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For those trying to fix Shaquille O’Neal’s free throws, don’t bother

10.08.10 at 9:05 am ET
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Shaquille O'Neal is keen on taking advice when it comes to free throw shooting. (AP)

Shaquille O'Neal isn't keen on taking advice when it comes to free throw shooting. (AP)

New city. New team. Same routine.

Shaquille O’Neal has taken the third-most free throws of any player in the NBA (11,347), and trails only Wilt Chamberlain in the amount he has missed (5,974). But what he might lead the professional basketball-playing world in is something that no stat service will hand over – advice.

Wherever O’Neal has gone he has been besieged by legions of well-meaning observers who swear they have the elixir to the big man’s free throw shooting woes.

For those people, Shaq has a message: Don’t bother.

“I never take advice,” O’Neal told WEEI.com after Tuesday’s practice, saying he learned that lesson by his second season in the league.

“Actually taking advice made my numbers drop. Whatever you use to get you to where you are at you should never change.”

Where O’Neal is at is an incredibly successful basketball player, which a prolific ability to miss free throws. He has the second-worst free throw shooting percentage in the history of the NBA (.527), with Chamberlain the only player to have shot worse (.511).

(Fear not, even if O’Neal duplicates his 112-for-226 performance of a season ago — .496 – it will only knock him down to .526.

“I could care less. How many years has he played? I’m not smarter than anybody else he’s had. He’s only had Riley, Phil Jackson,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “I’m not going to try and do anything with him. The day we signed Shaq I got letters, people, everybody giving advice. If you can get a hold of him, have at it.”

“Everybody would come up to him. Even players wanted to show him how to do it,” said Celtics guard Delonte West, who played with O’Neal in Cleveland last season. “He wants to do it his way. But you would be surprised, he’s been knocking them down in practice. We’ve been doing ‘Hack-A-Shaq’ in practice and he’s been making us pay for it every time.”

Unfortunately for the Celtics, the perceived improvement hasn’t translated into the games as of yet. O’Neal — whose 226 attempts last season were the fewest of his career — has taken five free throws in the Celts’ first two exhibition games and missed them all.

But while O’Neal isn’t keen on soaking in unsolicited advice, it doesn’t mean he isn’t going to take advantage the resources available to him.

What O’Neal can draw upon now is the expertise of one of the greatest free throw shooters of all-time, Ray Allen, who enters the season with the fifth-best percentage in the history of the game (.894). (For reference sake, Allen has missed 458 regular season free throws in his 14-season career. In the 2000-01 campaign alone, O’Neal misfired 473 times.)

“I won’t say anything to him about his foul shooting unless he asks. He’s been around long enough. I feel like if he wants to get better, or if he feels like he’s at a point where he doesn’t realize what he’s doing he’ll come to me,” Allen explained.

If he says something like, ‘I don’t feel good about free throws’ I might step in and say, ‘This is what I see.’ He actually said something to me earlier and I just gave him some advice. But they have to come to me first. I’m not going to over-inundate them with advice or knowledge with what I know, because what works for me might now work for somebody else.”

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