Silver: NBA looks at ‘clear trend’ on intentional fouls

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Pistons center Andre Drummond, left, greets NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, after helping sort food donations Friday for The Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto.

Toronto — Maybe Andre Drummond’s 36 free throws against the Houston Rockets last month was the tipping point.

Maybe the general consensus is that it’s just bad basketball to watch.

In either case, the NBA is taking a closer look at the rules about intentional fouls to prevent games from turning into shooting contests featuring the league’s worst at free throws — also known as “Hack-a-Shaq,” after Shaquille O’Neal, one of the most targeted players of that rule.

In his annual news conference at All-Star Weekend, NBA commissioner Adam Silver reiterated Saturday that the scenarios have been studied for years and yielded some interesting observations.

“So far, up to the All-Star break this season, we’re seeing the Hack-a-Shaq strategy used at roughly a five-and-a-half-times greater rate than it was used last season,” Silver explained. “So to the extent that the data is coming in, it’s showing there is a clear trend and that clearly our coaches who are smart and using very complex analytics believe it is benefiting them.”

Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff instructed his players to foul Pistons center Andre Drummond — at 35 percent, the worst free-throw shooter in the league this year — five times in the first nine seconds of the third quarter, in order to get the Pistons in the penalty and to get him to the free-throw line to help overcome a nine-point deficit.

The ploy worked, as the Rockets took the lead soon after, but from a game-quality standpoint, it wasn’t necessarily what the league wants to show off.

“I’m beginning to feel that a change needs to be made. And that comes in response to conversations with our network partners. It comes in response to fan data that we look at — we’re constantly surveying our fans to get their sense of what they see out on the floor,” Silver said. “I’m talking to players and general managers and our owners, of course.”

Silver reiterated that though there is increasing dissatisfaction with the current rule, there isn’t a clear suggestion about what a preferred solution would be, though some have suggested having the team choose any of the five players on the court to shoot the free throws after an intentional foul.

Any change would require a two-thirds majority vote of the 30 team owners, and Silver reiterated that there are no plans to make any changes this year; next season would be the earliest.

An added discussion to the fouling rules was the newer phenomenon of jumping on an opposing player’s back to draw clear attention that there’s an intentional foul. In those cases, Silver said, there is concern about player safety and that those instances could be deemed flagrant fouls, which would mean that the team would get two free throws, in addition to possession of the ball.

That’s more of a rules clarification, rather than a rule change, as it is up to the official’s discretion of whether to award a flagrant foul.

Silver salutes Bryant

As Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant finished his final All-Star appearance in Sunday’s game, Silver expressed his feelings about Bryant’s swan song.

“I’ve watched his game since the day he came into this league. I don’t think there is any doubt that he’ll go down as one of the greatest players ever to play this game,” Silver said. “In addition to being a great player, he’s punched way above his weight in terms of the impact he’s had on the global expansion of the NBA.”

Bryant was named to 18 straight All-Star games, a league record for consecutive selections, and one shy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record of 19 total. Bryant has been named MVP four times.