If any improvement has been spotted in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan’s game, a familiar face on the Los Angeles Clippers' bench could be praised.
Recall the name Marc Iavaroni? If so, his face probably comes up when thinking of that 1983 Sixers championship team. It was Iavaroni's rookie season.
The former Sixers forward now serves as an assistant coach on Vinny Del Negro’s staff, and plays a key role with the big men on the Clippers' roster, particularly Griffin and Jordan.
For Jordan, it’s the patience that Iavaroni is preaching. He said Jordan can be very patient on the offensive end at times, but forgets, too, which affects his game.
“It comes and goes,” Iavaroni said. “I think he can be very patient, other times I think he’s very hard on himself and that gets in the way of patience.”
Jordan’s scoring is up from 7.4 points last season to 9.2 points this season, and he's shooting 60.4 percent. He is not likely to light up the scoreboard every night, but when he does have a chance to score, his work with the 6-foot-8 Iavaroni comes into play, especially in the post.
“He’s a big piece in my improvement,” said Jordan, who scored eight points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Monday’s 107-90 win over the Sixers (see game recap).
Jordan said sometimes he needs to be reminded of Iavaroni’s message -- have patience. He credited “the older guys,” Chris Paul, Grant Hill, Chauncey Billups and Lamar Odom of helping him during the game, telling him to take his time and if trouble arises, to “kick it out.”
Said Jordan: “When they tell me that, that’s when I slow down. But if I just get the ball, I’m in a hurry to score. That’s when I either turn it over or take a bad shot. But if I slow down and take my time, that’s when I’ll score or get fouled.”
Another aspect of Jordan’s game that Iavaroni said is under construction is his hands. He said the game is changing for big men nowadays, and having good hands is vital.
“Big men in this league have got to the point now where they're few and far between playing in the post,” Iavaroni said. “They have to be much more skilled. They have to be able to roll to the basket, with all the pick-and-rolls that people set. They have to be able to catch on the move, you know, catching is something very important for [Jordan] to improve on. He’s made some progress there. He’s still a work in progress.”
With Griffin, well, his explosiveness has always been there. However, for the past few seasons Iavaroni has been teaching the All-Star forward about expanding his overall game -- shooting, footwork down low.
Griffin is averaging 18.4 points this season, a career-low compared to his first two seasons, but he said he feels like his game is progressing. His jump shot is still coming together as he’s working with team shot coach Bob Tate. He had 20 points and nine rebounds in the win over the Sixers.
Asked if Iavaroni’s teachings have helped him, Griffin said: “He’s a very smart coach. He knows the ins and outs of the game, so the work we put in I think has definitely helped. He’s very dedicated and works very hard, so players appreciate that.”
“He’s a great teacher. With Blake and [Jordan] he’s been fantastic, helping them with footwork, post moves ... Marc has kind of been my right hand,” Del Negro said of Iavaroni’s impact on the Clippers' bigs.
But the most improvement Griffin has made won’t show up on the stat sheet. Iavaroni said he noticed Griffin’s decision-making is getting better, which has been most impressive.
“He’s seeing more double teams this year,” Iavaroni said, “so he’s learning how to pass out of that, and how and when, and where to look, and what type of traps are coming his way. He’s getting experience in a lot of different ways for a third-year player. He’s making nice progress.”
Iavaroni said he tells Griffin to utilize his jumper more, not elect to drive so much. That advice was nothing Griffin hasn’t heard before.
“That’s pretty much what everybody tells me,” Griffin said with a grin. "It’s nothing new.”
And as for the 1983 championship year, Iavaroni remembers those moments every time he steps foot in the city.
“I’ll never forget it here,” he said of Philly. “Despite the fact the Spectrum is no longer with us. ... Fond memories. Special, special people.”
Green supports Iverson
It’s no secret the Allen Iverson is trying to get back into the NBA this season. The former MVP received some support from ex-Sixers teammate Willie Green about his return.
“I know he’s passionate about the game,” Green said. “I would love to see him come back and see him finish his career playing on a team.”
Asked if he would like to see for Iverson join the Clippers, Green laughed and said: “Wherever he wants to [play].”
Crawford almost a Sixer?
It was no secret that 2010 Sixth Man of the Year winner Jamal Crawford was on the Sixers' radar this past offseason. The Clippers' guard said he was definitely interested in playing in Philly, but the Sixers waited too long to offer a deal.
“They were waiting to see what would happen with Lou [Williams],” said Crawford, who signed a four-year, $26 million deal with the Clippers. “So, I couldn’t wait too long and the Clippers were calling.”
Crawford finished with 20 points (8-of-10 shooting) in the win over the Sixers.
Barnes on Kobe-Howard situation
Clippers forward Matt Barnes has played with Lakers center Dwight Howard and guard Kobe Bryant, and weighed in on the team’s recent problems.
The Lakers stars have exchanged words over the last week as the team continues to struggle, currently sitting 10th in the Western Conference at 24-28. Barnes said the injuries have played a huge part, but wouldn’t count the Lakers out.
“It’s just a matter of chemistry,” Barnes said. “That’s one team you expect, with all that talent, to somehow pull it together and get into the playoffs. You can never count them out with Kobe.”
Asked it was hard to play with Bryant, something Howard is still adjusting to, Barnes said no.
“I just think he expects the most out of his teammates,” Barnes said. “He holds everybody accountable, so it’s just going to take some getting used to for Dwight. They're both very talented, and if they can get it together, that’ll help each other.”