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David Stern says league has no interest in eliminating ‘Hack-a-Shaq’

Apr 26, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

Dwight Howard AP

The ability for teams to intentionally foul players away from the ball who are poor free throw shooters — originally labeled “Hack-a-Shaq” for when it was used extensively against Shaquille O’Neal — is a perfectly legal strategy. But it’s also an excruciating one to watch that grinds things to a halt, and that most observers of the game couldn’t be less interested in sitting through.

We’ve seen it this season with Dwight Howard, most memorably in a game where he ended up shooting 39 free throws against his former team, the Orlando Magic. We’ve also seen it on a smaller scale as recently as Game 1 of the first round playoff series between the Grizzlies and the Clippers, when Memphis went to the strategy for a few possessions late in the fourth to try to get back into the game.

Many have wondered whether the league might look at doing something to eliminate this option, because for a game built on aesthetics, it’s brutal to see it reduced to nothing more than an extended free throw shooting contest. But David Stern says it’s not something the NBA is interested in addressing.

From Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press:

In what will be news of interest to both the Lakers and the Spurs, Commisioner David Stern said there still remains no interest in removing fouls away from the ball – the original “Hack-a-Shaq” – but does expect the league to revisit the idea of resting healthy players.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has used intentional fouling against Shaquille O’Neal and current Lakers center Dwight Howard, another notoriously poor free throw shooter, as a way to slow the opposing offense. League president Joel Litvin said owners and the Competition Committee felt that abolishing the strategy, which does slow games down, would be “rewarding a guy who can’t shoot free throws.”

Stern went on record as recently as December saying he wants the rule changed, but it isn’t up to him. There’s a competition committee in place that votes on these matters, and as long as the people there have no issue with the way that intentional fouls away from the ball affect the game, the strategy is here to stay.

  1. omniusprime - Apr 26, 2013 at 8:54 AM

    The Competition Committee is an oxymoron of epic proportions. Only the most corrupt think this hacking rule is worth keeping. It’s nothing but Coward basketball, used by wimps who don’t want to win honestly. It’s been a bad rule for too many decades and it makes the game boring. David Stern needs to step down so someone far less corrupt than him can run the NBA better.

    • skids003 - Apr 26, 2013 at 9:19 AM

      Make your free throws. If you weren’t such a big Laker hugger, you wouldn’t care.

    • fanofthegame79 - Apr 26, 2013 at 10:10 AM

      I have to agree with prime here – this was a conversation I was having with friends and family last night. This hack-a-whoever is not a real strategy. This says “hey, I can’t stop this guy with legitimate defense, so let’s foul him.” Remember, sports are for the fans – this is supposed to be entertainment. I get it that people are trying to win a little (ok, big) trophy but this style makes it hard to watch a game. It disrupts the flow of the sport…just like bad officiating can do the same thing. The only coach that consistently uses this method is Pop. I say he’s one of the greatest coaches of all time – but please get rid of this option of hack-a-player.

      • gmsingh - Apr 26, 2013 at 3:50 PM

        I think you need to make a distinction between “strategy” and “within the bounds of the rules.”

    • fanofevilempire - Apr 26, 2013 at 12:03 PM

      they once stopped Lew Alcindor from dunking………..

      they once told MJ he couldn’t have black shoes and black socks……..

  2. buckeyeluvn - Apr 26, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    This is simple…Hit Your Free Throws!

  3. bucrightoff - Apr 26, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    Slippery slope to institute a rule like that. It’s a strategy, much like the hurry-up offense in the NFL. There are ways to stop it (play good D and have good conditioning; make the free throws), but going to rules to stop it is weak.

    • deshackle - Apr 26, 2013 at 1:24 PM

      Some rules, if they promote the greater good of the game, should be instituted. For example the shot clock prevents teams from running the four corners. NBA basketball played at its best is a high-flying, high speed, athletic spectacle like the All-Star game. The job of a NBA referee should be to facilitate the pace of the game, keep it moving and flowing. Only intentional fouls and unnecessary roughness should called in game, and free throws awarded sparingly.

  4. ragingmouse - Apr 26, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    In an exchange for getting fouled you get “FREE THROWS”…

    mmm…FREE THROWS ( an opportunity to shoot ball without getting contested )

    Come on! Easy money! PRACTICE,PRACTICE PRACTICE!

    • bougin89 - Apr 26, 2013 at 11:19 AM

      Exactly, 100% agree with your comment.

      How can you look at a hack-a-whoever without seeing the fact you get to shoot free throws. This isn’t some weird technicality that teams use to cheat against teams, the opposing team is giving a particular player free throws…

      • badintent - Apr 27, 2013 at 1:21 AM

        Rick Barry.90+ career FT HOF
        shot underhandFTs
        12 year old girls can shoot underhand.
        So why can’t grown men do the same ?

    • fanofevilempire - Apr 26, 2013 at 12:04 PM

      practice, you talkin bout practice, practice….

  5. louhudson23 - Apr 26, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    It exposes and exploits the weakness of certain players….which is the idea of the game……..

  6. deshackle - Apr 26, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    The “Hack-a-Shaq” shouldn’t be outlawed, it should be penalized. The penalty should be should be administered as a flagrant foul, two shots and the ball. This might help the NBA get back to playing quality basketball.

  7. watermelon1 - Apr 26, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    This is the most BACKWARDS thinking I’ve ever heard of.

    TEAMS REST when they have everything locked up! It happens in all sports! Don’t like it? Then handle your business early in the season! Don’t wait around to do your Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve!

    Meanwhile… This fouling someone out of the play is absolutely against every ethic in sports and life.

    I’m not saying you can’t foul someone. But if its someone clearly out of the play than anyone on the court should be able to take the free throws.

    When you just foul the worst shooter on the court who doesn’t even have the ball… That’s not basketball. You think people don’t want to see bench players playing full-out effort… But they’ll want to see this cheap tactic of fouling someone out of the play over and over?!?

    Time to boycott the nba…. DO NO WATCH THE PLAYOFFS. DO NOT ATTEND ANY GAMES. we’ll see who gets the last word, David stern…

  8. gmsingh - Apr 26, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    Sports have rules, if you want people to make stuff as they go along play video games. Also, there is no excuse for anybody being paid millions not being able to even hit 50% at the line. When do we get to the part where Dwight Howard is worth the bother?

  9. mazblast - Apr 26, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    The NBA’s various “committees” are little more than rubber stamps for whatever David Stern wants. If he wants something, he has a committee to approve it. If he really wanted to eliminate this strategy, it would be eliminated already.

    The only way that “Hack-a-Shaq” differs in any way from the ancient and sometimes-effective strategy at all levels of fouling the opposition’s worst free throw shooter is that Shaq and now Howard are NBA stars. If the likes of Shaq and the amazingly overrated Dwight Howard would make their darned free throws, the opposition would stop doing it. Period.

  10. michaeljordanseviltwin - Apr 26, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    The change I desperately want to see in The Association is a fix for end of quarter half/full court heaves. Usually, players won’t take those low % shots because it hurts their stats BUT the playoffs brings a win-first attitude including a lot more exciting half court makes. This season I’m seeing a lot of guys refusing those shots in the playoffs… WHEN STATS DON’T MATTER!

    I hate to admit it but the only way to get players to take these shots is to make it not count against them if they miss. Like an And-1 type play. Fix that Stern and I’ll sing your praises for years to come.

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