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.