The NBA is a game of competition and strategy. And when you get into the playoffs, it seems like all teams get even deeper into the strategic portions of the game. One of those strategies that everyone has seen for a while is the intentional foul rule. This rule, nicknamed the “Hack-A-Shaq” after notoriously bad free throw shooter Shaquille O’Neal, allows teams to foul a player intentional away from the ball to send them to the free throw line. The thinking is the opposing team can inch their way back into games by having a bad free throw shooter go to the line and miss while they come back and hit their shots. The strategy was actually implemented before Shaq against Dennis Rodman. Dallas coach Don Nelson used to have him intentionally fouled during the games and would send him to the line. But it grew to fame when the superstar center was in Los Angeles. Over the years, the Hack-A-Shaq has had some tweaks to it along with some different players involved as well. The new characters are now Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard. Both are atrocious free throw shooters that could build a home with the amount of bricks they put up at the free throw line. They are now facing each other in a series and needless to say, going to the free throw line is an adventure for both of them. But for the fans, the thought of them intentionally being fouled is like nails to a chalkboard. So, the NBA is having some thoughts of banishing the rule forever or putting stiffer penalties on this intentional foul. But is this giving players the easy way out?
Growing up playing basketball, the basic things you are taught is how to shoot, pass and dribble. In fact, over time those skills can get better if you put in the practice. But along with working on the basics, free throws are something that most should also work to be able to make with ease. After all, they are the only shot that no one is guarding you when you take them, unless you are playing against a non-existent defense. But it seems that some ignore the free throw line and as time goes on, those few become bad free throw shooters. Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan could be those two guys that never practiced the free throw shot. And because of that, they are intentionally sent to the free throw line and banked on to miss by opposing teams. By taking this rule away, it is taking away the accountability of Howard, Jordan and others to do something that should be easier for them: hit free throws. These two should be ashamed of themselves not being able to shoot free throws. And because of that, now they are going to potentially change a rule due to players not being to hit free throws? It seems like this rule is something that will be letting them off the hook instead of actually inspiring them to shoot more free throws in the offseason.
The rule would be something that would let bad free throw shooters off the hook, but it would also be something that could help the fans enjoy their experience as well. Over the years, sports fans have wanted games to be less lengthy and more compact. Baseball is looking at things to make the games speed up more and football is looking at a few things as well. But with basketball, they have not delved into that arena as of yet. But with the discussion of the intentional foul rule coming up, there is great possibility that most fans will get what they want. And in getting what they want, that means no more of the Hack-A-Whoever and more punishment if this tactic is used at any time. The result, presumably, would be a technical foul shot and possession of the ball. But to make it punish a team even more, you could add an additional free throw shot and have the coach pick any free throw shooter on his team to shoot them. That punishment could really cripple a team if done at the wrong time. But the main thing the NBA is about doing is creating the best product on the court to entertain the fans. And many fans are starting to tire of the games grinding to a halt with the intentional fouling. It may be a strategy that many implement to come back on teams, but it is also a strategy that takes away television views. And that is what it is all about for the NBA.
One way or another, there is going to be something happen with the intentional foul rule. There are good things about it for the fans, but there are things that help the players that shoot free throws bad escape as well. Honestly, the players could control this one more than anything. But leave it to the NBA to seek action on this one instead of holding the players accountable here. The rule will make the game more enjoyable if it is changed, but then that means another thing will become the focus of fans not to like and that could be a slippery slope as well. Only time will tell what happens, but it looks like the intentional fouling away from the ball is about to go by the wayside.