With his free-throw percentages hardly improving seven seasons into what should be a Hall of Fame career, Dwight Howard has turned to a self-styled guru for help with a touch gone wrong.
The Orlando Magic center is a nice guy, a willing learner, a dominant force defensively and a terrible free-throw shooter. That last aspect isn't exactly his Achilles' heel -- the All-Star's dodgy teammates are the biggest reason the NBA's best center has made it out of his conference's bracket only once in his career -- but it would certainly help both Howard and his team if he could make, say, three-quarters of his gimmie attempts.
He's stuck at just below 58 percent from the stripe on his career, with a low of 52 percent and a high of 62 percent. Which is tough, because Howard has shown that he can stick a good elbow under the ball and showcase a good stroke.
This is where Ed Palubinskas comes in. The Aussie swears he can turn Howard from the last Shaquille O'Neal (who Palubinskas once worked with) into, at the very least, the next Patrick Ewing (who Howard once worked with). To say nothing of the next Jack Sikma.
"I will completely change his numbers in less than one week and you won't recognize him."
Well all right!
And this is what Palubinskas told the Orlando Sentinel during a 2009 Finals showing that saw Howard miss 15 of 37 charity attempts:
"Here we are with multimillion-dollar, superb, phenomenal athletes, and millions of people are watching [the Finals] and saying, 'I don't believe it.' I believe it because their mechanics are so flawed."
Howard's mechanics are flawed. His shooting elbow sticks way out too often, he doesn't utilize the same routine consistently, and he can use some help with his knee-bend bounce before he shoots. Take it from your "humble" free-throw guru/author, who converts about as many free throws as Howard does, without the pressure of 20,000 fans bearing down.
It's still a smart move for the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. More makes turn to more scores which leads to more respect from the refs which leads to less angry outbursts on the defensive end about what happened on the offensive end, which allows an already-dominant defensive player to perhaps play free and easy (read: scary) on the defensive end from the first quarter to the fourth. Whew. It's a long way of saying that a more serene turn at the free-throw line is good for everyone involved. Even, sometimes, the opposition.
Also, it could run Howard's scoring average up past 25 a game. If he develops the stroke, the game's best center could become even scarier.