Physical play leaves Shaq in foul mood

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The Independent Online

The strategy is not new, but it's escalating by the game: Foul Shaquille O'Neal and put him on the line.

The strategy is not new, but it's escalating by the game: Foul Shaquille O'Neal and put him on the line.

Some of the fouls are hard - very hard - and O'Neal is not happy about it.

"The kind of fouls being committed on Shaquille are outside the spirit of the game," said Leonard Armato, O'Neal's agent.

The strategy was on full display Saturday night at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. And O'Neal took offense to what he thought were unduly rough fouls by Jermaine O'Neal - no relation - and he was ejected.

The next night in Los Angeles, he wore out a path to the free throw line thanks to the "Hack-a-Shaq" ploy employed by Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson.

O'Neal could joke about Nelson's fourth-quarter approach after the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Mavericks 105-97, but he was deadly serious about what happened in Portland.

"I'm going to get him back, I promise you that," he said after the win against Dallas. "Whatever I've got to do, I'm going to get him back."

When asked if he thought the fouls were flagrant, and if Jermaine O'Neal were trying to hurt him, O'Neal nodded.

O'Neal picked up two technical fouls early in the fourth quarter of a 97-82 loss to the Trail Blazers after reacting to the fouls by Jermaine O'Neal. Following the second one, with the Lakers down 77-70, he jammed the ball into his opponent.

On Sunday night, O'Neal was fouled seven times in a span of 3:36, starting with 7:02 remaining and the Lakers in command. A couple came in the backcourt away from the ball, but none was flagrant.

O'Neal went 6-of-14 from the line in that span, giving him 10-of-23 in the game and 20-of-51 this season. He left the game with 3:16 to play and the Lakers up 99-88.

Nelson smiled when asked about his strategy.

"The guy shoots 57 (percent) from the field, 35 from the line," he said. "Being the competitor that he is, he made me pay a few times. We exchanged glances a few times. It was fun."

Nelson said he's fond of O'Neal, who once played for him in the world championships.

"The only weakness in his game is free throw shooting - that's the only one I've found," Nelson said. "I don't want to beat him up. I do want him to know he's going to shoot a lot of free throws against us."