Detroit Pistons: Should The NBA Change Their Intentional Fouling And Free Throw Rules?


The scoreboard read 107-100 in favor of the Atlanta Hawks in Philips Arena over the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night. While the score seemed all too normal, the actual game had a bit of a controversial feel to it.

And of course, Piston and NBA fans are all too familiar with it by now. After watching the Portland Trail Blazers force the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan to shoot 34 free throws in one game, viewers nationwide are getting sick of it.

Jordan ended up hitting on only 12 of his free throws, an abysmal 35.3% for the game. The pace of the game was wrecked and fans everywhere were displeased to watch such a boring, grueling contest.

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What is this disturbance within the game? It’s all too simple yet complex. The issue of the intentional foul which forces a bad free throw shooter to shoot, well, free throws.

Originally dubbed Hack-A-Shaq on All-Time great Shaquille O’Neal, it’s nothing new. NBA teams have implemented it as part of their game plan for years now.

But the recent controversy is a bit different, especially for Piston fans. They have the worst free throw shooter in NBA history in superstar Andre Drummond.

Drummond hits a somewhat embarrassing 39.3% from the charity stripe for his career. This season, it’s somehow worse at 37.9%. Opponents have actively tried to get him on the free throw line, especially in crunch time.

Teams have even gotten creative with fouling Drummond inside two minutes of the fourth quarter. They foul him when he sets the pick in the pick-and-roll play. J.J. Redick “piggybacked” him as a free throw was going up just the other night.

Since Drummond is technically part of the play, he’s forced to shoot free throws. The Pistons and their supporters can only watch as Drummond usually misses those freebies.

The game against the Hawks recently especially stands out because of how early they started intentionally fouling him. Coach Mike Buldenhozer elected to start the fouling late in the first quarter.

Usually teams would at least wait till the second half to elect whether fouling would be a good choice. There’s still plenty of game time in the first half to see how the game would play out based on conventional basketball tactics.

At some point, Buldenhozer brought some players in specifically to foul Drummond. After all, they were allowed up to six fouls before they fouled out so the Hawks coach had plenty in hid disposal.

Ultimately, the way in which “Bang-A-Drum” worked fell strongly in favor of the Hawks. It messed with the Pistons’ flow on the offensive side and then the effects trickled over on defense.

What was once a competitive game in the middle of the second became a blowout by halftime. While the Pistons clawed back to make the score look respectable, the damage of “Bang-A-Drum” had been done.

And honestly? It’s hard to blame the Hawks. It helped them win the game and that’s what their main goal should be in the Association. It was frighteningly effective against the Pistons that game messing with their whole system.

With all these problems, it makes Head Coach/Team President Stan Van Gundy’s job that much harder. He needs to decide when to sub Drummond out in favor of Aron Baynes or Joel Anthony.

No offense to those guys, they’re serviceable backups, but they’re not Drummond and his superstar potential. They just can’t take over a game like Drummond can. That’s not a knock on them, it’s just how dominant Drummond has looked at times for stretches this season.

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  • So what should the NBA do in this situation?

    For Pistons fans, they’d love to see the NBA simply get rid of this intentional foul. Maybe add a flagrant or a technical to it to the offending party. Two shots and the ball since the foul is, after all, intentional.

    Another solution could include giving the team the option to either take the free throws or take the ball from out-of-bounds. Football does this with their penalties, could the NBA adopt something like it?

    There are plenty of things the NBA could do to discourage teams from the blatant fouling. The problem has been discussed in the past and maybe the league might actually do something about it soon.

    The one thing the league should be scared of is that this issue can and will cause watchability problems. There are plenty of things people would rather do than watch Drummond brick free throw after free throw.

    If the Pistons make the playoffs and are matched up against the Hawks or another foul happy team, this might even ruin a playoff series. Imagine a Clippers-Pistons NBA Finals, where both teams are just fouling Jordan and Drummond constantly, ruining the NBA’s showcase series.

    There’s an enormous difference between a grind-it-through defensive team and a team that just forces the other team to shoot free throws.

    A lot of critics and pundits have pointed out that Drummond should simply make free throws. After all, that’s part of the job description for a basketball player. Get fouled? Go to the line and make your free throws.

    But it’s clear that Drummond just can’t make free throws, at least yet. Something simple like shooting underhanded could really help him. Drummond making even 50% of his free throws would help this team tremendously.

    For now though, this remains a genuine problem for the NBA. At the end of the day, it’s hard to justify having a team commit an infraction and actually benefiting from it. A penalty or foul should discourage the team from doing just that.

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    Now, your thoughts. How do you feel about the intentional fouling? Hate it? Love it? Don’t care? Whatever the case, this is slowly starting to become a problem for the NBA in recent weeks. National outlets like ESPN have even covered it concerned about the possible implications.