The ability for teams to intentionally foul players away from the ball who are poor free throw shooters — originally labeled “Hack-a-Shaq” for when it was used extensively against Shaquille O’Neal — is a perfectly legal strategy. But it’s also an excruciating one to watch that grinds things to a halt, and that most observers of the game couldn’t be less interested in sitting through.
We’ve seen it this season with Dwight Howard, most memorably in a game where he ended up shooting 39 free throws against his former team, the Orlando Magic. We’ve also seen it on a smaller scale as recently as Game 1 of the first round playoff series between the Grizzlies and the Clippers, when Memphis went to the strategy for a few possessions late in the fourth to try to get back into the game.
Many have wondered whether the league might look at doing something to eliminate this option, because for a game built on aesthetics, it’s brutal to see it reduced to nothing more than an extended free throw shooting contest. But David Stern says it’s not something the NBA is interested in addressing.
From Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press:
In what will be news of interest to both the Lakers and the Spurs, Commisioner David Stern said there still remains no interest in removing fouls away from the ball – the original “Hack-a-Shaq” – but does expect the league to revisit the idea of resting healthy players.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has used intentional fouling against Shaquille O’Neal and current Lakers center Dwight Howard, another notoriously poor free throw shooter, as a way to slow the opposing offense. League president Joel Litvin said owners and the Competition Committee felt that abolishing the strategy, which does slow games down, would be “rewarding a guy who can’t shoot free throws.”
Stern went on record as recently as December saying he wants the rule changed, but it isn’t up to him. There’s a competition committee in place that votes on these matters, and as long as the people there have no issue with the way that intentional fouls away from the ball affect the game, the strategy is here to stay.