It’s the bane of any NBA fan who just wants the game to end so they can go to sleep. Hack-a-player, the tactic that sees the (usually) trailing team intentionally foul an opposing big man away from the ball in the hopes he’ll miss his free throws, is a blight and it’s spreading: there have already been more instances of it this season then there were all of last year. You hate it. But there’s some good news: commissioner Adam Silver knows you hate it, and he hates it too.
Silver, appearing on a USA Today podcast yesterday, said he’s “increasingly of the view that we will be looking to make some sort of change in that rule this summer.” It will be one of the competition committee’s big targets during the offseason, and it will likely require a rule change.
But it’s been a long time coming. Coaches have gotten too good at exploiting loopholes in the current rules meant to discourage hack-a-player. Like the one that prohibits intentional fouls away from the ball in the final two minutes of the game, rewarding the fouled team with a free throw and possession. To get around it, coaches have instructed players to foul big men during foul shots or inbounds players, which both qualify as loose-ball fouls instead.
An NBA source told the paper that any rule changes will likely seek to close those loopholes.
“Even for those who had not wanted to make the change, we’re being forced to that position just based on these sophisticated coaches understandably using every tactic available to them,” Silver said. “It’s just not the way we want to see the game played.”
It’s especially brutal in specific games, with certain players perceived to be vulnerable. The Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan alone has been the target of 34 percent of the league’s hack-a-player fouls, according to USA Today. Jordan, Dwight Howard, and Andre Drummond account for 69 percent.
Silver has heard all the arguments for the status quo, and he doesn’t buy them.
“Again, as I travel around the league, there’s that one school of thought ‘Guys have got to make their free throws. But then at the end of the day, we are an entertainment property, and it’s clear that when you’re in the arena, that fans are looking at me, shrugging their shoulders with that look saying, ‘Aren’t you going to do something about this?’”
That’s a great point that I fear enough people (writers, especially) don’t always seem to grasp. Sports aren’t some hallowed ideal competition: they’re entertainment. People watch sports because they’re enjoyable, and if there’s something that makes them less enjoyable, that’s bad for fans and bad for business.