Lighthall: Changes Will Hurt NBA
When I heard the story that the NBA had had discussions about making some radical changes to its game, my first thought was “Why?!” The pro game is polarizing enough – it seems fans either love or hate the NBA – that tinkering with the game just for the sake of tinkering would be a huge mistake.
NBA President of basketball operations Rod Thorn and vice president Kiki Vandeweghe have admitted that the ideas of expanding the size of the floor and the possibility of a 4-point shot have made it past the level of just brainstorming. They’ve been discussed by the league according to a story recently on ESPN.com.
There’s no doubt that the size and athleticism of today’s NBA player are very different than they were when the current court size (94×50) was adopted in the 1940’s. People that say basketball is a non-contract sport haven’t watched the game in the last 20 years. Since the Detroit Pistons’ Bad Boys of the early 90’s started to bodycheck more than guard people, its felt like there is less and less room to operate on the NBA stage. And this isn’t the first time dimensions have been looked at. With dunking becoming easier for everyone from point guards to 7-footers, the question of when the rim will be raised (to 11-feet?) continues to linger. If the court grew, the NBA game would become even more of a one-on-one league than it already is. It would make it harder for the backside help to rotate and challenge, let alone stop, thunderous dunks.
The 3-point line was such a smash hit in the ABA that the NBA adopted it a couple of years after the two leagues merged in the summer of 1976. At 22 feet in the corner out to its widest spot of 23.75 feet, it’s still a challenge for even the most skilled of shooters. Witness: there are only three players currently in the NBA that’s shooting better than .450 from beyond the arc … and only six players have led the league in a season by making at least half. What I’m getting at is that this new idea of a 4-point shot would result in nothing more than players heaving the ball and further driving down overall shooting percentages.
Have you been to a youth league game lately? Or a high school game? All those kids seem to do is launch 3-pointer after 3-pointer. A 14-year old at the three-point line looks a lot like a dog at the edge of an invisible fence. He just stops there, refusing to move forward. If you think the art of ball-handling and the mid-range game is disappearing now … then wait until the NBA paints another long distance line on the floor.
The NBA front office needs to back off. The league is finally recovering from its post-Michael Jordan hangover. Let the game grow in its current state. Let it mature. Let the fans fall in love with the sport again.