The NBA has finally officially changed the "hack-a-Shaq" rules and Andre Drummond and Detroit Pistons fans will likely be awfully disappointed.
With the strategy of intentionally fouling terrible free-throw shooters has been increasing in recent years, the NBA knew it had to do something. The league has finally unveiled its rule change and .... it's not much.
Here is the official word from the NBA:
Rules Changes Relating to Deliberate Away-From-The-Play Foul Rules
- The current rule for away-from-the-play fouls applicable to the last two minutes of the fourth period (and last two minutes of any overtime) - pursuant to which the fouled team is awarded one free throw and retains possession of the ball - will be extended to the last two minutes of each period.
- For inbounds situations, a defensive foul at any point during the game that occurs before the ball is released by the inbounder (including a "legitimate" or "natural" basketball action such as a defender fighting through a screen) will be administered in the same fashion as an away-from-the-play foul committed during the last two minutes of any period (i.e., one free throw and possession of the ball).
- The flagrant foul rules will be used to protect against any dangerous or excessively hard deliberate fouls. In particular, it will presumptively be considered a flagrant foul if a player jumps on an opponent's back to commit a deliberate foul. Previously, these type of fouls were subject to being called flagrant but were not automatic.
The tl;dr version: 1. The rules that take effect in the last two minutes of the game are extended to the last two minutes of each quarter. 2. No shenanigans on in-bound plays 3. Greater discretion to use flagrant foul designation on hard and piggy-back fouls.
If you want an idea of how much these rule changes will help Andre Drummond this season ask yourself this question: How many times was Andre Drummond inserted back into the game with under 2 minutes in the fourth quarter after being pulled for being hacked and missing free throws?
The answer, of course, is almost never.
There is no rule change that was going to fix that issue. That is because it's relatively easy to go from intentionally fouling Drummond off the ball to intentionally fouling Drummond on the ball. Instead of hacking him 80 feet away from the ball teams would just have to wait until he got the ball, set a screen or went for a rebound. Hack away, watch him miss free throws and get back into the game.
Really, the solution for Drummond is the same as it ever was -- get better at shooting free throws. The moment he ups his meager 35.5 percent free-throw shooting to above 50 percent is the moment he finishes games. It won't happen before then, and I think Stan Van Gundy has made that pretty clear through his actions if not necessarily his words.
That doesn't absolve the NBA for not going as far as they should have in changing the rule. It still allows teams to turn the game into an endless series of free throws for 10 minutes out of every quarter provided there is a bad enough shooter on the floor.
Adam Silver says the league believes the rule change will eliminate around 45 percent of instances of hacking. That claim seems hard to support, however. True, it might have eliminated 45 percent of last year's hacking, but that doesn't mean it will eliminate 45 percent of future hacking.
Teams will adjust their strategy accordingly and simply start their intentional fouling outside of the new two-minute windows closing out quarters.
The real reason the rule change is so disappointing is because it indicates the league fell for some sort of argument that a rule change was needed to improve fairness or to, in the words of Mark Cuban, to "reward incompetence."
But it was never about that. It was always about improving the watchability of NBA basketball for casual and committed fans alike. And watching teams hack poor free throw shooters make games unwatchable.
I don't care about made or missed free throws, I just want the maximum amount of actual basketball played during the basketball games I pay for via tickets, NBA League Pass or a cable subscription.
It was always for the fans, and the NBA just let the fans down in a major way.