Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Public Sphere

So my comments about Pop's use of the Hack-a-Shaq garnered (or as Reggie Miller would say "garnished") a large response over at Pounding The Rock. And although I tentatively stand by my original opinion, I thought people made some great points and their comments deserved to be heard:

First of all here's what I wrote:

Hack-A-Shaq: Ok, so I'm gonna be unashamed about this one. Not only did the strategy not work (he went 5-6 from the line during the hack-a-Shaq stretch), and was it unnecessary (they couldn't hit the broad side of a barn during the 3rd and all we did was slow down the clock while allowing them to put up a few points), it was chicken shit. Its legal, but its chicken shit. I don't mind when we play physical ball (or "dirty" for people who think that basketball shouldn't be a man's game). But let's at least play. It disrespects the game, disrespects the Suns, and disrespects ourselves.

CMoney responded:

I couldn't disagree more...

about this statement on Hack-a-Shaq.

“Its legal, but its chicken shit. I don’t mind when we play physical ball (or “dirty” for people who think that basketball shouldn’t be a man’s game). But let’s at least play. It disrespects the game, disrespects the Suns, and disrespects ourselves.”

Hear me out. It’s strategy. And like all strategy, sometimes it works (game 1) and sometimes it doesn’t (game 2). The Hack-a-Shaq has been around for years…..10 years. The NBA competition committee has taken a long and hard look at the Hack-a-Shaq and still haven’t outlawed it. The reason they have not made a rule change is because the team employing the HaS (Hack-a-Shaq) is deliberately taking their defense out of the equation and offering up 2 uncontested shots. It is Shaq’s and everyone else’s responsibility to be able to make free throws. If you can’t…then that’s your problem. But you are being given 2 uncontested shots from the stripe with the clock stopped. Also, this puts the team in foul trouble, so any non-shooting/away from the ball foul for any player will result in free throws.

To say that the HaS strategy disrespects the game and is chicken shit, is like saying the same thing for the intentional walk in baseball. Is it chicken shit that pitchers won’t pitch to Barry Bonds? No, it’s strategy. Also, is it chicken shit to foul a team in the last seconds of the game when they are down by 3, so they will be forced to shoot only 2 free throws? No, It’s strategy. In football, with 1 min left in the game and the opposing team up 1 point, is it chicken shit for the D to let the offense score a TD and be down 8pts but then give their offense a chance to comeback and tie it up with a TD and 2pt conversion? No… It’s strategy.


I think you make some really good points. And I would be against the idea of outlawing it. And to be honest the language “chicken shit” is probably unnecessarily incendiary. Much of my issue with what we did last night had to do with when we were doing it, not what we were doing. I would also compare it to the idea of fouling a guy when you’re up by 3 instead of letting them take the shot to tie (as far as strategic uses of the foul goes). I just think that doing it so egregiously right in the middle of the 3rd shows an unnecessary timidity. We need not fear their offense. Those other instances necessitate treating the game like a chess match, and there is the implicit agreement that at the end of the game the full oeuvre of possible tactics can be employed. Doing it in the middle of the third may be strategy, but its a strategy that subverts the nature of the game. Maybe what I’m trying to make is some very tenuous appeal to honor or something like that. I just thought that the combination of its ineffectiveness and unnecessariness made it a disappointing strategy to employ in the 3rd. A lot of people criticize us for being "dirty", which as I said in my post I think is just a bunch of bullshit. We play a physical, playoff style game. A man’s game. And I like it. And subsequently I don’t mind if our long list of victims, squirming for a reason why they got beat, call us "dirty". But I would never want to be known as timid.

Yeah I can respect that. I thought the timing of the HaS was off too. But apart of me thinks that Pop wanted to execute the HaS regardless if Shaq missed his free throws. It was obvious the Suns were in a funk, and I think he was trying to keep them out of sync. With the defensive intensity raised and the constant stoppage, it caught Phx off guard and prevented them from getting things back on track. The last thing he wanted was for the Suns to find their shooting stroke again. At the very least, it shows me that Pop is always thinking of ways to gain an edge and stay one step ahead of the opponent. But I can definitely see your point.

Outlaw it? Sort of

i’d be for changing the foul/free throw rules in the nba. make it so that a team can decline the penalty if they want, retain possession and continue. it cuts out the hack-a-shaq (or hack-a-bowen), and forty fouls in the last thirty seconds. maybe keep the shot clock the same for declines so sometimes the fouled team can’t decline it (or lose the ball because the shot clock expires).

upside? cuts down on intentional fouls in the game.

downside? cuts down on comebacks, greatly reduces the number of tools the team behind has.

...I agree with both you and CMoney regarding HaS: it’s a valid strategy, since FT shooting is as much a part of basketball as anything else. Doing it on any player with a plus 65 FT% would be ludicrous, and that should really be a minimum standard for NBA players.

That said, the timing was definitely off. I wish Pop had waited till the Suns made at least one or two baskets in a row, and gained some momentum. As it was, they only had I believe 2 points in the quarter, and the engineer in me says that 7 is a 250% improvement in their situation.

Thusly, HaS made the Suns 2 and a half times better than they were. Math Hath Spokenth.


I thought everybody made good points, and I'll be interested to see how the Spurs approach the tactic over the next couple games.

Also, if you happen to be a D-League fan, my hometown Austin Toros have a chance to win the D-League finals tonight if they defeat the Idaho Stampede. Its impressive the way they turned around so quickly after being bought by the Spurs. Although with our front office I can't say I'm surprised.

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