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mavsfanforever
12-31-2003, 05:58 PM
Spurs shoot free throws with a clang

By Johnny Ludden
San Antonio Express-News

Web Posted : 12/31/2003 12:00 AM

For the past two seasons, Brett Brown has served as the Spurs' director of player development. He recently inherited another title, albeit one that probably won't be appearing on his résumé anytime soon.
"I'm the free-throw coach," said Brown, who doesn't need anyone to point out the irony in those words.

When listing the NBA's most-rewarding professions, Free Throw Coach, San Antonio Spurs ranks a couple of rungs below Spokesperson for Rasheed Wallace. Even Shawn Kemp's nutritionist gets more job satisfaction than Brown these days.

During one stretch of Sunday's victory over Milwaukee, the Spurs missed 10 of 11 free throws. For the season, they are shooting 67.9 percent, worst among the league's 29 teams and below 1998's franchise record low (68.8 percent).

"I certainly take pride in trying to help the guys and I need to take responsibility for this area," Brown said. "It's become serious. We have a big problem."

It's also not a new problem. The Spurs have shot below 75 percent the league average entering Tuesday night in each of the previous 10 seasons. When the team struggled last season, coach Gregg Popovich implemented a program where each player had to shoot a specific number of foul shots every week based on his current free-throw percentage. The program eventually was dumped because there wasn't enough time in the week for the Spurs' poorer shooters to meet the required total.

The Spurs' misadventures at the foul line have become even worse this season. Eight of the 12 players on the team's active roster are shooting below their career percentages. Bruce Bowen and Rasho Nesterovic have each twice failed to hit the rim on attempts.

"It's frustrating to the players and the coaches," Brown said. "If you go through the whole thing, offense through defense, we know (free-throw shooting) is the thing that can bite us."

Surprisingly enough, it hasn't bit them that often. Though free throws contributed to a couple of their losses, the Spurs have won 13 consecutive games despite shooting below 70 percent from the line in all but two of them.

They shot 71.2 percent in last season's playoffs, but it didn't deter them from winning the championship. When they won their first title in 1999, they shot 69.8 percent.

The Spurs' troubles range from the mental to the mechanical. Assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo has another theory. "It's in the building," he joked. "Asbestos or something."

In lieu of demolishing their practice facility, the Spurs have tried to fix their problems through more conventional methods. The coaches have had Nesterovic change his stance and bend his knees more to keep him from shooting like he's standing in a phone booth.

Tim Duncan and Hedo Turkoglu, who both usually raise the ball from their thighs, are trying to shorten their strokes. The coaches want them to hold the ball higher with a hand underneath, like a waiter carrying a tray.

"We're trying to reduce the margin for error," Brown said. "Trying to change the shot of somebody who has played the game for 12 years is pretty significant."

Bruce Bowen has improved his free-throw shooting by almost 10 percent from last season, but he was hoping to see a much larger difference after spending much of the summer working on his shot. He usually makes well above 80 percent of his attempts in practice, but struggles in games when he can't get enough attempts to get in a rhythm.

Tony Parker has seen his free-throw shooting slip to 64.9 percent, a drop of more than 10 percent from last season.

"He sometimes becomes lazy focus-wise and real nonchalantly goes through his motion," Popovich said.

After shooting below 70 percent his first three seasons, Malik Rose worked with a Philadelphia coach who persuaded him to change the way he held the ball. This season he is shooting a career-best 84.2 percent.

In addition to working with shot doctors, the Spurs have consulted sports psychologists. The coaches spend considerable time reviewing film of each player's motion. Then there's the mountain of unsolicited advice the team receives.

"I get letters from housewives to people in the military, former players, doctors, hypnotists, high-school coaches," Brown said. "You try to say, 'Thanks for your interest. We're trying to do the best we can.' We're not naïve to the process."

What the Spurs have learned is there is no quick fix. In the meantime, they will try to turn their weakness into a strength. In the past two games, they have eight rebounds off their own missed free throws.

"Maybe it would better," Brown said, smiling, "if you call me the Offensive Rebounding Coach."

sike
12-31-2003, 07:12 PM
How funny is this that!

I did not think all the coaching in the world would help pull Bowen out of that hole he slipped into!i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif

sturm und drang
12-31-2003, 08:13 PM
Not sure we have room to mock on this one.

Bruce Bowen is shooting .531 from the line this year. Antoine Walker is shooting .538.

Oy vey.

Epitome22
12-31-2003, 08:21 PM
Uhhh, The Mavs have a Free-Throw coach too. His name is Gary Boren. He Called up Don Nelson back when Nellie was coaching Golden State and told him he could improve the team's free-throw shooting percentage by a significant margin. Nellie brought him in, he came through on his promise of making the Warriors' a better free-throw shooting team and Nellie has taken him along with him ever since. There were quite a few articles in which his name was featured the last 2 seasons in which The Mavs led the league in free-throw percentage which either featured Coach Boren applauding the Mavs' free-throw shooting performance or Nellie praising the work Coach Boren has done with the team in Dallas and Boren being modest and humble about his impact. You could probably find an article about him if you search. Mr. Boren may be more effective than the guy in San Antonio but he is still no less a Free-Throw coach. You essentially just insulted your own team.

Epitome22
12-31-2003, 08:22 PM
Mavs free-throw coach deflects credit to players
By Dwain Price
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO - The man with arguably the greatest impact on one of the greatest victories in Mavericks' history wasn't even at the SBC Center for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Monday.

Gary Boren, the Mavericks' free-throw-shooting coach, was lying on his couch in Dallas watching as the Mavericks beat the Spurs 113-110. The victory came as the Mavericks set an NBA playoff record for free-throw attempts (50), free throws made (49), free throws made in a row (49) and free-throw percentage with 35 or more attempts (98 percent).

While coach Don Nelson spent a great deal of time after the game applauding Boren for a job well done, the 64-year-old Boren said the players are the real heroes.

"They're the ones who should get the credit, because they played in a strange gymnasium and in front of a hostile crowd," Boren said. "So, good for them, and I'm proud of them."

Boren is believed to be the only free-throw coach in the NBA. Nelson first hired Boren at Golden State in 1993. Nelson took Boren with him when he coached the New York Knicks in 1995, and he made Boren one of his first hires when he became the Mavericks' general manager Feb. 7, 1997.

Boren's strategies, although not scientific, have certainly worked. The Mavericks led the NBA in free-throw shooting this year at 82.9 percent -- the second-best mark in league history -- one year after shooting a league-high 80.6 percent from the line.

"Free-throw shooting is an important part of practice," Boren said. "We increase the importance of free-throw shooting in practice and decrease the importance of it in a game.

"In other words, I don't want the players to think it's the end of the world just because they're shooting free throws. So, early in the season we were pretty religious about the players shooting until they made 100, because that's when they're actually tweaking their shots and re-establishing the muscle memory. And late in the season, depending on the practice schedule, they have to make between 25 and 50 free throws."

Although the Mavericks initially didn't see why they had to shoot so many free throws in practice, now they're not complaining as much.

Guard Nick Van Exel said: "Nellie feels it's very important, and I guess right now it's really showing and paying off for us."

OzMavs
12-31-2003, 08:24 PM
Brett Brown was a coach in the Australian NBL (National Basketball League) before moving back to America. If they ever need to replicate Elmer Fudd's voice, Bwett Bwown is your man. The fact that he is a free throw coach, or how he would pronounce it "Fwee Fwow Coach" makes me think someone is taking the piss.

mavsfanforever
12-31-2003, 08:49 PM
You essentially just insulted your own team.

You probably did not understand the context. It goes back to hack-a-bowen Game 1 of WCF.

Simon2
12-31-2003, 09:02 PM
Man. That is so funny. Was the free throw coach a Cuban original? If it is, that's another of Cuban's great ideas.

Drbio
12-31-2003, 10:03 PM
A lot of NBA teams do have Free Throw coaches FYI. Some of them are full time and some are consultants.

MightyToine
01-02-2004, 12:16 AM
The thing *I* want to know is Can Mr.Boren Fix Walker's FT-issues? i/expressions/face-icon-small-frown.gif

Usually Lurkin
01-02-2004, 09:40 AM
What's funny is that he's the Spurs free throw coach.

That's like being the guy who taught the mavs to play defense, or the guy who taught Epitome22 about irony.