Don't Get All Out of Joint About Shaq's Free Throws

Shaquille O'Neal has been examined from head to toe--especially the head--because of his free throw miseries. But not nearly enough attention has been paid to his wrists.

He broke both when he fell out of a tree as an 11-year-old. As a result, he still cannot cock his right wrist normally and his hand curves inward. That is the reason he looks more like Randy Barnes than Reggie Miller from the line.

"That's a physical fact," Laker Coach Del Harris says. "He can't put his wrist into the classic free-throw shooting position."

Finding an alternative has been Harris' project. It is more of a challenge than he faced previously when coaching free-throw shooters such as Rick Barry and Calvin Murphy, but it's necessary.

O'Neal, who has made 44.9% of his free throws, will have to improve for the Lakers to consistently win close games because defenders know that their best chance to stop a score is to hack Shaq.

Harris believes that O'Neal can find a style suitable for him. But Rule No. 1 is that he can neither solicit nor accept advice from anyone else.

"He's only going to hear one voice, mine," Harris says. "He doesn't need several different people telling him what's wrong."


Time out for views from other arenas:

Oregon State's football coaching job would be a good fit for USC offensive coordinator Mike Riley, who won a state title as a quarterback for Corvallis High while his father, Bud, was an assistant coach for the Beavers. It might also be the right time for a change at USC. Whether it was Riley's fault or not, John Robinson said the offense forgot its "Student Body Right" heritage. . . .

I haven't found a football watcher who has seen a play like the one in Sunday's Chicago-Green Bay game, when Bear quarterback Dave Krieg faked a quarterback sneak into the line on fourth and one from the Packer eight, then pulled back and passed to Bobby Engram for a touchdown. The man who designed the play? Chicago offensive coordinator Ron Turner, who became Illinois' coach Monday. . . .

Is there an unluckier NBA observer than Paul Sunderland, who handles the Laker and Clipper pregame shows for Fox Sports West? He was at the Pond of Anaheim on Saturday night to see the Clippers and New Jersey Nets combine for only 29 points in the first quarter, then went to the Forum on Sunday night to see the Nuggets score only nine in the first 12 minutes against the Lakers. He said that New Jersey Coach John Calipari told him at halftime, "I hope we haven't set the game back 20 years." . . .

After Ed O'Bannon led UCLA to the NCAA title in 1995, the Nets selected him ninth in the first round. But he's not strong enough to be effective with his inside game in the NBA. He played only seven minutes in the overtime victory over the Clippers. . . .

On the day before they play UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, Cal State Northridge's players took time out from school Monday to attend the funeral of Coach Bobby Braswell's father, James Braswell Jr. He died last week at 68 after an illness. . . .

Why does CSUN's walk-on point guard go by the name Lucky Grundy? Because he doesn't want to be called by his given name, Alvis.


If network executives can pull the plug on disappointing new shows after a few weeks, why not the Lakers?

The players didn't like what they saw in the first 16 games, called a team meeting on the road last week and announced the start of "a new season." The old one didn't even last as long as Brooke Shields' show.

So far, these new Lakers look more interested. They have been committed on defense in the two victories since the meeting, especially in holding Denver to a franchise-low nine points in the first quarter of a 104-96 victory Sunday night in the second "home opener."

But Harris isn't excited yet, not arguing with a cynic who suggested that the Laker defense Sunday might not have been as good as the Nugget offense was bad.

"Our next two games are against Seattle and Utah," Harris said. "I'm not going to talk about how we stop everybody in the NBA at this point."

Before going to Utah on Wednesday, the Lakers play Seattle tonight at the Forum. The SuperSonics and Lakers are, as expected, 1-2 in the Pacific Division, which guarantees that the players will not consider it merely another game out of 82, Harris said. But he had a pained expression when someone suggested that his team might use this game to make a statement.

"That's the most overused term in sports," he said. "You've never heard me use it, and you never will. I don't know who ever came up with that in the first place."

Wasn't it Pat Riley?

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