Column: Silver needs to change the intentional fouling rule

Commissioner of the NBA Adam Silver speaks to the media ahead of a regular season basketball game between Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors at the O2 arena in London, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. (Alastair Grant/AP)

Basketball is a beautiful game. The amount of athleticism displayed on a nightly basis in the NBA is unparalleled compared to any other sport.

I love watching the NBA. There aren’t many nights where I’m not watching. But there is one thing I do have a problem with.

Did you see what happened on Wednesday night during the Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets game?

Andre Drummond, one of the rising young players in the league and formerly of the University of Connecticut, missed a record 23 free throws in that game. He attempted 36 (which is now the second most attempted in a game since the 1985-86 season, according to basketball-reference.com).

When Shaquille O’Neal was in the league, the term Hack-a-Shaq was created. It’s not in the rulebook, but everyone in the league knows it as this: teams intentionally foul Shaq so he would go to the free throw line, where he shot a terrible percentage (Shaq was a career 53 percent free throw shooter).

The goal? Get Shaq to shoot free throws. He sucked at them. Hope he misses one, if not both, and that way it would limit his team’s scoring, thus enabling the opposing team to catch up if they were losing.

This has carried over to the league today. We see it all too often.

We see players such as Drummond, DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers, Dwight Howard and Clint Capela of the Rockets get fouled away from the ball all the time because they are horrific free throw shooters.

Here are some numbers. This season, Drummond is shooting 36 percent from the line, Jordan 42 percent, Capela 45 percent and Howard 55 percent.

It’s a great strategy if you’re a coach. Sure it is. I can’t deny that. Why not send people who are shooting under 50 percent from the line to go shoot free throws – especially late in the second half when there is more pressure. A lot of coaches need to take Howard, Jordan or Drummond out of the game just because they’re too much of a liability from the line. The way the rules are set up now allow coaches to do that.

But this isn’t basketball.

Last night in the Pistons-Rockets game, the Rockets’ K.J. McDaniels fouled Drummond five times in the first nine seconds of the third quarter. Five fouls in nine seconds.

Fouling five times put them in the bonus, thus any foul after that would send Drummond to the free throw line. Head coach Stan Van Gundy took Drummond out of the game just 2:38 into the quarter, and in that timespan the only shots the Pistons took were 16 free throws by Andre Drummond.

Also during that time, Drummond only made five of the 16 free throws and the Rockets scored 13 points to cut the lead to 61-60. It worked. Detroit would go onto win the game though, by a score of 123-114.

But how is this basketball? Drummond attempted 36 free throws and made just 13. I’m positive that if I went to the UConn rec center right now and attempted 36 free throws, I would make at least 15 of them, and I haven’t touched a basketball in four months.

Something needs to change.

Here is my solution: Every time this happens, it should be a flagrant foul. In the NBA rulebook, it states, “If contact committed against a player, with or without the ball, is interpreted to be unnecessary, a flagrant foul--penalty (1) will be assessed.” Thus, the player would shoot two free throws and the offended team would get the ball back.

This Hack-a-Shaq technique usually happens when a player is completely away from the ball, not involved in the run of play. It’s an unnecessary foul and the refs should see it that way.

I don’t want to watch a game where this happens. Do you? I feel terribly for the people who spent money to go to that Pistons-Rockets game last night.

Hey, Adam Silver, please make a change and do it as soon as possible. It’s a stupid rule. No one wants to see it.

Van Gundy sounded off after the game to reporters.

"Adam Silver and the league, they've decided that's the way they want to play the game and that's what they want people to watch," Van Gundy said. "As long as the fans are OK with watching it, then we'll continue to play that way.

"At some point the fans might get to the point and say, 'We're not going to pay to watch this. We're going to flip the channels.' They haven't yet. That's what Adam keeps saying. When they do, then the league will have to make an adjustment."


Matthew Zampini is sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.zampini@uconn.edu. He tweets @Matt_Zamp.