Jan 21, 2016 7:51 PM
Hack-a-Shaq not pretty and often not effective, either
The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) Imagine Kobe Bryant, late in his final All-Star Game, going basket for basket with LeBron James, fans in Toronto on their feet as the NBA's best put on a show.
Suddenly, nowhere near the action, a Western Conference player wraps his arms around Detroit's Andre Drummond for an intentional foul.
OK, that's farfetched. Nobody has ever been accused of overthinking defensive strategy in the All-Star Game.
But Hack-a-Shaq critics worry that it is going to be used in an important game with a big crowd watching and eventually those fans won't want to watch anymore.
"Somebody is going to do this in a nationally televised game. There's going to be two bad free throw shooters and we're going to see guys, like, grabbing people 80 feet away from the basket," ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy said recently.
It was nearly that bad Wednesday night in Houston, where the Rockets sent Drummond to the foul line 36 times. He set an NBA record by missing 23, yet the Pistons won the game anyway.
The whole scene essentially summed up Hack-a-Shaq: It's unattractive, and it's also largely ineffective.
Teams intentionally fouling away from the ball have won only 56 percent of the time this season when utilizing the strategy when they had the lead, according to the NBA. Teams trailing, as the Rockets were Wednesday, have won just 17 percent of the time.
Yet coaches see it as a way to get a dominant big man like Drummond, Houston's Dwight Howard or the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan off the floor, or at least slow down the rhythm of their high-powered offenses.
That's why there remains little movement to change it.
That was true when general managers met in May and again when coaches gathered in September. There was little support among either for changing the rule, nor has there been any so far from Commissioner Adam Silver.
So Drummond, Howard and Jordan who combine for nearly 70 percent of the Hack-a-Shaq fouls this season should plan to continue their parade to the foul line.
"Adam Silver and the league, they decided that's the way they want to play the game and that's what they want people to watch. So as long as fans are OK with watching it, then we'll continue to play that way," said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who also coached Howard in Orlando. "At some point, the fans may get to the point and say we're not going to pay to watch this, we're going to flip the channels.
"They haven't yet, that's what Adam keeps saying, and when they do, then the league will have to make an adjustment."
Right now, it would essentially be an adjustment for three players. Nearly 77 percent of the Hack-a-Shaq fouls have been committed against the Pistons, Rockets and Clippers, according to the league, with Jordan accounting for a whopping 30 percent of those fouls by himself.
If the NBA did want to abolish it, there are a number of options, such as giving the player that was fouled two shots and allowing his team to keep possession, or for his team to decline the free throws and just take the ball out of bounds.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers is on the competition committee that didn't recommend any rules change, but now he is thinking otherwise.
"I was against it, honestly, because it's only seven guys or eight guys, but it is getting more and more," he said Thursday in Cleveland. "It's bad for the league. It looks bad and we're going to have to adopt something here, I think."
Or, as those who oppose change say, those notoriously poor free throw shooters could just make their shots so teams would stop fouling them.
That's what Shaquille O'Neal, who the strategy is named for, always said he did when it mattered. Teams would certainly change their tactics if Jordan, Howard and Drummond were hitting better than the collective 40.8 percent they are making in these situations.
Coaches often say they dislike the strategy, but even critics wouldn't rule out using it. But Jeff Van Gundy thinks it's well past time to take away the option.
"I can't believe, frankly, that there's any discussion about it," he said.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.