When shooting for gold, nothing comes free

The Baltimore Sun

A bunch of years ago, I wrote a story about a group of children from the little upstate Pennsylvania town of Archbald. These kids dominated a national contest sponsored by a soft drink company in which boys and girls in different age groups took jump shots from different spots on the basketball court. So how did a bunch of kids from a town in the middle of nowhere, competing against talent from cities such as New York and Los Angeles, account for so many championships in a basketball shooting contest? I guess it's called practice.

Now I realize that the world-class basketball players who make up Team USA do practice their shooting day after day, including from the free-throw line. So it's kind of worrisome that the Americans would struggle in their final tuneup for the Beijing Olympics against Australia because of miserable shooting.

The U.S. beat the Aussies, 87-76, on Tuesday, but it was hard-fought mainly because the Americans were 3-for-18 from three-point range and 20-for-33 from the free-throw line. (Dwight Howard was 0-for-6.) The three-pointers can be excused; those are contested shots. But the free throws are the same regardless of what court you're playing on or the competition.

When these games are being played for real, there isn't going to be a chance to send in the kids from Archbald to take the free throws.

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