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.

Josh McRoberts opting into final year of Heat contract

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Heat power forward Josh McRoberts has missed 165 games over the last three years due to injury.

So, the 30-year-old sure isn’t turning down a guaranteed $6,021,175 salary.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

Any long shot chance of Josh McRoberts voiding his Heat contract was eliminated Tuesday when agent Mike Conley told The Miami Herald that McRoberts will exercise his opt-in and return to the Heat for $6.021 million next season.

Miami will have major cap space this summer with Chris Bosh coming off the books. At this point, McRoberts’ salary is just an impediment to even more room to add an impact player.

The Heat could again try trading McRoberts, but they’ll likely have to attach a positive asset just to dump him. They could also waive and stretch him.

But if his salary doesn’t come between Miami and a big-time free agent this summer, perhaps McRoberts returns for one last chance at helping the Heat on the floor with his passing and outside shooting.

Mike Brown thinks it’s “cute” Tyronn Lue thinks Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors

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Celtics’ coach Brad Steven is already one of the best in the NBA. His out of time out plays are brilliant, and his Boston team’s flow of ball and player movement is among the best in the league.

It’s those things that were giving the Cavaliers trouble in the first half of Game 4 Tuesday, and ultimately prompted this comment from Tyronn Lue.

“We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me.”

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle asked Mike Brown about that.

You can certainly make the case that the Celtics have a wider variety in their offense, and that with Isaiah Thomas out the rather balanced, anyone can score nature of the Celtics is challenging to defend for a team with inconsistent help defense like the Cavaliers.

But Boston is running these sets with Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk. Golden State will use ball and player movement to create space for Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Which is to say, Golden State is tougher to defend because the space they need to make you pay is much smaller. And even if you do everything right the Warriors may just score anyway.

I get what Lue was trying to say, but don’t give the Warriors more motivation.

Magic sending Raptors draft pick as compensation for hiring Jeff Weltman

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The Raptors promoted Jeff Weltman, still working under Masai Ujiri, to general manager last year.

That paid off for Toronto when the Magic hired Weltman as their new president.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Magic have their own and the Lakers’ second-round picks next year. Even the lower of those two selections could be somewhat value.

In other words, Weltman’s already-difficult job is getting even harder simply by Orlando hiring him.

LeBron James still striving to surpass Michael Jordan

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LeBron James has discussed chasing Michael Jordan’s “ghost,” motivating himself by trying surpass Jordan as the greatest player in NBA history.

Just 27 points behind Jordan for the all-time playoff scoring lead – a record he could break in Cavaliers-Celtics Game 5 tonight – LeBron is again discussing that pursuit.

LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“It’s just a personal goal of mine,” James said Thursday before Cavs shootaround in preparation of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics. “It has nothing to do with passing the rings, passing the points, passing MVPs. It’s just my personal goal to keep me motivated — that’s all.”

“You guys are going to have the conversations about who is greatest of all time and things of that nature,” James said. “It doesn’t matter to me. At the end of the day, it’s so funny that the conversation is always talked about in the NBA about who is the greatest but it’s never talked about in the NFL about who is the greatest quarterback. It’s just like: [Dan] Marino, [John] Elway, [Peyton] Manning and [Tom] Brady. All great quarterbacks, you know — and it should be the same for us.

Jordan or LeBron? Save your hot takes. LeBron just burnt them all.

The greatest quarterback of all time is never debated? Claiming that is now the hottest take in the entire realm of the Jordan-LeBron debate.