Friday, August 26, 2011

Business of basketball continues for Magic's Howard

Former Vikings LT Bryant McKinnie
By John McMullen

Philadelphia - Some people need to be pushed and others are self-motivated. That's human nature and everyone is wired a little bit differently.

Hardcore football fans like their basketball counterparts were very upset during that sports lockout. The lack of offseason moves and daily player updates was tough to take but understand the casual onlookers could have cared less and when things kick off for real in less than two weeks, few will even remember that the players and owners were acting like petulant children for over 140 days.

In the end, the NFL's lockout amounted to the teachers going on strike during the summer and the same will hold true for hoops if things get hammered out before we send our kids trick-or-treating.

It's far different for coaches, however. They are pulling their hair out over the unknown.

Over in the NFL, Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier was counting on his immensely talented, mercurial left tackle, Bryant McKinnie. Frazier had hired a new offensive coordinator in Bill Musgrave and brought in a new quarterback in veteran Donovan McNabb. The last thing he needed was a new left tackle.

McKinnie, however, has always been immature and a little too caught up in the Miami party scene, something that has reared it's ugly head in the past.

A serial Twitterer, McKinnie talked a good game during the NFL lockout, often talking about working out and getting down to his preferred playing weight of 330 pounds. Of course, Frazier never actually got to see his big left tackle in the offseason.

When things were finally settled, McKinnie arrived in Eden Prairie for his physical and the team was aghast when the unknown came home to roost. Left to his own devices, the former Pro Bowler and Outland Trophy winner at "The U" ballooned up to 400 pounds and had a cholesterol level that was off the charts.

The Vikings were forced to release McKinnie, a player that simply fell apart without a coaching staff pushing him in the offseason.

Over in the NBA, I'm sure Orlando's Stan Van Gundy is like any other coach, concerned about his players and what they are doing to stay ready when basketball resumes.
Magic C Dwight Howard

He can rest easy with Dwight Howard, however.

If you take one look at Howard, you know the superstar center is never going to be out of shape but what's most impressive about the five-time All-Star is his desire to get better whether it's in a structured environment or not.

The Orlando Sentinel recently reported that Howard has hired shooting guru Ed Palubinskas, the all-time free throw percentage leader at LSU, to help him improve the one aspect of his game that is below average.

Howard's career free throw percentage is just 59.8 percent and he averaged 11.7 foul shots per game last season, three more than any other player. Think about how dominant Howard would be if he could get that percentage to jump up to 70 or dare I say 80.

Palubinskas, who has angled to work with Howard for over a year, certainly isn't shy about his teaching skills. In an email to the same newspaper back in 2010, Palubinskas wrote, "I will completely change his numbers in less than one week and you won't recognize him."

Now understand Palubinskas also once worked with Shaquille O'Neal and the "Big Aristotle" never really figured out his free shooting woes so this is far from a guaranteed success.

But just knowing a player of Howard's stature wants to improve on his own is a very comforting thought for Van Gundy and the Magic.

No comments: