Skip to content

Stern says he would like to eliminate “hack-a-Howard” (or anyone)

Dec 6, 2012, 3:49 PM EDT

NBA Commissioner Stern participates in a panel session at The Cable Show in Boston Reuters

When the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets went to the “hack-a-Howard” strategy — fouling the Lakers Dwight Howard wherever he was on the court, even when he didn’t have the ball, to make him shoot free throws — it worked because it threw the Lakers off. In those two games Howard hit 50 percent of his free throws during the strategy (which still isn’t great), but the greater impact was it threw the Lakers out of rhythm on both ends of the court.

But it isn’t just the Lakers flow that gets thrown off, it’s the fans, too. Because watching a parade to the free throw line has the drawing power of CSPAN-2.

David Stern is all about the image and how games look on television — just ask Gregg Popovich and the Spurs — so you know he doesn’t like to watch hack-a-anyone. The league has effectively banned the strategy from the last two minutes of the game by making it two free throws plus the ball out of bounds if you foul off the ball.

And Stern told the guys from the Fox Sports New Orleans broadcast team (when he sat in with them for a bit Wednesday night during the Hornets/Lakers game) he tried to get it banned completely, but couldn’t. Thanks to Henry Abbott at TrueHoop for the transcription:

“I would have liked to have seen the rule changed to make the last-two-minute rule the whole rule,” he said. “It was getting to a point last year where, [in the] first period, they were just grabbing players. I think that’s ludicrous.

“We tried to change it to any time in the game because last year I guess it was everyone was fouling Tiago Splitter early on and the committee didn’t want to do it. And so that’s just the way it is. Because the reality is that there are a lot of basketball purists — and I understand that point of view — who say, ‘Hey, why don’t you learn to shoot foul shots? You’re supposed to be a pro.'”

Abbot makes an interesting suggestion — for off-the-ball fouls, offer the team the free throws or the ball out of bounds. Essentially eliminate the effectiveness of the strategy without killing the flow of the game as much.

I get that. The parade to the free throw line is no fun to watch. But if a guy can’t make his free throws, shouldn’t his team pay a price for that?

  1. cochranlawyer - Dec 6, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    Tv deals and making sure their interests are protected is one thing. But just like enacting laws notice must be provided. If stern wants to change the rule, then if he gets the support for it, then make it effective 5 years from now. That way teams who recruited players with certain attributes will have time to realign their teams if they deem it necessary. Stern needs to focus on stopping the name Pelican. Not another issue that affects his tv big wigs.

    • coachdp3 - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:27 PM

      This is crap….where was Sterns concern for hack a Howard when he was in Orlando. SHAQ in Orlando? You cant say its because of tv revenue as back in the days of Howard and Shaq in Orlando, Orlando was one of the top teams on TV…playing on Christmas…etc. this is why Stern is better off retired. He only cares when itsa big market team affected…NBA Cares…right…lol.

  2. Caleb Winn - Dec 6, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    What about *1* free throw and the ball, rather than Henry Abbot’s 2 freebie/possession choice? Takes the bite out of off-the-ball fouls somewhat, but still essentially eliminates the incentive to hack.

  3. ljl2 - Dec 6, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    Or…maybe players should learn how to shoot free throws so teams don’t have a reason to do it.

    • albertmn - Dec 6, 2012 at 4:14 PM

      If a player can improve to even a poor FT shooter (60-65%) instead of a horrible shooter (less than 50%), it would lessen it as a strategy.

    • HitsDingers - Dec 6, 2012 at 4:24 PM

      Stern’s point isn’t about whether it’s a good strategy for winning games; his point is that it makes for a boring game to watch.

      • galacticdomin8r - Dec 6, 2012 at 5:29 PM

        I find the expression on the faces of Dwight Howard’s fans, coaches, teammates, and front office to be great entertainment during the FT trips.

        Leave to Stern to come up with another poorly thought out rule. The NBA’s problem isn’t a lack of rules, it is the excess of them. So what do they do? Add more.

      • ljl2 - Dec 6, 2012 at 7:02 PM

        What if it’s your team that is using it as a way of getting back into a game? I’d rather see the game slow down and my team win. I am able to pay attention.

  4. jedifriedchicken - Dec 6, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    I can’t stand David Stern, but I’m in agreement with him here. I hate the whole hack-a-Shaq bit, along with flopping, and strong-arm bit of the 80’s. I appreciate a game of skill and fundamentals, not rule exploitations, intimidation, and thuggery.

    I do like the idea Abbot suggested though.

    • kanemoney - Dec 7, 2012 at 2:13 AM

      Then hit the free throws. It’s that simple.

      And for the record, Hack-a-Shaq almost never worked. He did hit a high percentage down the stretch (most notably the NBA finals with the Pacers).

