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Their Words Never Hurt Him

June 08, 2002|Tim Brown

Today's officiating topic: Shaquille O'Neal's tendency to roll into the lane on his free throws, sometimes before the ball reaches the rim or the vicinity of it.

It was a favorite topic of Dallas owner Mark Cuban and the Phoenix Suns this season, and on Thursday Sacramento Coach Rick Adelman joined the chorus.

"Who's that?" O'Neal said Friday night.

Adelman. Of the Kings.

"I don't know who that is," he said, deadpan.

Despite the riding of referees by opposing coaches and players, O'Neal was called for only one lane violation on his own shot in 717 attempts this season.

O'Neal said he was in the bathroom when someone shouted about Adelman being on television, talking about O'Neal's free-throw mechanics. O'Neal made 63.8% of his free throws in the Western Conference finals, and he assumed that annoyed Adelman and the Kings, who haven't yet let go of their seven-game defeat.

"If I would've missed them, he wouldn't have said nothing," O'Neal said. "Don't cry. Dry your eye. Here comes Shaq with these four little guys."

Four little guys ... ?

"My teammates," he said, smiling.

So, O'Neal seemed unconcerned, as did Phil Jackson.

"You know, I like the rhythm that he's in on the free-throw line," the Laker coach said. "I think that's incidental and nit-picking."

When the Suns made an issue of the apparent violation, O'Neal lost his touch for a time, then was in and out of the lineup for seven weeks.


With the luxury tax looming and the Lakers relying more on players willing to play beside O'Neal and Kobe Bryant and for a championship at a cut salary, it becomes more critical that O'Neal maintain his weight and fix his arthritic toe, Jackson said.

"It's obvious that ... as a franchise we can't go forward if he's going to play 50 games a year, or 55 games a year, or 60," he said.

O'Neal will consider nonsurgical procedures after the playoffs.

"I think the major thing that we're talking about in the off-season, that Shaquille and I have been discussing over the last years, is how to come back ... where he doesn't have to deal with the weight, first and foremost," Jackson said. "That's a difficult proposition, the older you get.

"Maybe start playing in March, April, something like that. That would be what I'm sure he really wants to do."

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