POSTED: Feb 13, 2016 11:37 PM ET
Commissioner Silver: Hack-A-Player Rule
Commissioner Adam Silver discusses changing the "Hack-a-Player" rule.
TORONTO — If the Hack-A-Whomever strategy currently raising such a ruckus in some NBA precincts is actually something you like, take solace: It's going to be with us, extending the real time of games, disrupting any sense of flow and showcasing a whole lot of bricked free throws, at least through the end of the 2016 playoffs.
If, though, you believe in the tactic as a coach's best friend -- something to encourage bad foul shooters to improve, lest they look silly and cost their teams victories -- those guys had better get in the gym soon and practice their form, release and follow-through fast.
Change almost certainly is coming, based on NBA commissioner Adam Silver's comments Saturday in the annual state-of-the-league All-Star news conference.
Silver, addressing and fielding questions from reporters before the skills, slam dunk and 3-point shooting contests at Air Canada Centre, reiterated what he has said on several recent occasion. "I'm beginning to feel that a change needs to be made," Silver said, citing conversations he has had with broadcast partners, sentiment expressed in fan data and feedback from players, GMs and owners.
As for coaches, Silver said "Clearly our coaches who are smart and using very complex analytics believe it is benefiting them."
But changing the rules wouldn't be pursued to make life tougher on the league's coaches, any more than it would be done to let the most frequent targets of the tactic -- notoriously poor free-throw shooters such as DeAndre Jordan (.423 free-throw percentage), Andre Drummond (.351), Dwight Howard (.532) and a handful of others -- off the hook. It would be a decision driven more by the NBA product as entertainment, not merely athletic competition.
Silver did share that, when the league's competition committee discussed the strategy last summer, it sought data from an additional season before making a recommendation. That data so far? "We're seeing the Hack-a-Shaq strategy used at roughly a five-and-a-half-times greater rate than it was used last season," the commissioner reported.
That's a lot of standing around, stoppages in play and, for folks viewing from the stands or on TV at home, a procession of finely tuned, multi-millionaire athletes failing at one of basketball's fundamental skills. That's not a good look for anyone involved.
Interestingly, Silver said that there is no consensus among the practice's critics what remedy should be pursued. Treat the entire game like the final two minutes, when fouls away from the play equal one free throw and retained possession? Come up with something more stringent to snuff even the temptation to hack a targeted player intentionally?
Silver said he would want to have a specific alternative to propose. And even then, that sort of change would need the approval of two-thirds of the league's members (20 of the 30 teams).
"So we're nowhere near that point where we're even starting to count heads," Silver said. This summer would be the soonest, he indicated.
Among other topics Silver discussed:
-- The experience so far through the first All-Star Weekend staged outside the United States' borders had been positive enough that, at some point in the future, another foreign market might be explored. Silver mentioned Mexico City, since it wouldn't require the extensive travel that some overseas markets would. But nothing international in the next three or four years is likely. The 2017 All-Star Game will be held in Charlotte.
-- Kobe Bryant, participating in his final All-Star experience -- and a heavy favorite to wind up as Most Valuable Player in Sunday's game, as much as that can be orchestrated by his fellow All-Stars -- will be missed beyond the skills and thrills he brought to the annual event. Silver said of Bryant: "In addition to being a great player, I think because he was raised for much of his childhood in Italy, because he speaks several languages, I think because he was particularly interested in learning about other cultures, I think ... he's punched way above his weight in terms of the impact he's had on the global expansion of the NBA."
-- There is no active discussion of further tweaking the postseason seeding, such as a straight 1-through-16 system without regard to conference affiliation. The travel concerns for certain early-round matchups and the NBA's lack of a balanced schedule still argue against it, the commissioner said.
-- Silver acknowledged there will be "unintended consequences" when the first gush of the NBA's new nine-year, $24 billion TV revenue hits the system this summer, boosting the salary cap from $70 million per team to a projected $89 million. But he didn't address specific speculation about stars clustering on the same rosters, a la the Miami Heat in 2010. The current hot topic involves Oklahoma City All-Star Kevin Durant potentially ganging up with the Golden State Warriors on the unfortunates of the league.
Silver did mention a couple times the lessening role market size can play, if teams in smaller cities have the funds to pay players and enough popularity to further their "brands." Said Silver: "Ultimately what that system is about is player distribution. So if you look now at the league, we see the way our stars are distributed throughout the league. You see seemingly no correlation between market size and where the stars are located."
-- Expanding the D-League to 30 teams, enabling a 1-for-1 affiliation system with NBA franchises, is a priority the NBA hopes to fast-track.
-- Silver began his news conference on a somber note, offering condolences to Oklahoma City assistant coach Monty Williams and his five children for the tragic death of wife and mother Ingrid Williams, 44. She was killed this week in a traffic accident in OKC. "I know this is going to be a tough time for you and your family," Silver said, addressing the popular Thunder coach from his broadcast platform, "but you have enormous support throughout the league."