One of the more disturbing and irritating things about watching the NBA is the intentional fouling. I get when it’s a two point game and you need someone to miss a foul shot or two to have a chance to win. That’s fine by me. I’m all doing for whatever it takes to win, but the issue is seriously getting out of hand, and the NBA needs to fix it ASAP.
The “Hack A Shaq” method was named after, you guessed it, Shaquille O’Neal. But O’Neal wasn’t the first player that teams intentionally fouled. Way back when, the legendary Wilt Chamberlain (this dude seriously averaged 50 points and 25 rebounds a game one season, and STILL didn’t win the MVP) was literally chased around the court by opponents to try and foul him. The madness forced the NBA to implement the off-ball foul. Meaning that a foul could be called on an opponent when they foul a player who A) doesn’t have the ball or B) looking to get the ball. The term Hack-a-Shaq was first coined when O’Neal was in college at LSU tearing the NCAA up night in and night out for the Bayou Bengals. Shaq was a notoriously bad free throw shooter, shooting just 57% from the free throw line. So the natural best way to slow him down was to put him on the foul line and see if he could learn how to shoot. Fun fact, he didn’t learn. Teams learned early that giving him potentially free points at the line was the best way to stop him, ironic huh? Eventually, the fouling got so bad that O’Neal left school a year early to go to the NBA because it was hurting his draft stock and it was frustrating him. Apparently, the Orlando Magic didn’t care much for his free throw shooting and O’Neal was still drafted first overall. But Shaq’s problems didn’t stop when he got to the Association.
The coach that brought the method to the NBA was Don Nelson, a Hall of Fame head coach and former Boston Celtic. Nelson first used the tactic on Dennis Rodman, another Hall of Famer. Rodman was only slightly better than O’Neal at the stripe, shooting a career 58% (O’Neal shot 52% for his career in the NBA). O’Neal was fouled in the playoffs continuously by, off all people, Gregg Popovich. In the mid 2000’s, it was arguably the worst foul shooter of all time Ben Wallace’s turn to get hacked. Wallace was a 41% free throw shooter in his career. That’s not a typo, he literally shot 41%. Back then, it was a solid strategy, but today, it’s just flat out annoying.
Today, players like DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard and Andre Drummond provide the eye-sores from the free throw line. Jordan is a stellar 41% shooter at the line, Howard shoots 57%, while Drummond is an elite 38% at the line. I won’t go much into Howard, because compared to these guys, he’s just about automatic at the line.
Pretty ugly DeAndre, pretty ugly. Honestly it’s so bad that it’s funny.
Seriously though, if THAT is your reaction when you finally make a free throw, you know you have issues.
The thing that bothers me is that free throws are literally free points. Thus the word free. The only thing easier is a slam dunk, something that Jordan and Drummond are very good at, especially DeAndre Jordan. I mean it helps when you’re 7″ tall, but throwing it down over someone still takes some skill.
Just last night, Andre Drummond was fouled 12 (twelve, TWELVE) times to start off the second half by the Houston Rockets. Houston was down nine at half, tied the game within three minutes and took the lead in four minutes, all due to Drummond shooting 5/16 from the stripe in that sequence.
At what point do you take him out in that situation? On one hand, you get the opponent in the penalty quicker, meaning whoever gets fouled, regardless of whether they are shooting, gets some free shots. But at the other hand you actually embarrass your best player. At some point, it becomes mental. Drummond was probably so rattled by the whole thing he couldn’t hit that free throw even if he was standing five feet away from the basket. For the game, Drummond missed an NBA record 23 free throws. How many did the former Connecticut Husky make? 13. He went 13/36. Again, not a typo. The Pistons won, but it certainly wasn’t pretty. You know the phrase “you could build a house with all those bricks.” Yeah, Drummond could have built Tom Brady a new mansion with all the ones he was carving out last night.
This type of crap is one of the main reasons the NBA is unwatchable, especially down the stretch. These big men are such good defenders, that you need them in the game. But this isn’t hockey where you can just get a player change at any time. Eventually you run out of timeouts to get that guy out of the game (the timeout issue is for another day).
Even with all this ugliness being produced, commissioner Adam Silver said that there is a slim chance the Hack-a-Shaq method is outlawed. Well Mr. Silver, how about you look at last nights game and think about it. Do you really want that in your game? You are the commissioner of the second most popular sport in the U.S. But hockey and baseball are making strides to make their game more fun to watch. The MLB is a youth driven league and they have cut down game time in recent years, while your game is making the games longer for no reason. The NHL implemented a three-on-three overtime and All-Star game to make it funner for fans to watch. Do the players like it? No, but the NHL is still trying to get their fans back that they lost following the 2005 lockout. The fact that the Hack-a-Shaq method allowed is more embarrassing than the players actually missing the free throws, maybe. This is what the NBA looks like now-a-days. It’s all Kobe retiring, Steph Curry raining threes and these guys bricking freebies. Is that really what you want people to think about when they talk about NBA basketball? This is one of the so many reasons college basketball is a million times better than the NBA. You don’t see this type of crap. I dunno, maybe I’m wrong here, maybe the NBA should still allow this because it is actual comedy. But at the same time it’s not basketball.
Cover Photo via BasketballJunkie
Stats via SportsReference
Gifs via SBNation, HoopsReference, ImGur