Gregg Popovich hates foul strategy

Updated: January 30, 2014, 12:34 PM ET
By Nick Friedell | ESPNChicago.com

SAN ANTONIO -- Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich dislikes employing a "Hack-a-Shaq" type fouling strategy, but he's going to do it anyway.

[+] EnlargeGregg Popovich
Andrew Richardson/USA TODAY SportsGregg Popovich ordered the Spurs to foul Dwight Howard seven straight times Tuesday. "I hate it," Popovich said. "... Seriously. I think it's a pain in the neck."

Popovich, who ordered his team to foul Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard seven straight times in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night's 97-90 loss, is not a fan of sending guys to the line -- but concedes it's part of the game.

"I hate it," Popovich said of the strategy before Wednesday night's game against the Chicago Bulls. "I think it's awful. I hate doing it. Seriously. I think it's a pain in the neck, fans don't like it, I don't like it, nobody likes it. It disrupts the flow of the game. If there's an equitable way to get rid of it, I'm all for it.

"But it's part of the game. It's part of the rules now and if you think somebody can't shoot a free throw you might as well take advantage of it. If you think somebody can't shoot you don't guard him the same way. So [the strategy's] fair, it's just kind of ugly I think."

The strategy has been around for years, but has gained more prominence of late because of Howard's struggles at the free throw line. He was 13-for-25 from the line last night and is shooting just 52 percent from the line this season.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau knows that coaches use the strategy from time to time, especially Popovich.

"Yeah, you evaluate where you are in the game," Thibodeau said. "if it makes sense. He made last night. Pop has always used that strategy. Coaches have benchmarks on when they're going to go to it, and Dwight made. You're also looking at the second shot in those situations, so there's a lot that goes into it.'

While Popovich may hate the strategy, Thibodeau understands why he continues to employ it over the years.

"I'll say this about Pop – he loves to win," Thibodeau said. "To me as a coach that's the decision you're making. You're allowed to do it, and if you feel like that gives you your best chance at winning then you're going to do whatever you feel is going to give you your best chance to win. Pop's record speaks for itself.''

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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