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The NBA made a small change to its rules to make the 'Hack-a' strategy harder to implement

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The change won't completely stop the "Hack-a" strategy but it will make it harder to implement.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA has changed its rules regarding fouls away from the ball. The tweak won't solve the strategy that involves intentionally fouling poor free throw shooters but it could make it harder to implement.

The main change involves common fouls away from the play. The old rules considered away-from-the-ball fouls to be normal infractions except in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter and overtimes. During that stretch under the old rules, any foul away from the ball resulted in a free throw and possession of the ball, which prevented teams from using the "Hack-a" strategy at the end of games. Now with the new rules, that punishment for away-from-the-ball fouls will be extended to the end of all quarters.

While this seems like a step in the right direction, it's ultimately a small tweak that won't eliminate the strategy of intentional fouling poor free throw shooters completely. That was the league's intention, according to NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe:

"In looking at the data and numerous potential solutions to combat the large increase in deliberate away-from-the-play foul situations, we believe these steps offer the most measured approach. The introduction of these new rules is designed to curb the increase in such fouls without eliminating the strategy entirely."

The new rule could have the unintended effect of forcing coaches to intentionally foul earlier in quarters to get in the bonus and put a poor shooter at the line, something some teams have already been doing. Fouling late in quarters to gain an extra possession -- which the new rules will make impossible -- was never the real issue with the "Hack-a" strategy, anyway. The systematic use of intentional fouling for long periods of time is the problem and the rule won't prevent that.

A better rule change is the automatic adjudication of a technical to any player who jumps on an opponent's back after a free throw. It was a much-needed tweak, as players were abusing the loophole to the over-the-back fouling rules to further the strategy.

One other small tweak regarding fouling before inbounds was also introduced. Here are the rule changes, courtesy of the NBA:

Rules Changes Relating to Deliberate Away-From-The-Play Foul Rules

  • The current rule for away-from-the-play fouls applicable to the last two minutes of the fourth period (and last two minutes of any overtime) -- pursuant to which the fouled team is awarded one free throw and retains possession of the ball -- will be extended to the last two minutes of each period.

  • For inbounds situations, a defensive foul at any point during the game that occurs before the ball is released by the inbounder (including a "legitimate" or "natural" basketball action such as a defender fighting through a screen) will be administered in the same fashion as an away-from-the-play foul committed during the last two minutes of any period (i.e., one free throw and possession of the ball).

  • The flagrant foul rules will be used to protect against any dangerous or excessively hard deliberate fouls. In particular, it will presumptively be considered a flagrant foul if a player jumps on an opponent's back to commit a deliberate foul. Previously, these type of fouls were subject to being called flagrant but were not automatic.