I wish JO nothing but success up north, but I thought that some of you would be interested in seeing this piece about JO failing Sam Mitchell's free throw drill in practice, which forced his teammates to run sprints from the Toronto Star: http://www.thestar.com/article/511661
O'Neal flunks Mitchell free-throw drill
In the eternal quest for rings brass and championship, the Raptors repeat a mantra now and then: practice like you play.
The goal, in training camp and workouts beyond, is to simulate game conditions. And so they chuck jump shots, not on the half-speed jog, but off crisp hops and bullet passes. They fire up fall-aways with imaginary defenders extended to a finger's breadth of blocking them. And sometimes, as practice nears its end and their legs cement, they shoot free throws with consequences.
The other day, for instance, Sam Mitchell, the Raptors coach, ordered Jermaine O'Neal, the new guy in town, to the charity stripe and the rest of the squad to spread out on the end line. Everyone knew the drill: O'Neal would shoot three free throws, and for each one he missed, his teammates would run an end-to-end sprint.
"That's some pressure, man," Chris Bosh would say later. "You're thinking, `I don't want to mess up.' Nobody wants to mess up in front of everybody. You want to concentrate. You're on the spot and there's more than just your teammates watching."
As heart-pounding situations go, it wasn't exactly Game 7 down by two with no time on the clock. But as O'Neal took aim, the club's executive branch was sitting riveted at courtside. The media bloodhounds were either chowing on gratis doughnuts, or seriously considering it, in the bleachers. And the teammates who would soon be following him to the line for their turn – they were nearing the end of the third day of two-a-day workouts and were not in the mood for more self-propelled locomotion.
O'Neal missed one free throw. Then another. Then another. Each time he clanked, you could hear groans or observe eyerolls, and in slow unison one dozen NBAers with a collective income of more than $64 million (all figures U.S.) would set out on the same down-and-back sprint that anyone who's ever played on a humble high school squad has likely dreaded.
"Sprint," in this case, was a gross overstatement. Speed was not of the essence. But as Jason Kapono said: "It's just the principle of having to run for punishment." And Mitchell conceded that the team's slimmed-down roster has meant little rest for the regulars in heated supper-hour scrimmages, so he wasn't demanding more pep.
"If we had 18 guys and we were doing this drill, we would break 'em up into two groups and time 'em down and back," he said. "The object of it was to get 'em to shoot the free throws while they're tired, not to see how fast they can run down there and touch the line."
The object, after today's intrasquad scrimmage, will be a safe return to the team's Bay Street practice court in the lead-up to Tuesday's pre-season opener in Cleveland – a game that will simulate real NBA competition, if not quite duplicate it.
As for O'Neal, the only Raptor to miss all three of his attempts in the free-throw drill – this while Bosh, Jamario Moon, Kris Humphries and others made all three of theirs – fans can take comfort that he's no Shaq. Jermaine's a 70 per cent career charity striper. Mitchell, simulating the way $22.9 million-a-season employees are sometimes coddled after NBA games, took it easy on the big man after practice.
"Hey, he's tired. He's trying to get his legs back. That's why I put him up there (first) ... not to embarrass him," said Mitchell. "But guys got pride. I promise you, if we ever do the drill again – and we don't do it every day, I kind of hold it in reserve – but I promise you, next time, he won't miss three."
Said O'Neal, shaking his head: "I'm a pretty good free-throw shooter and to miss all three, I was, like, `Man!' But the guys weren't mad at me. Jose (Calderon) told me, `We need more cardio anyway.'"