allow zone defenses. That hasn't exactly worked.

Bayliss
01-02-2004, 12:27 AM
I can't imagine it being successful. The last "innovation" to increase scoring was to allow zone defenses. That hasn't exactly worked.

I guess you haven't watched the Mavs play zone this year. i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif They give up 30-35 points in a quarter easily while in the zone.

Max Power
01-02-2004, 01:05 AM
Originally posted by: Bayliss

I can't imagine it being successful. The last "innovation" to increase scoring was to allow zone defenses. That hasn't exactly worked.

I guess you haven't watched the Mavs play zone this year. i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif They give up 30-35 points in a quarter easily while in the zone.

LOL - you got me on that one.

ma-gaga
01-02-2004, 02:31 AM
I like the idea, widen the court, then raise the hoop a foot.

u2sarajevo
01-02-2004, 02:51 AM
Originally posted by: Dooby

Originally posted by: u2sarajevo


I'm not sure I like the idea though. There are some things that should remain sacred, IMO.

Considering some things "sacred" is what has doomed baseball. Not saying this is a great idea, but I refuse to believe that any rules come down from up high, as the baseball purists do.
I certainly did not intend to imply it was a rule from "up high"... I didn't say I was adamantly opposed, I just wonder if it would really improve the game. You would have to admit that it would be a shock initially to see a wider court. Like if the NFL suddenly increased the width of the football field from 160 feet to 170 feet (although there are some stadiums that would not be able to accomodate that very easiy).

So I guess what I am trying to say is I probably had a poor choice in wording, but I don't think a change should happen just to make a change. If it makes the game more exciting, it would be easier to swallow. But the NBA has introduced changes to increase scoring that has done little to no good (zone defense, moving the arc, etc...). I think given that history, they shouldn't do it unless it really does make a difference.

kingrex
01-02-2004, 11:23 AM
I'm not necessarily a purist, but I have a problem with adjusting the playing surface of the game. I understand that players are bigger and faster now, but I don't think the players movements on the floor has been diminished to the point that a wider court is warranted.

Fidel
01-02-2004, 07:50 PM
Originally posted by: Speedy
For the X's and O's guys, how does this affect zone vs. man-to-man defense and press up-tempo offense vs. half court, if any?
Obviously if you widen the court it would effect the zone more then the man to man, cause in the zone every player would have to "guard" some more space. The offense would have more room to opperate. Zones do rotate to the ball and that rotation would require an extra step. It would be easier to crack a zone with good ball movement if the court was widened.

Concerning the offense. Surely the a run and gun tempo offense wouldnīt benefit as much as a half court offense. You could spread your fastbreack attack even more but there arenīt alot of fastbreak plays that use the corners to opperate (except maybe the ocassional dishout to a 3pt shooter in the corner). But fastbreaks would still get you the highest % shots so itīs not a setback. Halfcourt offense would benefit directly though from widening the court, especially against the zone, but also against man to man (cause you could stretch your offense here too, isolation plays would be a little easier to run, doubling and collapsing on a player would be even more risky and so on).

IMO the point the author makes about players being stronger, wider and bigger is a good one. You just didnīt have 7 footers like Dirk playing the perimeter 20 years ago. This is not so much about lacking fundamentals but simply about the fact that a 6"10 or 7"0 player needs more room to operate then a 6"6 player. That makes it harder for the big players to play the corners or sidelines like the article mentions. Now if you have a team with 3-4 players around 6"9 - 7"0 playing together on the floor there simply will be less room to operate. Generally this makes it easier for the defense especially in halfcourt sets. I think widening the court is a very good suggestion and IMO it would definitly increase scoring.

Speedy
01-02-2004, 09:14 PM
Originally posted by: Fidel

Originally posted by: Speedy
For the X's and O's guys, how does this affect zone vs. man-to-man defense and press up-tempo offense vs. half court, if any?
Obviously if you widen the court it would effect the zone more then the man to man, cause in the zone every player would have to "guard" some more space. The offense would have more room to opperate. Zones do rotate to the ball and that rotation would require an extra step. It would be easier to crack a zone with good ball movement if the court was widened.

Concerning the offense. Surely the a run and gun tempo offense wouldnīt benefit as much as a half court offense. You could spread your fastbreack attack even more but there arenīt alot of fastbreak plays that use the corners to opperate (except maybe the ocassional dishout to a 3pt shooter in the corner). But fastbreaks would still get you the highest % shots so itīs not a setback. Halfcourt offense would benefit directly though from widening the court, especially against the zone, but also against man to man (cause you could stretch your offense here too, isolation plays would be a little easier to run, doubling and collapsing on a player would be even more risky and so on).

IMO the point the author makes about players being stronger, wider and bigger is a good one. You just didnīt have 7 footers like Dirk playing the perimeter 20 years ago. This is not so much about lacking fundamentals but simply about the fact that a 6"10 or 7"0 player needs more room to operate then a 6"6 player. That makes it harder for the big players to play the corners or sidelines like the article mentions. Now if you have a team with 3-4 players around 6"9 - 7"0 playing together on the floor there simply will be less room to operate. Generally this makes it easier for the defense especially in halfcourt sets. I think widening the court is a very good suggestion and IMO it would definitly increase scoring.

Very interesting views, thanks for the insight Fidel and U2. Really appreciateyou going into detail Fidel.