The Astonishingly Simple Way to Killing Hack-A-Shaq
(This post originally ran in February 2016)
The common joke dictates that the final 3-4 minutes of an NBA basketball game take more like 30-40 minutes to complete. Admit it, how many times when you were younger did Mom let you stay up and watch the prime time game on TNT, reasoning there was "only 41 seconds left" and have her return a half hour later, only to find out there were still 19 seconds left?
Mothers, the culprit was not your children there. More likely, the real one at fault is the famous "Hack-a-Shaq" strategy, a tactic that has been around long before the playing days of the star of Kazam.
The strategy is almost childishly simple...when trailing late in a game, simple find the poorest shooting foul member of the team and proceed to climb on top of him like a jungle gym, hence sending him to the line. Upon his arrival to the foul line, the poor playground equipment...erm, player...will proceed to miss his two free throws, at which point your team will get the inevitable rebound, and chip away at the deficit at the offensive end. Repeat this process until the score is in your favor.
Below, Matthew Dellavedova of the Cavs demonstrates on opponent Andre Iguodala of the Warriors, during the teams' Christmas Day tilt.
Perhaps the most notorious example came during a Pistons-Rockets tilt where Andre Drummond, who will represent the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Game, was fouled 18 times by the Rockets, but made only 13 of 36 foul shots. Detroit would indeed win the game, but Drummond's masonry at the foul line made things a lot closer than they should've been.
As you can tell by Jeff Van Gundy's disgusted reaction in the first video and Drummond's increasing frustration in the second, the Hack-a-Shaq effort, named for Superman's lone basketball kryptonite, is slowly getting on the nerves of people throughout the league.
And it's going to be extinct soon.
(EDIT: 7/14/16: The NBA has updated it's rules on the "Hack-a-Shaq strategy, details can be found here)
The NBA is a league where if the players want something badly enough (within the League's definition of reason, that is, hence why we're still playing games on Christmas), darn it, it gets done. For example, when LeBron James suggested that players get more days off for the All-Star Break, boom. Suddenly, there's a week between regular season games that sandwich All-Star Weekend. Commissioner Adam Silver has flat out stated that the strategy is getting out of hand, and steps will be made to abolish the practice.
What everyone doesn't realize is that the terminator of this problem has been hiding in plain sight this entire time.
Learn how to hit your free throws!
There's a reason the word "free" is in the term free throw. It's a free opportunity to nab yourself a point. Completely uncontested. Yeah, you got the crowd noise and headache...erm thunder sticks to deal with if you're on the visiting team, but nothing you haven't handled before playing HORSE with your buddies. You're a world class basketball player getting paid millions to simply do things like that. If actually missing more of those shots than you're making, that's a problem. A big problem.
Today's world is under enough scrutiny for its excessive culture of coddling and shifting the blame. Let's keep that out of basketball. Why should we have to find a rule so that guys who can't hit a free throw benefit? You don't see the MLB doing anything for guys who strike out too much.
Don't believe me that the "Hack" strategy is easy to defeat on your own? Tell that to Dennis Rodman. In the video below, taken from a 1997 matchup between Rodman's Chicago Bulls and the Dallas Mavericks, Don Nelson sends in the little used Bubba Wells into the ball game for the sole purpose of fouling Rodman, who had entered the game shooting 38% from a place they literally call the "charity stripe". Nelson's plan was to keep sending Rodman to the line so that he'd keep missing and Dallas could stay in the game.
Not only did the plan backfire in that Rodman ended up hitting 9 of the 12 resulting freebies, but they proved to be the winning margin. Chicago won the game 111-105, with 9 free points coming off of Rodman's finger tips.
So when discussing how to effectively win basketball games, don't go crying to the commissioner. Don't get begging for a rule change. Instead, hit the practice floor. Stand at that famous line where so many before you have stood. And focus, from that spot, on getting the ball into the net. Simple? Yes. Victorious? Oh you bet.
Geoff Magliocchetti was bout a 75% free throw shooter in CYO Basketball. Send him your percentages on Twitter @GeoffMags5490.
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