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Al Horford Wants to Change the NBA Disqualification Rule (No Foulouts, Ever!)

From the pages of ESPN: The Magazine, in the Revenge of the Jocks edition, comes a special section on athletes across the broad spectrum of sports who want to get something off their chest.

And what does 2-time NBA All-Star, and 3rd team All-NBA Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford want to say?

No kidding.


"I'd eliminate fouling out. You'd have to have some sort of penalty, because otherwise the game would become too aggressive; you don't want guys fouling whenever they want. I don't know if you make every foul after six worth two free throws and the fouled team gets the ball, but we could come up with something. Maybe you have a penalty box like in hockey. Or you get more free throws after a certain number of fouls. But it's crazy that a team is unable to play its best players the entire game if that's what the coach wants to do."    


Hmmm, maybe that Horford Treatment thing is still getting under his skin, you think?

To sum up: Since his first day in the NBA, Al Horford has had to sit the entirety of the first half any time his personal foul number has registered "2". Not "3" as is the drone-led "book" threshold that most of copycats rule by in the NBA, but "2", as in, that's-a stinky philosophy.

Many times, as listed in the above linked, as-yet when published incomplete, list of occurrences of this "strategy", this has led to Horford missing as many as 14 minutes of game time---more than, as mentioned by Tom Ziller of our own SBNation when this farce went national, as he might have missed had he actually fouled out of the game or retired from basketball completely in that second half.

So, now that Horford escaped this rogue intelligence of one head coach only to find himself in the arms of another such critical thinker in Larry Drew, Horford has decided if you can't beat 'em, change the rules.


Such discussion has been in vogue since the days of fouling a star player with poor free throw skills at any time of the game, especially down the stretch. The Hack-A-Shaq philosophy which has born variations on a theme, much like using the suffix "Gate" onto any scandal.

But enough about anybody else, let's stay focused on how this tsk-tsk/sit down philosophy has impacted our young and now firmly and contractually entrenched front court semi-star.

Even in his earlier years, you could see where the early foul trouble was impacting Horford's play. His initially aggressive style of defensive play was visibly toned down in order to avoid so-called "foul trouble". Nobody wants to miss, as Horford did this past spring, up to (22) minutes of game time due to a couple of perhaps touchy fouls or have his playing time determined by too quick a whistle. 

So the adjustment for players who don't want to miss the entire first half with foul trouble is to simply over-adjust to the fear of not fouling. Now you have players who aren't thinking about defending as earnestly as possible, but rather calculating how they can stay on the floor. It's not fault, it's nature, and clearly, even at this stage in his career, the notion of fouling out still haunts Horford and clearly he feels this is impeding how much he plays.

This isn't some hack out there who can't control himself either, this is a guy who averaged 2.9 fouls per 40 minutes, well below the 4.2 fouls per 40 average among NBA centers playing more than 20 minutes per game. Horford simply shouldn't be worrying about such things, but he has to because of the overly cautious approach his head coaches have taken in this regard.

He can't blame the coaches, he's not that kind of guy publicly, but in this forum he can continue to try to find ways to fix his problem. That he feels it's a problem highlights where this policy registers in his psyche, and it won't be going away soon.