The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

March 16, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Would a 4-point shot help or hurt basketball?

MORGANTOWN — Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, Rod Thorn was throwing basketballs down for West Virginia University, an in-state heir to the heritage of greatness Jerry West had established.

Thorn came along directly on West’s heels, a freshman West’s senior season in an era when freshmen could not play varsity sports, but he made it so West’s graduation didn’t have a crippling effect on the program.

In fact, Thorn actually had a better sophomore scoring season than West did, averaging 18.5 points a game to 17.8. Even the next two seasons were not terribly lopsided in West’s favor, the Hall of Famer averaging 26.6 and 29.3 points to 23.7 and 22.4 for Thorn.

Then, like West, Thorn went on to play in the NBA, being drafted second overall by the Baltimore Bullets in 1963, the gap in performance widening over those years as West became “The Logo,” Thorn averaging 10 points a game over eight seasons before becoming a coach and executive.

His credentials in running the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets included an NBA Executive of the Year title and consecutive Eastern Conference championships with the Nets before joining the league office, where he serves as president of basketball operations.

We bring this up not so much to remind ourselves there was a golden age in West Virginia where, at this moment, things are going along on a flat tire and to assure you that Thorn’s qualifications are of the highest level, for he recently brought up some rather startling suggestions that are being discussed to change NBA basketball.

In a recent interview with ESPN.com, Thorn and his vice-president, Kiki Vandewghe, acknowledged that the league office, at least at an informal, exploratory fashion, have talked about both expanding the dimensions of the court and introducing a 4-point shot.

Now you may wonder why we would be interested in this here, there being no NBA franchise closer than Washington, D.C., but rest assured if the NBA were to change its rules the NCAA would not be far behind weighing whether it would be willing to make similar changes.

Certainly, basketball players have become bigger and more athletic over the years, perhaps to the point that they have outgrown the 94-by-50-foot court that the NBA has used since the 1940’s when the two-handed set shot was in vogue.

One suspects, after having played on a court whose playing area was reduced greatly by 6-foot-9, 285-pound Cameron Ridley and his Texas-sized cohorts that WVU’s Juwan Staten would vote to increase the size of the playing area to open up a few more lanes through which he might be able to squeeze.

One would wonder, too, after this there might also be a push to raise the rim, although the dunk does seem to be the most popular aspect of a given basketball game and it’s unlikely any league would do anything to affect that.

Enlarging the basketball court would prove troublesome in many arenas, where seats are sold right up to courtside with the courtside seats being the most expensive in the house. At the Coliseum space already is at a premium, and any increase in size would surely cut back on capacity.

This brings us to the most intriguing idea – the 4-point shot.

The 3-point goal was started back in the old ABA and was so popular that the NBA adopted it during the 1979-80 season, college basketball being not far behind to put it in with a line even closer than in the NBA.

It completely changed the way the game was played.

But a 4-point shot?

What would make anyone think of that?

It is said that the discussion of it grew out of one-time, throwaway line by the Boston Celtics Antoine Walker one day when a reporter asked him why he took so many 3-point shots.

Being cute Walker replied:

“Because there are no 4-point shots.”

That, of course, set off a light in someone’s mind, and the discussion was born.

Could the 4-point shot help or hurt the game of basketball?

Certainly Eron Harris, WVU’s 3-point specialist, would be in favor of it, considering he turns loose many of his 3-point shots from what would surely be considered 4-point range.

Let us emphasize that there are no serious discussions about these rule changes underway at present, but we’d be interested to have you share your thoughts about whether basketball should adopt these rules or any other changes you might want to see.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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