Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The first half of Game 4 of the Los Angeles Clippers-Houston Rockets Western Conference semifinal series will forever be remembered for DeAndre Jordan attempting 28 free throws in an effort to "muck up the game a little bit," per Rockets coach Kevin McHale.
Yes, the first half of that basketball game was unwatchable dreck. Houston fouled Jordan as much as possible and he obliged, going 10-for-28. The game had no feel, no rhythm and no excitement. We were literally treated to a practice session of Jordan shooting free throws. If the Clippers thought they could get ratings for that, they'd stream it.
That was awful, awful television and the question now is, does the NBA step in and disallow this snooze-fest from continuing.
I pray it doesn't.
Again, the display of stopping and starting we witnessed Sunday night was horrible to watch. Death-row inmates shouldn't have to sit through it, but there are so many reasons to leave it alone that should supercede the boring nature of a game.
Changing this rule rewards Jordan for being partially inept at his job. There should be no reward for being a career 41.7 foul shooter. The answer, which is simple and teeters on too simple, is, Jordan should improve his free-throw shooting, something I have no doubt he's tried. However, his improvement would be the elixir to this ailment.
Until he does, the Clippers are vulnerable to this tactic working. Doc Rivers could substitute for Jordan, but he elects to keep him on the floor. It's paid dividends because Jordan is a premier defensive player and the best rebounder in the game.
Which brings up another point why this "Hack-a-whoever" strategy shouldn't be abolished - it doesn't work.
McHale's plan, which he even said was predicated on the fact that Dwight Howard got into early foul trouble, did not work a little bit. His intention was to take the Clippers out of rhythm. A coach has to try something to slow down the NBA's most efficient offense without his rim protector, but the Clippers hung 128 points on the Rockets Sunday while Jordan attempted 34 freebies.
That's sound strategy? McHale started intentionally fouling Jordan 3:40 into the game and the Rockets allowed 128 points. Jordan attempted four free throws in Game 3 and the Clips put up 124 points, so that's not progress.
This was McHale's decision and it didn't work. Doesn't mean it won't in other circumstances, but that's the onus the head coach faces. Houston is down in this series. McHale didn't have his big man, didn't think he could stop them. In an effort to "muck" up the game, he did something that sounds similar. Doesn't mean we change the rules.
The idea has other ramifications that hurt decisions a coach has to weigh. Chris Paul was on a minutes restriction, but due to the galactically slow nature of the game, he got to stay on the floor longer. The Clippers got to set a defense every time Jordan finished his stay at the line.
And, McHale's plan hurt his own team. The Rockets had no rhythm themselves offensively, and his best player isn't on board.
"I mean, personally I don't like it, but I guess different coaches have their different philosophies on the game," Houston's James Harden said.
In the 22 regular season and playoff games this season when Jordan has gone to the line 10 or more times, the Clippers are 17-5. Those all aren't examples of intentionally fouling the center, but that's a big enough sample size to suggest the strategy doesn't work against L.A.
Why ban an ineffective game plan? Does the NBA want to take coaches off the hook for bad decisions? It reminded me of when the NBA allowed zone defense as a way to enhance scoring. That made sense, right? Scoring is down, so let's allows teams to play a defense that should improve scoring.
Hacking Jordan has not proven to be an effective way of beating the Clippers. There's no reason to ban it if it doesn't work.
The reason, according to advocates, is that this is killing the product. It's impossible to defend the first half of Sunday's game from an entertainment perspective.
The burning question for the NBA then is: what's most important, protecting the league as a fair sports organization, or providing the most compelling entertainment available?
It would be naive to suggest that the NBA should ignore the ramifications of hacking on the consumer. If the playoffs continue that way, it could turn people off. It was bad enough that I scrolled through the description of Sunday's "The Good Wife," but Alicia and Kalinda's reunion wasn't enough for me.
Fans deserve better than that first half, but this is the playoffs. A champion will be crowned next month, and if this is how the Rockets feel they can best secure that championship, then we endure.
I'm completely uncomfortable with the notion that bad television could trigger a change in NBA rules. I didn't consult with Deepthroat to learn to "follow the money" and ESPN and TNT ponied up a lot of it to broadcast the NBA. Television executives are entitled to opinions, but to alter the rules to make it TV-friendlier flies in the face of what a competitive league should be about.
The fans in the arena have enough going on to be occupied.
Baseball can be boring as sin to watch, and MLB is trying rules to speed the game up as best they can. The difference is, MLB is hoping to eliminate the OCD attached to a hitter stepping out of the batter's box, something that has nothing to do with the integrity of the outcome. Eliminating hack-a-whoever is legitimate, albeit dumb, strategy consistent with the game.
And what solutions exist to remedy this?
"The refs should call it for what it is, an intentional foul, and award the aggrieved the ball after the free throw."
Fouling is vital to the outcome of a close game. It's the only way for defenses to stop the clock when trailing. Everyone in the building knows a foul is coming. Technically, wouldn't that be an intentional foul? The refs understand why it's occurring and call it as such.
Leaving the officials unconditional autonomy to make calls based on the intentional nature of them is shaky ground. It would eliminate this intentional fouling most likely, but it's too severe a penalty with too much gray area for interpretation.
"Limit the number of fouls committed on one player."
That's contrived and unfair. What happens when an unintentional foul is committed on someone like Jordan after the opposition has reached the limit? A ticky-tack foul gives the Clippers the ball back after free throws when someone narrowly missed blocking Jordan's shot? That stinks and could impact defensive intensity. Again, this affords too much judgment to an official to get inside the minds of defensive players.
There's no good answer other than players like Jordan making this a low-reward option.
It's a shame that half occurred during a weekend when titans of the industry - LeBron James, Derrick Rose and Paul Pierce - all made game-winners at the buzzer. The Clippers-San Antonio Spurs series was the best thing on television since "The Sopranos." The playoffs have been great theater.
Just because our nation has become accepting of television based on wannabe- singers, people eating bugs and a Greek-American family with attractive daughters shouldn't force a change in the NBA rule book.
DeAndre, make your free throws.
Kevin, stop hacking him. It doesn't work.
Commissioner Silver and the competition committee, don't change the rule. The strategy doesn't work and the NBA is bigger than some bad stretches of television.