When the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets went to the “hack-a-Howard” strategy — fouling the Lakers Dwight Howard wherever he was on the court, even when he didn’t have the ball, to make him shoot free throws — it worked because it threw the Lakers off. In those two games Howard hit 50 percent of his free throws during the strategy (which still isn’t great), but the greater impact was it threw the Lakers out of rhythm on both ends of the court.
But it isn’t just the Lakers flow that gets thrown off, it’s the fans, too. Because watching a parade to the free throw line has the drawing power of CSPAN-2.
David Stern is all about the image and how games look on television — just ask Gregg Popovich and the Spurs — so you know he doesn’t like to watch hack-a-anyone. The league has effectively banned the strategy from the last two minutes of the game by making it two free throws plus the ball out of bounds if you foul off the ball.
And Stern told the guys from the Fox Sports New Orleans broadcast team (when he sat in with them for a bit Wednesday night during the Hornets/Lakers game) he tried to get it banned completely, but couldn’t. Thanks to Henry Abbott at TrueHoop for the transcription:
“I would have liked to have seen the rule changed to make the last-two-minute rule the whole rule,” he said. “It was getting to a point last year where, [in the] first period, they were just grabbing players. I think that’s ludicrous.
“We tried to change it to any time in the game because last year I guess it was everyone was fouling Tiago Splitter early on and the committee didn’t want to do it. And so that’s just the way it is. Because the reality is that there are a lot of basketball purists — and I understand that point of view — who say, ‘Hey, why don’t you learn to shoot foul shots? You’re supposed to be a pro.'”
Abbot makes an interesting suggestion — for off-the-ball fouls, offer the team the free throws or the ball out of bounds. Essentially eliminate the effectiveness of the strategy without killing the flow of the game as much.
I get that. The parade to the free throw line is no fun to watch. But if a guy can’t make his free throws, shouldn’t his team pay a price for that?
Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.
In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.
His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.
Hopefully, Williamson is OK.
And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.
Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.
But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.
Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.
Friday morning, Jayson Tatum guaranteed the U.S. team would beat the World team in the Rising Stars game that night. The U.S. team won.
So, Tatum was asked Saturday morning whether he wanted to guarantee anything for that night. He guaranteed he’d win the Skills Challenge. He won.
So, then ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Tatum whether he wants to guarantee anything else. And he really let it ride.
We’re going to win the Finals this year. February 16th, mark it. Jayson Tatum says we’re going to win the Finals this year.
Obviously, Tatum wasn’t going to pick against Boston. But this wasn’t that. He could have easily avoided such a grand proclamation.
Instead, even if he were just caught up in the emotion of an All-Star Saturday Night victory and taking the interview especially seriously, Tatum put a little more attention and pressure on the Celtics.
I’m not convinced that’s what this team needs.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Kristaps Porzingis will sign long-term with Dallas this summer, and Porzingis he was on the same page.
But he will be a free agent. Restricted, but a free agent, nonetheless.
Porzingis’ exit from the Knicks provided a clue about where he’d want to go if he explores leaving the Mavericks.
Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:
The four teams Porzingis had on his wish list of trade destinations were the Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors, according to two people with knowledge of the list who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Porzingis had little leverage to get to any of these teams. Because he’ll be a restricted free agent, the Knicks or any team acquiring him would retain immense team control over him.
The Nets and Clippers project to have cap space this summer. The Heat and Raptors don’t.
But even if Porzingis signs an offer sheet elsewhere, Dallas will will likely match it.
Still, Porzingis will become an unrestricted free agent someday – 2020 in the unlikely event he accepts his qualifying offer or a future year if he signs a multi-year deal this summer. It’s probably best to file away this list until then.
The Knicks opened double-max cap space for next summer. Kevin Durant‘s company is moving to a new office in New York. Kyrie Irving backed away from his commitment to re-sign with the Celtics.
Plenty of people were already connecting dots when this video emerged of Durant and Irving talking at the All-Star game (in which, not for nothing, they jelled).
Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops:
Irving, via MassLive (warning: language in the above video):
It’s a video of me and one of my best friends talking. And then it turns out to be a dissection of a free agency meeting? Do you get that? Like, do you get that? And then I’m asked questions about it? That’s what disconnects me from all that s—.
That wasn’t a denial.
Still, it’s hard to believe Durant and Irving really discussed free agency in a hallway with so many people passing. There are far more discreet places to have that conversation.
Like a restaurant in Miami where they were spotted together:
I understand Irving’s exasperation with this, just as I understood Durant’s testiness over constant speculation. They should be allowed to spend time together as friends without it turning into a bigger deal.
But there is immense interest in where they play next year. People will continue to search for clues – some that prove insignificant, some that might prove significant – about the stars’ futures.
So, I’m at least glad Irving addressed this. It’s going to get discussed either way. Better for him to enter his perspective into the conversation.