Dwight Howard

David Stern says league has no interest in eliminating ‘Hack-a-Shaq’

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The ability for teams to intentionally foul players away from the ball who are poor free throw shooters — originally labeled “Hack-a-Shaq” for when it was used extensively against Shaquille O’Neal — is a perfectly legal strategy. But it’s also an excruciating one to watch that grinds things to a halt, and that most observers of the game couldn’t be less interested in sitting through.

We’ve seen it this season with Dwight Howard, most memorably in a game where he ended up shooting 39 free throws against his former team, the Orlando Magic. We’ve also seen it on a smaller scale as recently as Game 1 of the first round playoff series between the Grizzlies and the Clippers, when Memphis went to the strategy for a few possessions late in the fourth to try to get back into the game.

Many have wondered whether the league might look at doing something to eliminate this option, because for a game built on aesthetics, it’s brutal to see it reduced to nothing more than an extended free throw shooting contest. But David Stern says it’s not something the NBA is interested in addressing.

From Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press:

In what will be news of interest to both the Lakers and the Spurs, Commisioner David Stern said there still remains no interest in removing fouls away from the ball – the original “Hack-a-Shaq” – but does expect the league to revisit the idea of resting healthy players.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has used intentional fouling against Shaquille O’Neal and current Lakers center Dwight Howard, another notoriously poor free throw shooter, as a way to slow the opposing offense. League president Joel Litvin said owners and the Competition Committee felt that abolishing the strategy, which does slow games down, would be “rewarding a guy who can’t shoot free throws.”

Stern went on record as recently as December saying he wants the rule changed, but it isn’t up to him. There’s a competition committee in place that votes on these matters, and as long as the people there have no issue with the way that intentional fouls away from the ball affect the game, the strategy is here to stay.

Report: Age minimum still on table in Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23:  The full draft board of the first 30 pics of the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft is seen at the Barclays Center on June 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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A new Collective Bargaining Agreement is expected to be finished soon, but with months until the current deal expires, both the owners and players can afford to take their time and get the details right.

Both sides reportedly agreed to keep the age minimum – which requires players to be 19 and one year removed from their high school class’ graduation – in place.

Or not?

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Other issues, like the age limit for players entering the league, are still on the table. The league has long sought to increase the age limit from its current 19, and at least one year removed from one’s high school class, to at least 20 years of age. The union has talked about a “zero and two” setup, similar to that used by baseball — players can enter the Draft out of high school, but if they choose to go to college, they have to stay in college at least two years (in baseball, it’s three years) before declaring for the Draft.

The union wants to lower the age minimum. Adam Silver wants to raise it.

Most likely, the current one-and-done rule remains in place.

But a zero-or-two setup could be an interesting compromise. That would allow players certain they’re ready for the pros out of high school to declare for the NBA draft. In all other cases, Silver would get his wish.

Again, the status quo likely remains in tact. But it’s good both sides are discussing the issue to see whether there’s a better solution.

76ers increase Joel Embiid’s minute limit to 28

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, left, tries to get around Cleveland Cavaliers' DeAndre Liggins, center, and Kevin Love during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
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Take comfort, chairs and staffers.

The 76ers have raised Joel Embiid‘s minute limit from 24 to 28.

Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:

This was never a hard limit. Embiid played more than 24 minutes in five of his 12 games with a high of 27 in an overtime contest. Presumably, the new “limit” will also allow for Embiid to sometimes it.

Embiid’s numbers per 36 minutes are eye-popping: 28.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 3.8 blocks and 6.4 turnovers. A small workload likely factors into his per-minute dominance, and he’s still a long way from typical starter minutes. But I’m interested to see how his production translates over a larger sample.

The 76ers, in their mission to be less bad this season, will also appreciate a few more minutes of Embiid. They defend like the NBA’s second-best defense with him on the floor and the league’s second-worst defense without him. They also score a little better with him. Overall, they get outscored by just 2.2 points per 100 possessions with him and a whopping 14.2 points per 100 possessions without him.

This could give Philadelphia a couple extra wins over the rest of the season. At minimum, it’ll make the 76ers more enjoyable to watch for a few more minutes each game.

James Johnson dunks on Rudy Gobert in crunch time (video)

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Opponents shoot just 41.8% at the rim with Rudy Gobert defending it – which is now second to Hassan Whiteside among the 50 players who defend the most shots at the rim per game.

But James Johnson went up with no fear, scoring two of his 24 points in the Heat’s 111-110 win over the Jazz last night.

Nicolas Batum bounces assist through Dwight Powell’s legs (video)

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The Hornets didn’t just beat the Mavericks, 97-87, last night.

Nicolas Batum got Charlotte style points with this pass through Dwight Powell‘s legs, assisting Cody Zeller.