  5. miamatt - Dec 6, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    Funny, I’d like to see professional basketball players who can barely hit 50% of their free thorws eliminated. Abbot’s suggestion isn’t bad, but simply passable free throw shooting eliminates this altogether.

    Any given player’s weakness is there to be exploited; improve, or continue to hurt your own team.

  6. kindasporty - Dec 6, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    You know what would also make it a more interesting game? Trap doors in the floor that open at random. That would be awesome.

    • fanofevilempire - Dec 6, 2012 at 6:10 PM


    • fanofevilempire - Dec 6, 2012 at 6:11 PM


  7. jimmerg31385 - Dec 6, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    So if you were to eliminate the hack-a-(player name) strategy in the interest of making the game more entertaining, wouldn’t you also have to eliminate the foul when a team is up 3 late in the game situation? It would be more entertaining to see a team shoot a last second 3 for the tie rather than a parade of free throws until there’s 1.5 seconds left. Then take it a step further, what if anytime a team was fouled they could choose between free throws and ball out of bounds. For better or worse free throws are part of the game and player’s inability to make them will continue to lead to this strategy. Also, don’t think that the fact this is happening to a marquee franchise doesn’t play any part in Stern’s opinion.

  8. ajpnsf - Dec 6, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    I like Abbot’s suggestion too.

    Some guys can’t shoot free throws. So what. It seems cheap to me to have to win like that. Almost like cheating.

    • galacticdomin8r - Dec 7, 2012 at 5:40 PM

      Cheating? How could it possibility be thought of as cheating? Do they start the vibrating rim machine when Howard gets to the line? Does he have to shoot 20 ft FT and everyone else gets 10 ft FT’s? Are you drunk?

  9. e39er - Dec 6, 2012 at 5:20 PM

    Stern hurry up and retire please, stop changing the game for your own good, let Dwight or anybody learn how to shoot his damn free throws

  10. indyspeedo - Dec 6, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    I refuse to even say this guys name with all the crap he caused in Orlando! The player who formerly played for the Magic should have stopped trying to run the coaching staff out of town and practiced shooting free throws. What a total waste. Who cares if they hack him! He’s supposed to be a professional work on your free throws and quit trying to keep yourself in the news

  11. edwardsro - Dec 6, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    This rule change will happen soon

  12. wsuperman4445 - Dec 6, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    I think its unfair that David Stern gets to make rules based on his personal preference. the game developed into the game as it is because players found ways to beat other teams using unconventional ways to beat teams. and that is fun to watch. its bad enough that the market is skewered to big markets like LA its not fair that these players like Dwight go to teams like the Lakers and leave the smaller markets even though it was the Magic that made Dwight into the Defensive Presence that he is now he does have the right to leave but to torch the team the way he did was wrong so if the Magic against all odds found a weakness in Dwight’s game and used it great the Magic, Dwight used a weakness in the Free market and used it to his advantage. . at the end of the day its not all about points as Stern is implying its about the Drama on and off the court the will to win and what teams and plays do to win, its not all about running the ball back and forth and keeping things moving as he ( stern puts it) its about strategy and finding withing the rules ways to win. It was thrilling that the game was not what the “experts” predicted head lines the next day.. ” Magic plays Lakers in LA with a Player that totally trashed the Magic on his way out… but the Underdogs figured out a way to even the score by exploiting the weakness that Howard has in his free throws by hack a Howard” To me that is brilliant basketball, figuring a way to win within the rules.. so what does Stern do? when big market team starts to lose or be embarrassed by Small market, he again looks for ways that the big market teams don’t have to ” waste their time playing teams like the Magic, by again changing the rules to suit his personal needs, this commission has been interfering with the game too much, this is wrong and Stern knows it. why does he not just let the Teams figure it out by them selves on how to solve the Hack a Howard situation either by Howard manning up and practicing his free throws in the summer instead of jet setting all over the world or some other TEAM originated solution?. all this does if Stern does this is say to people like Howard ” hey I don’t have to work harder on my Free throws because David Stern has taken care of it for me not only has he (Stern made it easy for me to get here he’s got my back when it comes to my lack of free throw skills” not a great message to put out there for others.. David, Leave the game alone let Howard and other with his free throw percentage work work this one out on his own .. if Miami or Boston or the Knicks did the Hack a Howard because both teams are big market teams Stern would not even mention this at all.. David what is your Beef again small market teams trying to even things up? wsuperman4445 a Magic fan

    • manchestermiracle - Dec 6, 2012 at 11:30 PM

      Please, please learn what a paragraph is and use them.

      • wsuperman4445 - Dec 7, 2012 at 10:09 AM

        to Manchestermiracle, is that the best you can do? lets focus on the article make your point on that no need to insult or.. try to get a laugh at my expense, do you have any meaningful thoughts on the article? or do you want to just play english teacher? if so have at it.. its amazing the balls people have when sitting in their underpants in front of a key board insulting people and not having nothing meaning full to say. if it would make your day I am sorry that I missed some Grammer and spelling issues in making my point about the article.. happy now? now you can K.M.A !

