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Will the NBA make a Hack-a-Shaq change?

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Commissioner Adam Silver has said that he expects discussion of a potential rule change this summer regarding intentional fouls off the ball.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Commissioner Adam Silver recently said that the issue of intentionally fouling off the ball would certainly come up this summer and that he expected a "full throated discussion" of the possibility of a rule change. He's hesitant to change the rules, as he should be, but at the same time he knows he has an issue.

(A quick aside: calling the strategy the Hack-a-Shaq for short hand is fine, but I prefer to describe it generically when talking about it in the abstract, or use a specific name when discussing a specific instance. That's partly because I've put effort into coming up with names for most situations, such as Bang the DJ, The Drummond beat, and my personal favorite, Go get Bogut.)

If the NBA is truly hesitant to make a change, it raises an obvious contradiction: why do they have a rule for the final two minutes? For the first-time reader, off the ball fouls committed in the final two minutes or any overtime period result in a single free throw taken by any player the offense choose AND possession to the team being fouled. As far as I can tell, none of the arguments against a rule change are any more valid in the final two minutes of a game: in fact, if anything they become more valid.

In fact the NBA instituted the rule for the final two minutes long ago, in the Wilt Chamberlain era. The rule only applied to the final two minutes and overtime simply because that was the only time teams fouled off the ball. At the time such fouls were only used to stop the clock -- not as an overarching strategy. They wanted to limit the implications of the rule change as much as possible, and so put a very specific time frame on it, believing at the time that the practice wouldn't be employed at other times anyway.

Obviously they were wrong. But all the arguments against making a broader rule to curtail the practice: players should learn to shoot free throws, it adds an element of drama to the game -- these are not situational arguments. If you like the drama of it all, then it would be much more dramatic in the final two minutes, right?

The current rule that only applies in the final two minutes is completely hypocritical, and if there's one thing I like less than intentional fouls off the ball, it's hypocrisy. So the NBA needs to make some rule change this summer -- Adam, if you like the strategy, then let teams do it all game long. If you don't like it, make a rule that curtails it.

I continue to be fascinated by the ill-informed nature of the discussion on this topic, such as it is. On the Morning Shootaround on NBA.com, they had this to say about Silver's statements:

Let rim benders rejoice. No more long, tedious hours in the gym wasted on improving one of the most fundamental parts of your craft.

This is the go-to argument for the people who do not want a rule change, and it is disingenuous to say the least. Bad free throw shooters will have plenty of incentive to improve in "one of the most fundamental parts of [the] craft." We're talking about a rule change that curtails the absurdity of watching Patty Mills bear hug DeAndre Jordan in the backcourt while the Clippers are trying to advance the ball -- but DeAndre will still be exposed to being wrapped up when he grabs an offensive rebound or catches a pass in the deep post, which teams absolutely should do unless and until he improves from the line. The idea that Jordan or Andre Drummond or anyone else will stop practicing their foul shots because they no longer have enough incentive is fallacious: stop making it.

There are more subtle misnomers out there as well. Tim McMahon's post about Silver included this line:

It's been a talking point during the playoffs, with the San Antonio Spurs sending the Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan to the foul line 17 times in a playoff victory earlier this week.

There's nothing factually incorrect about that sentence, but by referring to the use of the strategy in a victory, the implication is that it was somehow effective. In reality we know that the strategy was spectacularly ineffective, helping the Clippers overcome a 10 point deficit late in the fourth quarter, and that the Spurs were lucky to overcome their coach's crazy tactic. Popovich lost that game by sending Jordan to the line before Matt Barnes lost it at the line.

I was asked on the Spurs blog why I was so concerned about a rule change when I was so convinced that the strategy was ineffective. If it doesn't work, then coaches won't do it, so there's no need for a rule change, right? Would it were true. Don't ask me why Popovich wants to increase the chances that the Clippers can come back from a big deficit by fouling with a lead, but he does, and in the process he ruins the watchability of my favorite sport.

I've also been asked why the NBA should change a rule that has such a narrow impact since there are only a few players against whom the strategy is employed. Well, in the 2015 playoffs I've seen Jordan, Mason Plumlee, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Josh Smith and Dwight Howard fouled intentionally off the ball. That's half the playoff series in which it has happened. If you love the spectacle, love the tension of bad foul shooters at the line, love the strategic chess game, then it's been great for basketball. If you hate the grinding to a halt of playoff basketball games, then half of the playoff series have been adversely affected. To pretend it's not a problem, that it's not widespread, or that most people like it, is just denial.