David Stern's comments in New Orleans show he's not afraid to cater to the elite.
By ART GARCIAFS Southwest
The cynic in a lot of us wonders if David Stern wouldn't be so concerned with intentional fouls if it wasn't for who was being intentionally fouled — and what team that guy plays for.
Dwight Howard and it's the Lakers, so it can't be right. The integrity of the game is comprised. The fans are cheated. Heat fans don't want to watch Spurs scrubs.
Wait, wasn't that last week?
The latest Stern mini-manifesto surfaced Wednesday night as the Lakers visited New Orleans. Stern told the Pelicans, err, Hornets broadcast team on Fox Sports New Orleans that he tried unsuccessfully to eliminate the "Hack-a-Shaq" tactic throughout games.
Under the current rules, intentionally fouling a player who doesn't have the ball in the last two minutes of a game leads to two free throws and that ball out of bounds. Stern wanted that rule applied for all 48 minutes.
"I would have liked to have seen the rule changed to make the last-two-minute rule the whole rule," the commish said on the broadcast. "It was getting to a point last year where 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.'"
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban isn't for the rule change for basketball reasons from the professional level on down to little leagues.
"It sends the wrong message to kids every where that it's OK to not pay attention to basketball fundamentals," Cuban told FoxSportsSouthwest.com.
"In addition, intentional fouls humanize the game. There are 10 year olds who are watching these amazing athletes who have problems with free throws thinking that they can do something an NBA superstar can't."
With all respect to Splitter, if he was the only one being hacked, does anyone outside of South Texas care? No one pays or tunes in to see Splitter. We all learned that last week, courtesy of Stern and the $250,000 the Spurs were docked.
Howard is another ratings animal. Basketball fans are contractually and morally obligated to watch the Lakers regardless of opponent, so when it becomes a paint-drying exercise of Dwight clanks at the line, the natives get restless and Stern looks to protect what's his.
It doesn't seem to matter that coaches are paid handsome sums to figure out, within the rules, how to slow down the other team and its stars. Weaknesses should be exploited. That's how you win.
Superman can't hit an unguarded, stationary shot from 15 feet away. If you're playing against Howard, wouldn't you want him to take as many of those shots as possible? That makes a lot more basketball sense than Kobe Bryant firing away.
By implementing two free throws and the ball throughout the game, Howard is protected, even rewarded, in a way. Yes, fans don't like to see the game interrupted and rhythm thrown off. That's bad visual basketball.
It's just not wrong and it shouldn't be illegal. Competitions in other sports — football, hockey, boxing — get mucked up in an attempt to level the playing field when one side is not as talented as the other.
"You can't give a player an advantage or reward them for failing to do something that is a basic fundamental basketball skill," Cuban added. "When a guy can't shoot a jump shot, whether you are in a church league or the NBA, you do what you can to make them shoot jump shots.
"If a guy can't shoot free throws, you should do the same thing. Do what you can to send them to the line."
Stern, to his credit, did acknowledge the purist angle. Learn to shoot free throws, Dwight. Take a lesson from Rick Barry or Jackie Moon.
The current rule is fine as is, David. At least until LeBron can't make freebies.