Adam Silver Comments on NBA's Stance on 'Hack-a-Shaq' Rule

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2016

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference after an annual NBA owners meeting, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

It may soon be time for big men of the NBA to rejoice. 

According to a Thursday report by USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt, Commissioner Adam Silver recently acknowledged on the NBA A to Z podcast that the league is looking at ways to reform the controversial Hack-a-Shaq rule.  

"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."

Silver has yet to offer a clear-cut look at what a Hack-a-Shaq resolution would look like, but citing a source, Zillgitt reported "the league’s competition committee will explore several potential resolutions."

However, Zillgitt added "another person familiar with the process said he doesn’t think there is enough support to ban Hack-a-Player outright," with the impending action likely aimed at "eliminating loopholes." 

Intentional fouling has come under intense scrutiny during the season, with a couple of glaring examples standing out for proponents of change.

Perhaps most notably, the Houston Rockets decided it would be beneficial to intentionally foul Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond 21 times during a late-January game. In fact, one nine-second span of game play included five fouls on the big man.   

Drummond missed a single-game NBA-record 23 free throws, but despite the brief embarrassment and the aesthetic drain on the game, the Pistons emerged with a 123-114 win. 

Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel also recently took a creative path to intentionally fouling Drummond when he jumped on the All-Star's back to make it abundantly clear he wanted to send the big man to the line. 

"Clearly that’s not a natural basketball move," Silver said on the podcast of Noel's actions, according to Zillgitt. "That’s something that, in my view, we need to address quickly because ultimately there’s nothing more important than the health and safety of our players."  

Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan has also been a common target of the Hack-a-Shaq strategy, and the execution of the tactics came into play throughout the 2015 postseason when the San Antonio Spurs repeatedly targeted the career 41.9 percent free-throw shooter. More recently, Jordan missed 22 of 34 free throws in a 102-87 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 30. 

To date, Jordan and Drummond have missed 210 and 251 free throws, respectively. For perspective, the New York Knicks—the NBA's top free-throw-shooting team—have missed 220 total, according to the NBA's stats database

The counterargument to a potential change revolves around the concept that NBA players should simply make their free throws—an opinion that Silver acknowledged fans have expressed—but the pace of play and fluidity of the game remain of the utmost importance. 

Cavaliers star LeBron James falls into the camp that believes the "hack-a-Shaq" strategy is acceptable, according to Chris B. Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

The modern NBA game has been renowned for pace-and-space concepts that have made its up-and-down nature a joy to watch, and intentional-fouling strategies have only bogged down what would otherwise be highly entertaining contests.

As long as a dip in quality is highlighted every so often by the Hack-a-Shaq strategy, a call for reform will be strong.