Sport

How bigger court could improve the game

This is the sixth installment in our Things We’d Change in Sports series. To see the full list, visit this page.

For nearly 80 years, full-sized basketball courts have been the same dimensions: 94 feet long by 50 feet wide.

But basketball players at all levels – and especially the NBA – have gotten bigger, stronger and faster, taking up more space on the court and covering ground quicker than ever.

Why not make the court bigger in the NBA? While it doesn’t seem like a huge difference, extending the court width-wise would create more space and improve the flow of the game.

This is not a novel idea. In 1986, Sports Illustrated mentioned it, and then-Milwaukee coach Don Nelson – before he started using marijuana in Hawaii, presumably – suggested a 100×52 court.

It is an idea whose time has arrived. If not the length, at least change the width where players routinely step out of bounds in the corner. Extend the width of the court to 54 feet – two extra feet on each sideline.

In a recent Washington-Indiana game, Wizards forward Jabari Parker made a corner three that would’ve put the Wizards up 100-99 with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter. Instead, he had stepped out of bounds, negating the basket. Wizards TV play-by-play announcer Steve Buckhantz said, “And we’ve talked about this before, there’s so little room over there that when you step back as a shooter often times you hit that line.”

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That kind of play happens at least once a game, it seems, with a player stepping out of bounds in the corner with not much room – just three feet – between the three-point line and sideline.

It’s also a reminder of just how amazing Miami guard Ray Allen’s game-tying corner three-pointer was against San Antonio in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals.

It would give the NBA a chance to increase the distance of the corner three, which now is a shorter three than the above-break-three (22 feet vs. 23¾ feet) and considered an easier shot to make. Teams such as Houston, Atlanta, Toronto, Detroit and Milwaukee utilize the corner three often and with efficiency.

Yes, there are courtside seats on the sideline that need to be accounted for, but you just push each row back so at most you would lose two rows of lower bowl seats in the last rows of an arena.

The idea is on the league’s radar to some extent, even if in an informal manner. In 2014, NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe told ESPN, “Making the court bigger, it’s an interesting idea, and we’ve actually looked at it.”

NBA spokesperson Tim Frank followed up with a statement saying, “No one at the NBA, nor the competition committee, has had any serious conversations about increasing the size of the floor or adding a 4-point line.”

But it has crossed the NBA’s mind, and it’s time to implement a minor change. Few watching will notice, but it will have an impact on the game.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt

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