I recently ran into one of the distinguished electors of the NBAs 50 best and asked him if Dumars was one of his choices. "Wow, Dumars," he replied sheepishly. "I confess. I forgot him."
Evidently the coaches who picked the All-Star reserves did too. I'm just wondering how.
Despite his shortcomings at the foul line, Shaq never locked up the title as the Magic's worst free throw shooter under pressure. That dubious honor was contested by guard Nick Anderson, who bricked four consecutive free throws in the last seconds of regulation of Game 1 in the 1995 Finals. His misfires led to a 120-118 Orlando loss in overtime and set the tone for a Houston sweep.
Some observers around the NBA believe Anderson has never been the same since that fateful June night, even though his numbers last season (14.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists) were reasonably healthy and he converted a passable 69.2% of his free throws. But this season through Monday, he was making only 36.2% of his foul shots. The battle cry of Magic opponents in the late stages of a close game is no longer "Hack Shaq!" (in case you've been sequestered with a jury for the past six months, O'Neal now plays for the Lakers) but "Quick, grab Nick!"
Orlando general manager John Gabriel doesn't buy the theory that Anderson's errant shooting against the Rockets permanently spooked him. "I don't believe it's all mental," Gabriel says. "Does he think a little too much when he's at the line? Probably. But he's not thinking about Houston. He's thinking about developing a rhythm, and he hasn't taken enough free throws to establish one."
Gabriel has a point. At week's end Anderson, who had missed 15 games this season with a sprained right wrist, had attempted only 47 foul shots. At that pace he will take only 117 free throws, compared with a career average of 274.
So why doesn't Anderson get to the line anymore? Gabriel thinks one reason is habit. Before O'Neal was drafted in 1992, Anderson muscled for points, often posting up smaller defenders, but when O'Neal came aboard, Anderson drifted to the perimeter to help take pressure off Shaq. O'Neal is gone, but Anderson keeps playing long ball. At the end of November, Gabriel says, 97 of Anderson's 192 field goal attempts were three-pointers. As of Monday, Anderson had taken 327 shots from the floor, and 180 of them had been from three-point range.
Who cares about this? Anderson should. He's a free agent this summer, and some general managers believe he has become fearful of contact. Others think he's still favoring a sore wrist. You can be sure Anderson's free throw woes are a source of amusement to O'Neal, who, after becoming a Laker, traded insults with Anderson. At week's end Shaq was making a sparkling 46.8% of his free throws.
Let's Make a Deal
In a meeting with the Warriors' front office on Jan. 20, Golden State's frustrated veteran forward Chris Mullin (SI, Jan. 27) listed five teams he would like to be traded to: the Bulls, the Hawks, the Heat, the Knicks and the Magic. The Warriors want a big man in return for Mullin and, according to sources, have asked Chicago for Toni Kukoc. Forget that. Atlanta is willing to give up Kenny Norman and draft picks; the best bet for a deal with Orlando would be Mullin for Dennis Scott (they're a perfect match salary-wise); New York isn't biting; and at week's end the Heat was considering offering a Sasha Danilovic-Kurt Thomas package, but Thomas is on the injured list after having fractured his right ankle when he fell off a step in a New York restaurant. The Pacers would love to dangle Derrick McKey before the Warriors, but Mullin doesn't want to change his address to Indy.