Changes could be on the horizon with the so-called "hack-a-Shaq" strategy being used more than ever before in the NBA, but Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is chief among those who prefer the status quo.
According to ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh, Cuban believes that the idea of purposely fouling poor free-throw shooters keeps the fans engaged and creates interesting in-game situations:
Will they leave him in or leave him out? How do both teams feel about it? How will they foul? Is it a new creative way, or is it just chasing? ...
... Does he make the free throws? If he makes one or two, will they do it again? Did the strategy work?
Cuban also argued that the vast majority of fans who watch the game don't have as much of an issue with "hack-a-Shaq" as the media does.
"We have to realize that the number of basketball purists that aren't in the media is probably under 1,000 people globally," he said. "There is no special basketball beauty in walking the ball up the court and dribbling around the perimeter. Will we change that too?"
His comments come on the heels of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver saying Friday that the league plans to look into possible rule changes to limit or eliminate the strategy.
Per Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Silver said on the NBA A to Z podcast that his desire to make a change relates directly to the entertainment value of the NBA product:
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?'
According to Haberstroh, via ESPN's Kevin Pelton, the "hack-a-Shaq" or "hack-a-player" philosophy has been utilized 266 times this season, which is already 102 more times than all of last season.
Cuban believes the "hack-a-Shaq" is positive in terms of teaching young players the importance of making free throws, and TNT NBA analyst Chris Webber agrees, per Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal:
Chris Webber on TNT criticizing the potential elimination of Hack-a-Shaq, saying it will stop kids from learning how to shoot them.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) February 5, 2016
Essentially every major sport faces this type of conundrum where the decision must be made regarding strategy versus entertainment.
Offense is down in Major League Baseball due partially to the infield shift, and scoring has been down in the NHL for years due to the advent of the neutral-zone trap. Both of those strategies are still going strong, but it is clear that Silver doesn't want "hack-a-Shaq" to go down a similar path.
Cuban feels differently, but if Silver believes the tactic is leading to a less enjoyable product and decreased interest from the fanbase, he has a duty to address it.
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