      • brewdogg - Dec 7, 2012 at 3:50 PM

        I think the point that is trying to be made here is that, when writing something as long as you did, if you truly want people to understand your viewpoint, you should try to make it easy to read. By the time I got halfway through that post, I was more focused on trying to piece it together and less on what you were actually writing.

        Basically…..if someone is talking to you and they sound like an idiot, you will assume that they are an idiot. If they sound articulate and knowledgeable, you will be more inclined to listen and believe what they are telling you. The same goes for printed word. If you write in a fashion that would indicate that you weren’t able to pass sixth grade English classes, we will be less inclined to take your point of view seriously.

    • rushbacker - Dec 8, 2012 at 4:10 AM

      Dude. The “enter” key is on the right-hand side of your keyboard. Use it.

  13. lemfaxx - Dec 6, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    Hey smart people. If that is the only way to win for those weakest team y ur going to stop them. They are all prof player, so if they dont want to loss dont put poor shooter in the court. If u really concern of the league pls limit the other team for getting too much supperstar. The other teams are boring coz they dont have big names in the court. Be fair men!

  14. bjerkrulez - Dec 6, 2012 at 7:48 PM

    Here he goes again…the dictator at his best…

    Just what was posted on the article, when a guy misses free throws, it’s his team that goes down- simple logic!

    Even if you’re a pro mr. commissioner, there is NO perfect player unless you will have robots playing in the NBA instead of humans…sheesh!

    Why not fine the team $250k for each foul since you’re at it again…lmao

  15. scrock25 - Dec 6, 2012 at 9:25 PM


  16. savvybynature - Dec 6, 2012 at 9:52 PM

    Another rule to aid superstars?!!? I’m shocked I tell you, shocked!

    Here’s an idea: Stop changing the game to what you think makes for good TV. Also, stop being condescending to “purists,” also known as the people that, you know, enjoy the game of basketball.

    Stern is obsessed with chasing the Jersey Shore crowd and in the meantime is alienating fans of basketball in the process. What happens when the what’s-trendy-lately crowd moves on to something else?

  17. xerocc - Dec 6, 2012 at 9:55 PM

    hard to disagree with him. it’s a cheap strategy used solely to overcompensate for a lack of coaching ability. get rid of it.

  18. magicbucs - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:22 AM

    This is so lame. A rule change for one player that can’t make his FTs. Why don’t we just change all the rules to help the lakers or big markets win. They have been doing hack a Dwight for years but now that D12 is with the lakers it becomes a rule change issue?!?!
    How come bin laden couldn’t of crashed a plane on sterns house with his a$$ in it??

  19. BigBeachBall - Dec 7, 2012 at 5:38 AM

    Before Stern retires, he’s going to do away with backboards because they give shooters an unfair advantage.

  20. wsuperman4445 - Dec 7, 2012 at 9:56 AM

    having Stern eliminate the “Hack a Howard or Shaq or who ever.. is unfair. if that is a players weakness then that is that players weakness, that player needs to adjust or the team needs to work out some way to over come that weakness. So my question is this Should then Stern Lower the Basketball Goals because Jamieer Nelson of the Magic (who is one of the shorter Guards in the league) so he could Dunk the ball like the taller basketball players? no Jamieer had to adapt his game to compinsate for being a short Point Guard in the NBA or.. the team had choices to not resign him and get someone taller but his value to the team with standing his height compinsated for his inablitly to dunk ( and yes he can Dunk) but my point withstanding he/and the Magic has a probem when he is teamed up with taller basket ball players to guard or to Dunk on them. my point is Dwight needs to deal with the fact he is a poor free throw shooter Stern should not ” fix it” for him if so.. then Lower the basket ball Post so Jamieer can dunk like the big Guys on a regular basis. in other words Dwight and others that are poor free throw shooters.. Man up and deal with it, at least you can improve your shooting Percentage with hard work people who are in the NBA and are short like Point Guard Jamieer Nelson and others cannot improve their height but they adapt and find ways to deal with it So can you Dwight!

  21. bluesdogg - Dec 10, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    This should not be an issue for Stern, this is a team issue.
    If the Lakers don’t want this strategy used against them then fix it! Its just like in baseball, it your pitching staff cant compete with a hitter and you keep walking him, you dont change the strike zone because your pitcher cant beat him.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. James (2066)
  2. D. Rose (1962)
  3. K. Bryant (1720)
  4. J. Smith (1614)
  5. K. Irving (1569)
  1. T. Thompson (1464)
  2. A. Davis (1427)
  3. T. Wroten (1377)
  4. J. Embiid (1310)
  5. F. Saunders (1270)