BOWIE -- If you were a close observer of last year's NBA Finals, you know of Buzz Braman. The self-proclaimed "shot doctor," Braman was the man standing along a ramp watching with interest every time Shaquille O'Neal stepped to the free-throw line.
Braman, over the years, has built his reputation as one of the game's top shooting instructors. The Bullets, in recent years, have developed a reputation of not knocking down the open shot (sixth from last in three-point shooting last year). So it should be no surprise that the team has hired Braman as its full-time shooting instructor.
"I'm thrilled," said Braman, who grew up in Silver Spring. "I was asked by someone in Orlando, 'What, are you crazy, leaving a team that's been to the Finals?' I think this team has a chance to be special."
Last year, in Orlando, Braman worked closely with point guard Anfernee Hardaway, who increased his shooting percentage to 51.2 percent (up from 46.6 percent his rookie season). But Braman is no miracle worker; Orlando's 66.9 percent free throw shooting was the worst in the league.
"Unfortunately we practiced at the Orlando Arena 90 percent of the time, where you only have two baskets," Braman said. "You have two baskets with six people at a basket, that's a talk show. That's not work."
Braman worked previously with coach Jim Lynam when he coached in Philadelphia, and over the past two seasons his students have included Doug Overton, Calbert Cheaney and Mitchell Butler. His deal with the Bullets is exclusive, meaning players from other teams are no longer able to hire him out.
Braman, who got his big break working with former Maryland center Brian Williams, got a ringing endorsement from Chris Webber.
"I told him if the team wouldn't hire him, that I would hire him for the team," said Webber, who hired Braman over the summer. "He gave me more confidence with my shot.
"It's kind of funny, but he really made me feel stupid, because here you are a professional basketball player and he comes in and teaches you something so minute," Webber said.
"Some guys like Brent [Price] and Gheorghe [Muresan], they don't need him. I need it, and those of us who need it aren't too proud. He's going to be a big help."
NOTES: Guard Tim Legler, recently signed to a two-year deal as a backup to Calbert Cheaney, did not make the trip to Charleston. Legler suffered what's being described as a strained plantar fascia of the left foot, the same injury that will sideline Mark Price for at least the entire preseason. . . . Lynam made his first cuts yesterday, releasing forwards Jermaine Parker and Harry Moore, and center Jawann Oldham. . . . The Bullets were expecting five players on the all-star ballot, but Cheaney's name has been removed and replaced with Dan Majerle's. A starter in last year's All-Star Game in Phoenix, Majerle had been listed on the Western Conference ballot before his recent trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers.