If you want to remember the young, almost skinny Shaquille O’Neal, you need to head on down to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Sure, you could also go to YouTube, but Baton Rouge is a lot more fun.)
On the LSU campus Thursday they unveiled a new statue of Shaq — dunking of course — from his days as a Tiger. Back when he was thin, agile and just starting to dominate.
This is not Shaq pretending to be a statue in Boston, this is an actual statue. And while Shaq put on a few pounds as his career went on, he never got up to the 900 pounds the statue weighs. Probably.
Shaq, of course, accepted the statue with his usual subtle grace (via the LSU basketball twitter feed).
“That is the best sculpture in the country.”
Shaq nicknamed the statue “The Big Bronze.”
Shaq also told the crowd he was disappointed he could not bring a national title to Baton Rouge and that calling coach Dale Brown with the news he was going pro and not returning to LSU was one of the hardest things he has ever done.
Dan Patrick got Kevin Garnett to open up about negotiations with the Celtics (or lack thereof) and about almost going to the Lakers in 2007. But there was one more little tidbit we left out.
Garnett talked about playing with Shaquille O’Neal, which KG said made last season one of the most fun he has had in the NBA in a long time. And that led to an interesting note from KG about Shaq, as quoted at CSNNE.com.
Garnett told Patrick that the host had a better chance of hitting a ball over the Green Monster than scoring a basket in an NBA game. That led to an exchange in which Garnett recalled a softball game that the Celtics played at Fenway Park. Garnett said he hit one ball off of the Green Monster. He said Rajon Rondo hit two off the Wall and Shaquille O’Neal, of course, knocked one over the Monster.
Honestly, the fact that Shaq knocked one over the Green Monster does not shock me — he got heavy and injured late in his career but the man was freakishly athletic for his size. Remember how quick his spin moves were back in Orlando?
But Rondo hit the Green Monster twice? Now that does shock me.
There are moments — crucial end-of-close-game moments — when Stan Van Gundy has to sit his best player, Dwight Howard. Or they can’t trust giving him the ball.
Because Howard will get fouled, and he shot only 59.6 percent from the free throw line last year (which is pretty much right at his career average of 59.8 percent). It’s a liability.
So Howard is working with free throw guru Ed Palubinskas this summer to change his game, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Palubinskas, an Australian national and Olympian, hit 87.5 percent of his free throws while at LSU and has become a coach to many big names.
Palubinskas worked with Magic teammate Brandon Bass a few years back and Bass’ free throw percentage jumped from 75 percent to 82 percent.
The biggest name he worked with Shaquille O’Neal, but it didn’t seem to help — Shaq shot 51.3 percent his season with Palubinskas. He did get better the next two seasons and shot a career best 62.2 percent two years later, but you can decide for yourself if Palubinskas gets the credit for that. You can also decide for yourself how good a student Shaq would have been for any teacher.
Will it help Howard? Well at least Howard will be a willing student. But we’ll wait until we see Howard hitting 70 percent or better and not having Van Gundy worried abut keeping him on the floor at the end of close games before we decide.