Dirt melts in laughter, and Shaq will feed him lines the rest of the afternoon.
"Yes," says Shaq snootily. "A package for Mr. Doggy Dogg?"
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT, WESTCHESTER
Alone again, Shaq is at the Lakers' practice site before his comeback, clanking free throws as though he were still in his Steel armor. Then he sinks a succession of shots and gets cocky. "When I come back, I ain't missin'," he says. "And you can quote me! I ain't missin'!" But then he starts missin'. Magic has been working with him, getting him to bend his knees and take his time.
Shaq shoots too low is what the problem is. The ball leaves his hand at about 8½ feet and never gets past 10. He misses free throws right and left and short and long, but they are always too low. He clanks them, shanks them and even tries to bank them, but they are too low. They have no arc. They have no backspin. Giant orange knuckleballs. I cannot take it anymore.
"Shaq," I say. "Look how little you break your wrist. You're shot-putting 'em. Why don't you bring your wrist back parallel to the floor so you get some backspin?"
"Because I can't," he says.
"No, bro. I broke my wrist when I was a kid in Germany. Fell out of a tree. The thing fused or something. Look at this." He can bring his wrist back only a few inches, as if he were wearing a cast.