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NBA Announces New Hacking Rules, Which Don't Change Much

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Sorry, DeAndre.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry DeAndre.

The NBA announced today that they're changing the rules on intentional fouls.  Unfortunately, it won't make much of a difference for players like DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, and some of the league's other worst foul shooters.

Let's take a look at the changes that will be enacted:

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.

This is the biggest rule change of the bunch.  Presently, poor free throw shooters are free to re-enter the game in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter when intentional fouling is illegal.  Now, Doc Rivers can freely utilize DeAndre Jordan in the final two minutes of any quarter without the threat of hacking.

Fouls are most common at the end of quarters because teams are a) already in the penalty and b) looking to manipulate the short clock to generate extra possessions.  These times are when many of the league's more acceptably bad foul shooters get hacked--players in the mid-50's and even low 60's are sent to the stripe to that a team can generate an extra possession at the end of the quarter.

What this doesn't address, however, is what "away-from-the-play" means, which is entirely subjective.  Teams took to shoving Jordan and Drummond while they set ball screens in the final two minutes when they are technically part of the play.  Are off-ball screens "part of the play"?  Did the league want to close that loophole or did they intentionally leave it open to punish poor free throw shooters?

This rule, of course, does nothing to help DeAndre as he's being hacked 10 times in the middle of the fourth quarter while a team down 25 tries to get back into the game.

For inbounds situations, a defensive foul at any point in 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 during the last two minutes of any period (i.e., one free throw and possession of the ball).

This is a fairly common sense rule that's been in effect at different levels of basketball.  You can't foul someone before the ball is inbounded.  This rule will prevent teams from saving time at the end of games and choosing their targeted free throw shooter by intentionally fouling a player before the ball is inbounded.

It essentially does nothing to stop the "hacking" that we've become accustomed to.

The flagrant foul rules will be used to protect any dangerous or excessively deliberate hard fouls.  In particular, it will be presumptively considered a flagrant foul if a player jumps on an opponent's back to commit a deliberate foul.  Previously, these types of fouls were subject to being called flagrant but were not automatic.

There you have it--the third and final change outlaws the "piggy-back foul", which was a clever strategy but dangerous play where an opponent would jump on DeAndre's back after their teammate had released a free throw, forcing a loose ball foul that would send DeAndre to the line without giving the Clippers a chance to inbound the ball to a better shooter.

Again, this is a nice enough rule change, especially from a safety standpoint, but it doesn't address the real hacking problem.

People are generally split over whether the hacking rules should be changed.  I don't imagine that these new rule changes will come with much controversy, but we should acknowledge that they also don't really do anything.  The league eliminated a few late-game time-saving loopholes and outlawed the strategy of fouling at the end of the quarter to generate an extra possession (the only time that hacking statistically benefits the team committing the foul).  The league did not eliminate the unwatchable disgrace of grown men hugging each other and trading free throws for 3 hours.

Aside from whatever "moral" argument people want to bring up regarding players who are poor free throw shooters, the NBA is ultimately an entertainment product, and there's no doubt that seeing random bench players take turns hugging DeAndre Jordan is less entertaining than watching Chris Paul and Blake Griffin run the pick-and-roll.  Adam Silver's comments suggested that the coming rule changes would address the concerns to the NBA's entertainment product, but these rule changes fall far short of touching those issues.

Ultimately, hacking isn't real basketball.  Fouls are supposed to be penalties, and any scenario in which a team is intentionally breaking the rules for their own gain is a loophole.  DeAndre Jordan faces the consequences of his poor free throw shooting every time that he steps up to the line for normal free throws--why should opponents be able to escape the consequences of their inability to defend?

The most obvious solution, as we've maintained on Clips Nation for years, is to allow the fouled team an option: shoot the free throws, or take the ball out of bounds.  The fouling team has no additional punishment (like a free throw) for a foul that may or may not have been intentional, but all incentive for intentionally fouling is eliminated.