For the past couple of years in the NBA, the abolishment of the Hack-a-Shaq strategy has been a topic of debate.
The strategy puts poor free-throw shooters on the foul line so the opposing team can get the ball back to cut into the opponent’s lead while slowing down the game.
It would be a mistake for the NBA to take this away from the game. Making a rule to prohibit the Hack-a-Shaq strategy is setting a terrible example for young basketball players. It’s like saying, “You have weaknesses in your game. That’s OK, don’t worry about it. The league will make accommodations for you.”
Former NBA center Shaquille O’Neal, after whom the term was coined, was the first one to fall victim to this tactic, because he was one of the worst free-throw shooters the league had ever seen. He shot 53 percent for his career, according to www.ESPN.com.
Fast forward to the present-day NBA, and Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan makes O’Neal look like Dirk Nowitzki on the stripe. According to ESPN.com, Jordan’s 42 percent free-throw shooting changed the strategy from the Hack-a-Shaq to the Hack-a-Jordan. Pistons center Andre Drummond is also a victim of the tactic, with a career free-throw record of 38 percent, according to www.ESPN.com.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said to USA Today Sports in February that the league is being forced into making a change to the rules. Initially, Silver said he did not plan to make any rule changes, but intentional fouling has brought down the entertainment value.
According to NBA rule No. 12, Section X, during the final two minutes of the fourth or overtime period(s), if a team fouls a player away from the ball, the opposing team gets to shoot two free throws and keep possession of the ball. Even this rule slightly bothers me. I agree that I wouldn’t like to see a game decided by whether a terrible free-throw shooter can make his free throws, but there’s a simple remedy for that: Make your free throws. I’ve played basketball for 13 years, and I can make free throws at a decent rate. It’s fair to expect that an NBA player should be able to shoot free throws at a better clip than myself.
NBA players have access to the best coaches, trainers and facilities in the world. They have all the tools they need to be dominant basketball players, yet some don’t work on free-throw shooting, a fundamental skill in basketball.
What kind of message does that send young basketball players? It tells them it’s pointless to practice your free throws, because it doesn’t matter if you can’t shoot free throws. The league has got your back.
I understand the argument about lowering the entertainment value, but when I ask basketball fans I know they don’t seem to have a problem with the Hack-a-Shaq strategy. It doesn’t help that most of the fans I ask are fans of the Dallas Mavericks (who were spurned last summer by Jordan), but the general sentiment is if a professional basketball player can’t make a free throw, accommodations shouldn’t be made for him.
What’s next? Are we going to award more points per shot to players below 6-feet tall? Mavericks guard Jose Juan Barea is generously listed at 6-feet tall, and he is a solid player in the league. He’s made no excuses for being a smaller player and the struggles he faces finishing in the paint around the trees.
It’s ridiculous that the NBA is even considering creating a rule to keep these high-flying, high-paid athletes off the free-throw line, purely for entertainment value. It’s setting a bad example for the next generation of basketball players and could change the game of basketball completely for the worse.