Shaq's foul shots

Posted: Sunday, December 10, 2000

LOS ANGELES -- There were his usual clunkers off the rim, and several other tries actually were close to the mark but spun in and out of the hoop.

When it was over, Shaquille O'Neal had replaced Wilt Chamberlain for free throw futility in a single game.

Eleven times, O'Neal furrowed his brow, remembered to bend his knees and tried to arc the ball into basket. None made it.

That gave the Los Angeles' Lakers big center, the game's most dominant player, the dubious distinction of shooting the most free throws ever in an NBA game without making a single one.

Chamberlain, who also dominated the court during his day and also was notoriously bad from the line, went 0-for-10 against Detroit on Nov. 4, 1960.

''I was probably trying too hard,'' O'Neal said Friday night after his zero free throws was a key factor as Seattle beat the Lakers 103-95.

A 53 percent career free throw shooter who has slipped to 38 percent this season, O'Neal recently turned to a former player from Louisiana State, his former school, for help. Ed Palubinskas, who set an LSU career free throw record of 87.5 percent more than 25 years ago, has devised a program to change O'Neal's approach.

''I just have to concentrate a little bit more. I always make them in practice, so I just have to make them in a game,'' said O'Neal, whose free throw woes overshadowed his 26-point, 17-rebound performance against the SuperSonics.

''Obviously his free throw shooting really hurt us,'' Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. ''Shaq slipped back into a position where he was shooting well for a couple of games and now fell back again."

''It's unfortunate for him; I know that's a big blow to him.''

O'Neal, who doesn't like to talk about his free throw shooting, has often said that he can make them when he has to. As the Lakers rolled to the NBA title last year, he seemed to do just that at most critical times.

''Shaq's free throw shooting is not a new topic,'' Lakers teammate Rick Fox said. ''It's something that he's worked his way through each year by the time the playoffs come -- and I thought he did a great job in the playoffs.

''At times it's been inconsistent, but this is nothing new. We've won with that as an Achilles heel before, and it doesn't mean it'll stay that way.''

Seattle's Gary Payton, who scored 25 points and hit the 14,000-point career plateau in the win over the Lakers, also believes O'Neal will work out his problem from the foul line.

'I think Shaq can do anything he really sets his mind to do,'' Payton said. ''If Shaq really gets determined, he can make free throws.''



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