O'Neal in a real funk

Jermaine O'Neal said he's trying to make sure he doesn't let this current funk become a mental one....

Jermaine O'Neal said he's trying to make sure he doesn't let this current funk become a mental one. (Sun Media/Mark O'Neill)

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

You don't think Jermaine O'Neal is taking this offensive funk serious enough?

On the eve of a five-day, three-game Raptors trip that starts tonight in Atlanta -- where the Hawks are a surprising 3-0 -- he was up until 4 a.m. yesterday, poring over video, trying to determine why the ball isn't going in the hoop for him.

The bad news is the late-night study session has landed him in the doghouse with his wife, who was upset with her husband spending their last night before he left on a five-day trip glued to the television

The worse news? That other than a tired set of eyes, all that video-watching didn't provide him with concrete answers to why, all of a sudden, he can't put the ball in the net.

"I don't know," O'Neal said of his findings. "I'm just not making the shots. When I look at the (tape) I'm doing everything I'm supposed to be doing as far as getting the position I want. I'm catching it deep. I'm clearing the space when I turn to the basket but I'm just not making the shot."

In four games so far this season, O'Neal has had a 3-for-10 shooting night -- that was Wednesday -- and a 2-for-10 night last Friday against Golden State. For the year, he's shooting just shy of 38% from the field, well below his career average of just a tick under 46%.

O'Neal said he's trying to make sure he doesn't let this funk become a mental one.

"The things I'm going through now were things I was hoping I would go through in the pre-season," he said. "But it takes time. I'm always going to be a little more frustrated by a situation like last night when we lose the game and where we're down one with chances to win and I take a couple of shots and I wasn't able to make them."

Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell would hear none of any media types trying to lay blame for the first loss of the season at O'Neal's feet.

"Jermaine O'Neal sets high standards for himself," Mitchell began. "It's nothing he didn't do. We didn't do what we were supposed to do collectively as a team. It had nothing to do with how Jermaine played as an individual as to why we lost the game. I can take you back over the tape and we didn't do half the stuff we were supposed to do defensively and when we finally started doing them we got stops. Early in the game, in that second quarter, we didn't do them and that's when the game got away from us."

While all that is true, O'Neal himself couldn't get past the 3-for-10 beside his name. He knows he's a better scorer than that and it bothers him that he hasn't been able to show that to his new team.

While the tape session may not have revealed any correctable deficiencies in his mechanics, watching it collectively did point out a few consistencies with his rougher nights. It also reinforced his belief that he's doing what he needs to be doing.

"If I was making moves and I wasn't able to get to that position that I am supposed to get to, then I would have more concern," O'Neal said. "Basically, the ball isn't going in the net. I am making good pivot moves but again I have to try to get to the free throw line early. A lot of times the free throw line helps a guy's rhythm."

So the goal heading into Atlanta is two-fold for the Raps marquee off-season acquisition: Get to the line as early as possible and hopefully establish a rhythm and stay out of foul trouble.

The foul trouble -- twice in the past three games he has picked up two quick fouls and found himself chained to the bench -- has played into the whole shooting funk.

"I'm having to sit out 13, 14 straight minutes and it's tough in this league to get involved like that," O'Neal said.

He might have to take that one up with Mitchell.


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