Despite earlier reports indicating the NBA had banned intentional fouls on a player who is on the free-throw line, the league has since clarified its stance to say no such change has been made.
Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens told Chris Mannix of The Vertical on Sunday that those fouls will now be considered flagrants. However, a clarification was later issued indicating Stevens had misinterpreted an internal memo. No rule changes have been made at this time.
The confusion came just days after Adam Silver said he was looking to make changes that would eliminate the hack-a strategy.
"I'm increasingly of the view that we will be looking to make some sort of change in that rule this summer," Silver told Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. "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. It's just not the way we want to see the game played."
Rule changes that would prohibit the hack-a strategy would have to be voted on by the league's competition committee.
As noted by Zillgitt, teams are using these cheap fouls more than ever. The league will almost certainly double the number of instances from last season (164), and Zillgitt reported the number is close to 300 before the All-Star break.
In December, DeAndre Jordan tied an NBA record with 22 missed free throws. A month later, Andre Drummond broke that mark with 23. Drummond and Jordan are among the top six in free-throw attempts per game despite being relatively low-usage centers. Dwight Howard, who is otherwise having the quietest in-prime offensive season of his career, is tied for 10th in free-throw attempts. None of the three centers are making more than 55 percent of their attempts.
Jordan in particular accounts for more than a third of hack-a fouls.
“Again, as I travel around the league, there’s that one school of thought ‘Guys have got to make their free throws,’” Silver told Zillgitt. “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?’”
LeBron James is among the players who don't feel the rule should be changed, per Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:
LeBron James not in favor of doing away with hack-a-Shaq. Says it's no different from pressuring someone who can't dribble. Onus on player.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) February 5, 2016
As it stands, altering that one rule wouldn't have changed much. Fouling a free-throw shooter happened in only the most egregious hack-a situations; they're a rarity for even a player like Jordan. But from an entertainment standpoint, it's time for some changes—be it this season or next. Making a free throw is an integral part of basketball, but there isn't a person alive who has fun when the sport devolves into a charity-stripe trade-off.
Sports are entertainment. Hack-a is the antonym of entertainment. Finding a middle ground solution here would be the best for everyone involved.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter