The Hawks can’t make free throws. They are next to last in the NBA at 73 percent, and that is disgusting. First, it will kill them in the playoffs. Second, how can anybody not make free throws? Worse, their shooting consultant is Mark Price, the NBA’s all-time leader in foul-shooting percentage.
This really bothers me.
“Well, it definitely bothers me. No question about it,” said Price, chuckling to keep from sighing.
Price sank 90 percent of his foul shots during his dozen NBA seasons, mostly with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Before that, he was a splendid point guard at Georgia Tech, and speaking of the Yellow Jackets, they can’t make free throws, either. They are last in the ACC at 62 percent, which makes me wonder about the other two men’s programs in the area at the Division I level.
Georgia State is last in the Colonial Athletic Association at 61 percent, and Georgia is 10th out of 12 teams in the SEC at 64 percent.
What’s going on here? “During the past two years, since I’ve gotten into a lot of teaching and training and working with players, this (foul-shooting problem) has been amazing to me,” said Price, in his first season with the Hawks after a one-year stint with the Memphis Grizzlies. “In the broad picture, I don’t think free-throw shooting has gotten as much time as it has needed from a team standpoint.
“It’s difficult when you have two hours to practice and teams are trying to put in schemes for offenses and defenses and everything else. Still, when I look at this in my mind’s eye, it’s just not that difficult to make a free throw.”
That’s because it isn’t. I’m eternally influenced by Coach Hasselbush, a youth coach I had in Cincinnati. I don’t remember his first name, but I do remember he fumed over missed free throws. He said making free throws was as easy as dribbling. To prove his point, he ended practices sinking 15, 20, maybe 30 free throws in a row. He did so after using his crutches to place his brace-dominated legs at the foul line. He suffered from polio.
Many of the Hawks, Jackets, Bulldogs and Panthers suffer from apathy when it comes to foul shooting.
“Since it’s tough to do during the season, a lot of this has to come from individual effort, where you put time into it during the offseason,” said Price, whose father was his Mr. Hasselbush. The older Price coached high school basketball for years in their native Oklahoma, and the younger Price said, “His pet peeve was free-throw shooting as well. For one, I didn’t want my dad griping at me. He also taught me the correct way to shoot.”
Price does the same for the Hawks, with hints of success. “I was with Josh Smith the other day in practice, and he made 91 out of 100,” Price said. “Then he goes into the game, and he misses one, he misses two, and it becomes a mental hurdle. It’s been a work in progress, for sure.”
It shouldn’t be.
It’s a “free” throw.