After shooting a combined 4-24 in the first two games of his first-round playoff series, Jermaine O’Neal knew something had to change or it was going to be a LONG series for O’Neal but a short one for his Miami Heat.
Thinking about all the bricks he’d laid in Boston (“That’s not who I am,” said O’Neal) brought O’Neal to a solution he’s used several times in the past: O’Neal called George Glymph, O’Neal’s old high school coach and a former assistant for the New York Knicks. (CSNNE)
“I’m a lot better shooter than I’ve been showing in the playoffs,” said O’Neal who has missed 20 of his 24 shot attempts. “I don’t use excuses on rhythm or stuff like that. I expect to do well. I expect to shoot better. I expect to be better, and I will be better.”
And while the film study and additional reps after practice will help, so will the time O’Neal plans to spend with Glymph before Game Three on Friday night.
“Every year at some point, I feel my mechanics are off and he comes in,” O’Neal said. “And he helps a lot for me. He tells me some of the things I need to do better … just going back to the drawing board.”
So what did Glymph tell O’Neal? Exactly what he needed to hear.
“He noticed that I wasn’t driving the ball like I normally do. I wasn’t making counters; just settling for what the defense gave me,” O’Neal said. “I’ve been asked about the rhythm thing a couple times and not playing towards the end of the year. But that was to get rest and be healthy. You don’t use that as an excuse to be bad. I’m a big part of what this team needs to win, and I have to do my job.”
Glymph was right. O’Neal has all too often settled for fadeaways in the post, rather than work his way to a better shot. He’s been willing to take bad shots, difficult shots, and has allowed the Boston defense — and, particularly, Kendrick Perkins — to dictate his play.
Of course, Perkins has to be given some credit for that. The big man has done a phenomenal job on O’Neal, forcing him away from his comfort zone. (CSNNE)
“Perk’s been fantastic defensively,” said Boston’s Doc Rivers. “A lot of it’s been one-on-one, which we need, because you can’t use too many guys on O’Neal with (Dwyane) Wade running around. What I think is that he’s doing his work early; trying to fight him off the block.”
Even with Perkins’ defense impeding his path, O’Neal knows he has to be better. (South Florida Sun Sentinel)
“No matter how you cut it, 4-for-24 is not acceptable, at any level it’s not acceptable,” O’Neal said. “And this team really depends on me to score. It helps out D-Wade a lot, it helps our offense a lot. Because if I am scoring from the low post, it changes the way a team has to play our team.”
If O’Neal doesn’t snap out of his slump, and quickly, the Heat’s season won’t have much time left.