by Conrad Brunner
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
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QUESTION OF THE DAY
Q. I was just wondering if Jermaine (O'Neal) was going to work on his passing, especially from the post, this offseason. After watching the Western Conference and their dominant big men, I saw that almost every marquee PF/C was the 2nd or 3rd best passer on the team. Shaq (O’Neal), (Chris) Webber, (Vlade) Divac, (Karl) Malone, (Kevin Garnett) Garnett, Yao (Ming), and most certainly (Tim) Duncan (The Big Fundamental) are great distributors of the ball. How 'bout it, Bruno? (From Adam in Tallahassee, FL)
A. In each of his summers since joining the Pacers, O’Neal has set a goal of enhancing a particular area of his game. Two years ago, it was making strong post moves toward the basket from both blocks, rather than fading away. Last summer, he worked on his perimeter game in an effort to defeat double-teams by being able to play a little more out on the floor. He has had less time to do such development work this summer.
Initially, he didn’t hit the gym real hard before signing his contract because he didn’t want to risk injury in his free-agent summer. Not long after he signed, he headed to training camp with the U.S. team that currently is rolling through the Olympic qualifying tournament. When that month-long run of non-stop basketball wraps up Aug. 31, there will be less than a month before the opening of training camp.
There’s no question one area of O’Neal’s game that could stand substantial improvement is his passing out of double-teams. He did work on it periodically through last season, primarily on the first step of recognizing defensive rotations in order to know where to pass. His assist average, coincidentally, climbed to a career-high 2.0. The next step is for that thought process to become instinctive. If you remember how the process went with the Pacers’ last dominant low-post player, Rik Smits, it took a while. But by the middle years of his career, Smits had become a serviceable passer – which represented monumental improvement. It's not the sort of skill you can develop on your own during the offseason. But O'Neal will continue to work on that phase of the game throughout the regular season.