Rick Barry offers Howard help with free throws
Rick Barry has an offer for Dwight Howard. He’ll gladly teach him to shoot foul shots underhanded, vowing to up his free-throw percentage to 80.
However, it should be noted Barry’s offer isn’t one of charity at the charity stripe.
“I would do it," Barry, a Hall of Famer who shot close to 90 percent from the foul line in his NBA career using the underhanded method, said by phone Friday with FOX Sports Florida from his Colorado Springs home. “But I wouldn’t do it for nothing."
Howard, Orlando's star center, had a record performance at the line in Thursday’s 117-109 win at Golden State. But it didn’t impress Barry.
Howard shot an NBA-record 39 free throws, but he made just 21 for 53.8 percent. That actually, though, raised his meek seasonal percentage to 45.9.
“I wish I could have shot 39 free throws in a game," Barry said of the mark that topped the 34 Wilt Chamberlain attempted Feb. 22, 1962, for the Philadelphia Warriors against St. Louis. “I don’t know how you can live with yourself (missing 18 of them)."
When Clifford Ray, Barry’s teammate at Golden State in the 1970s, was an Orlando assistant during Howard’s first two seasons from 2004-06, Barry said he told Ray to tell Howard he would teach him the underhanded method. Barry said he never heard back from Ray.
But the offer stills stands for Barry to help Howard, a career 59.5 percent foul shooter.
“He’s a candidate for the underhanded," said Barry, who played in the NBA from 1965-67 and 1972-80 and who ranks third in history in free-throw percentage. “It’s crazy that somebody who is shooting that poorly wouldn’t want the opportunity to improve. When you’re at the free-throw line, it’s always the same. It’s the same distance; nobody is guarding you.
“(Howard) really needs to do it. I was watching him practice once (on tape) shooting free throws, and he just doesn’t have good technique. And somebody just kept feeding him the ball to shoot. And all that did was perpetuate his bad form."
Overall, Howard had a great game Thursday, totaling 45 points, 23 rebounds and four steals. The strategy by the Warriors, undermanned in the middle, was to foul Howard and hope he missed.
Mostly, he did miss. But Hack-a-Howard didn’t end up working when the Magic closed the game with an 8-0 run to break a 109-109 tie.
“I just tried to be aggressive and get to the line. I didn't care if I missed 30," Howard told reporters afterward. “I was still going to go up there and shoot the next one with confidence."
Barry doesn’t exactly buy that.
“I can assure you, when he was shooting like that, he wasn’t shooting with confidence," Barry said. “If he thinks he is, he’s conning himself. There’s no way he goes up there believing he’s going to make them."
Howard isn’t the only NBA star who wasn’t exactly impressing Barry this week from the free-throw line. Barry watched on television Wednesday when Miami forward LeBron James shot just 9 of 17 in a 95-89 overtime loss at the Los Angeles Clippers.
“He cost (the Heat) the game," Barry said. “Until LeBron learns to correct a flaw in his shot, he’s going to be a streaky free-throw shooter. ... His elbow is out, but he can correct that. He has corrected it some, and he’s better. But he’s not where he needs to be."
On the heels of his tough game, James said he shot more than 100 free throws at an optional workout Thursday in Denver. He agrees with Barry about still needing to make adjustments regarding his form.
“Coming from a guy that (has) a career free-throw percentage (like) Rick, I’ll take that advice," James said. "It’s a process. If you had seen my free throw in high school, it’s coming along."
But James, a 74.4 percent career marksman and at 75 percent this season, is at least an average NBA foul shooter. Barry believes James needs to get his percentage up to at least 80 percent, but he doesn’t consider him a candidate for the underhanded style.
The underhanded method allows a player to put a much softer touch on the attempt. But Barry is mystified why some horrid free-throw shooters haven’t been willing to at least give it a try.
“It’s about ego," Barry said. “People think it’s a sissy shot, the way a girl shoots. But that’s ridiculous. Why would anyone make fun of you when you’re making your free throws? I remember when I played, a fan yelled, ‘Hey Barry, the big sissy.’ And the guy next to him said, ‘Why are you making fun of him? He never misses.’ "
Howard isn’t the first bad-shooting star big man Barry has offered to teach his underhanded method. He said he saw Shaquille O’Neal at the 1996 Olympics after he had just left from Orlando to the Lakers as a free agent, and O’Neal said he’d be willing to learn from Barry.
But Barry said then Lakers coach Del Harris nixed the idea. Harris eventually would be fired midway through the 1998-99 season without winning a title with O’Neal, a career 52.7 percent foul shooter.
“If Shaq had been a better free-throw shooter, Del might have saved his coaching career with a championship," Barry said.
Barry sure believes the Magic would be better if Howard improves his accuracy.
“It would change the whole dynamics of the offense for the Orlando Magic, and, with his skill level, he would be an even better player," Barry said. “If he’s your go-to guy, you don’t want him to be your go-to-the-bench guy because you’re afraid of having him in at the end of games."
The offer stands for Barry to help Howard. He can be reached in Colorado Springs.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson.