No matter the sport, no matter the decade, there is one question that always remains the same.
How do you gain that edge?
And under normal circumstances, once you've felt like you were on to something, you'd prefer not to share it with the world. Because then, what would the advantage be, if your opponents could use it, too?
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Such is the case when you've creatively painted advanced statistics onto your practice court, an area that also happens to be visible to us media folk.
You might've already heard about the four-point line added last season, a light grey semi-circle, measured exactly five feet behind the traditional three-point line. And no, it's not to encourage four-point shots in practice. In it's most simplistic form, it is there as a reminder (or requirement, rather) to spread the floor, to create additional room in the half-court, in a league where the three-point shot is king.
But, before the season started there were two further innovations to the practice court.
The first being four 28 x 84 inch (or 2 1/3 x 7 feet) red rectangles, placed in each of the four corners of the court.
The second is an arc that spans a few feet beyond the width of the paint and a few feet short of the top of the key.
Let's start with the rectangles.
Their purpose is two-fold. Defensively, they are a hint to close out on shooters. Offensively, they are a reminder that someone should be in both corners within the first 3-5 seconds of the shot clock to get the offense in motion.
"It's one of those absolutes," Brown explained of his new practice court additions. "It's not negotiable and because of that, it has a far greater chance to succeed over time. We can keep reinforcing it, keep talking about it, and because you come into the gym and it's clearly delineated, the message, plus the visual does not go away."
28 games in, and the Sixers are already seeing improvements defensively. Sixers opponents are shooting just 31.3 percent from corner threes this season, the best mark in the NBA. Granted, there's still a long way to go and Brown stressed something like this takes time.
"I can see that over the course of a year, you have a far greater chance, when you can find those things that aren't anything but black and white and there's no vagueness or ambiguity, then you have a chance to fix it and get better at it."
Brown seemed a bit more hesitant to reveal the reasoning behind the arc, which is driven out of the volume of threes that has taken over the NBA game and where a miss winds up after a perimeter shot.
"Where do the highest volume of three-point misses occur? After we came up with that measurement, we painted the line. Within that arc, that's where the highest volume of misses occur (on three-point shots)."
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