Brian Shaw entices Denver Nuggets players to improve FTs by letting them hit him in the head

Eric Freeman

After a weak start to the season, the Denver Nuggets have readjusted to work their way up to 7-6 and find their way back into the middle of the West's early picture. However, there is still room for considerable improvement. Through their first 13 games, the Nuggets are shooting only 69.9 percent from the free-throw line, bad enough to rank 28th overall. Only two players (Jordan Hamilton and Nate Robinson) are shooting better than 80 percent, and several key players are well shy of 70 percent. They need to get better if they hope to maximize their offensive impact.

First-year head coach Brian Shaw understands this necessity, so he's developed an interesting method of inspiring his team. From Jeff Caplan of NBA.com on Sulia (via Beyond the Buzzer):

Frustrated by more bricks than he can stand from his team at the free throw line, an idea popped into the head of Nuggets coach Brian Shaw at the end of the team's Monday morning shootaround in Dallas.

"What I did was I joked with the guys that the safest place in the building to stand when we’re at the free throw line is right underneath the net," Shaw said. "So I gave everybody on the team basically a chance to shoot a free throw with myself standing under the net with my hands down, where if they made it the ball would hit me on top of the head." [...]

"At this point I’m trying by any means necessary to get us shooting free throws better," Shaw said. "The guys who hit me the most -- well, Kenneth Faried actually got two hits on me -- but the guys that haven’t really had an opportunity to play as much were the ones that were really, really aiming for me."

All credit to Shaw for being able to joke about the reasons players might want to hit him, even if he seems to forget that he failed to start Faried at the beginning of the season. On the sideline, coaches rarely have to contend with the physical risks of playing the game a certain way. Shaw has put himself in harm's way, even if in an ultimately minor manner.

However, it's unclear if the plan worked. While the Nuggets won their game against the Mavericks 110-96, they shot just 20-of-28 from the line, or 71.4 percent, which would currently rank 23rd in the NBA as a season-long mark. That's an improvement, obviously, but not particularly good. Or maybe we've just learned that even minor gains can make a real difference.

I just hope Shaw doesn't make this a daily practice during Nuggets practices. If he does, he might need to start submitting to the NBA's concussion policy for players.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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