Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard's frustration about other teams' constantly hammering him under the basket reached a boiling point in last night's win over the Indiana Pacers. Late in the third quarter, Howard got free underneath on the break. Before he could go up for a dunk, Pacers forward Troy Murphy came up from behind Howard and brought both his arms down hard around his neck and shoulders, preventing Howard from getting a shot off. Howard tried to push Murphy in retaliation as he attempted to untangle himself, which earned him a technical foul; Pacers coach Jim O'Brien unsuccessfully argued that Howard threw a punch and should have been ejected. Head official Ken Mauer ensured the Pacers would not get a free throw out of the bargain by escalating the call to a double-technical on both players, rather than just a technical on Howard.
This skirmish has set off a debate about the ethics of hard fouls, about which you can read on OrlandoMagic.com, the Orlando Sentinel, and NBA FanHouse. One side holds that Howard gets hammered far too often, and in unseemly ways; the other believes that Howard does his own fair share of bullying, and that fouling Howard hard is the only way to prevent him from scoring in certain situations. Murphy's hack indeed prevented Howard from getting a shot up, and was far more effective in stopping a score than, say Solomon Jones' weak attempt at the 3:26 mark of the second quarter, when he needlessly slapped Howard on the arm after he had dunked.
Where do you stand on this issue? Is it fair for NBA teams to base an entire strategy on "fouling the hell out of Dwight Howard," as O'Brien described it after the game? At which point does this strategy cross the line? What can the NBA do to address the problem, if anything?
For the record, we'll note that fouling Howard appears to be paying off so far. He's connected on 58.4% of his foul shots this season, the worst mark of his 6-year career. Basketball purists might suggest that Howard improve that figure in order to discourage intentional fouls, rather than complaining about the rough treatment he receives.
UPDATE: Justice appears to have prevailed in this case--depending on your allegiances--as the NBA rescinded Howard's technical foul and upgraded Murphy's technical foul to a flagrant-1.