TORONTO — In his annual meeting with the media at all-star weekend, NBA commissioner Adam Silver covered numerous topics. He talked about holding the All-Star Game overseas one day, the social media boom the league has enjoyed, and the pending explosion in salary cap space for teams.
Perhaps the most divisive and of interest issue of his media address was the so-called “Hack-a-Shaq” rule that teams are using at a growing rate. Teams are intentionally fouling bad foul shooters approximately 5.5 times more often this season than last. It’s a strategy that has all the beauty of road kill, but one coaches believe can help them win. The rise of the 3-point shot coupled with the chance to put a 50 percent free-throw shooter on the line makes the strategy logical. It’s just brutal to watch.
Silver said the rule will not be changed midseason. Last summer, he met with a competition committee to consider altering the rule after it was used in the playoffs. Silver and the committee decided then they wanted more data. They have it now. The increase in usage is clear, and the commissioner’s thoughts on the rule are changing.
“As I said last summer, I said I was personally on the fence as well,” Silver said. “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. I’m talking to players and general managers and our owners of course.
“I would say the interesting thing, though, and this is true even among the strongest critics of the so-called Hack-a-Shaq strategy, there doesn’t appear to be any clear consensus on what the new rule should be. So, I think it’s my job right now to at least formulate an alternative together with the Competition Committee to ultimately bring to our Board of Governors.
“I should point out that to change a playing rule in the league it requires two-thirds of the owners to vote in favor of it, so it would require 20 teams voting in favor of it. So, we’re nowhere near that point where we’re even starting to count heads. And, I think there is a reason when the constitution and bylaws were written of the NBA that those founders decided that it should take two-thirds of teams to change a rule. I think it should be a very deliberate process, you know, and nothing should be done harshly, which is why I’m not in favor of changing the rule mid-season. I don’t think it would be fair to change the rule mid-season, and that’s why I’m fairly confident nothing will happen until the owners have a chance to consider it in our April meeting, which they will, and then to potentially vote on something at the July meeting.”
Coaches have echoed Silver’s feelings. They dislike how the rule makes the game look, but don’t have a clear solution. Among Silver’s comments, it’s notable that he mentioned television partners and fan feedback. Those factions want a beautiful product on the television. Games filled with intentional fouls certainly are not those.