Clippers' bigs benefiting from ex-Sixer Iavaroni

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Clippers' bigs benefiting from ex-Sixer Iavaroni

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.”

Best of NBA: Heat stun Warriors on Dion Waiters' 3 with 0.6 seconds left

Best of NBA: Heat stun Warriors on Dion Waiters' 3 with 0.6 seconds left

MIAMI -- Dion Waiters' 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left capped his 33-point effort, and the Miami Heat beat Golden State 105-102 on Monday night to end the Warriors' seven-game winning streak.

The Heat wasted a 10-point lead in the final 4 minutes, and Kevin Durant tied the game on a dunk with 11.7 seconds left. With no timeouts, Waiters walked the ball up the court and drilled what became the game-winner over Klay Thompson.

Stephen Curry missed a 3-pointer as time expired for the Warriors (see full recap).

Rivers, Crawford lead Clippers past Hawks
ATLANTA -- Austin Rivers scored 27 points and Jamal Crawford broke out of a shooting slump with 19, helping the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Atlanta Hawks 115-105 on Monday night.

Crawford had eight points in the fourth quarter, including a driving basket after Atlanta cut the Clippers' lead from 24 to five points.

Kent Bazemore led the Hawks with 25 points. Dennis Schroder had 21, and Dwight Howard added 16 points and 12 rebounds (see full recap).

Wizards beat Hornets behind Wall’s 24
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- John Wall firmly believes the Washington Wizards are a good team with plenty of playoff potential.

The key, he said, "is we just got to believe it every time we step on the court."

Wall had 24 points and seven assists, and the Wizards looked plenty confident as they continued their run up the Eastern Conference standings with a 109-99 win against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night (see full recap).

Kings snap skid with win over Pistons
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- DeMarcus Cousins had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and the Sacramento Kings snapped a five-game losing streak with a 109-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.

Ty Lawson added 19 points and helped Sacramento turn the game around with a strong second quarter. Lawson scored nine points in the second, and the Kings outscored the Pistons 37-24 in the period to take a 65-62 lead into halftime.

A 3-pointer by Lawson put Sacramento up 101-90 in the fourth, and the Kings held on from there to stop Detroit's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Jones, Holiday lead Pelicans past Cavs
NEW ORLEANS -- Terrence Jones filled in brilliantly for injured All-Star Anthony Davis, scoring a season-high 36 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking LeBron James' dunk attempt in the fourth quarter, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-122 on Monday night.

Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists for the Pelicans, and Langston Galloway capped a 12-point night with a clean steal on James' drive in the final minute, preventing the Cavs from erasing a deficit they had trimmed from 22 late in the first half to three with 1:32 left in the game.

Kyrie Irving scoring 35 of his 49 points in the second half, but the Cleveland fell to its fifth loss in seven games. James had 26 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds (see full recap).

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers have been challenged by playing without Joel Embiid in one of two games in a back-to-back series all season. Now they will have to do it in at least the next two straight games. 

“We’re going to be without him tomorrow (against the Clippers) and in Milwaukee and we’ll go from there,” Brett Brown said after practice Monday. 

Embiid, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, suffered a left knee contusion in Friday’s win over the Trail Blazers. He did not travel with the team to Atlanta on Saturday for the back-to-back series. 

Brown called the decision “precautionary.” Embiid did not practice Monday but took some light shots after. He was pre-scheduled to sit out Wednesday against the Bucks in accordance with his limitations for consecutive games. Embiid is reportedly expected to return Friday against the Rockets.

The standout rookie leaves a glaring hole on the court when he misses games. The Sixers are 2-10 when he does not play. For all the ways Embiid dominates at the basket (22.4 points over the last 10 games), there is an obvious difference on the defensive end without him. 

“It’s still about our defense, it’s still about running, it’s still about sharing the ball,” Brown said. “I think you go with Jahlil (Okafor) and Nerlens (Noel) and challenge them in relation to rim protection and what Joel provides us. The group around them also has got to perform at a higher level when you don’t have Joel. I think that second group that we have been playing, led by Nerlens, really can take on a far greater defensive identity than it has recently, and Nerlens will be the captain of that.”

This is a time when the Sixers’ logjam at the five-spot actually helps them. Brown still has three true centers to turn to, in addition to power forwards Ersan Ilyasova and Dario Saric, whom he could slide into the position if they go small. Brown sees a silver lining for his bigs in the uphill battle of playing without Embiid. 

“It definitely hurts the team, how can we spin it any other way?” Brown said. “But like anything, you’re going to now look at Nerlens and Jahlil. This is fantastic for those two. It could prove, based on some things, Richaun (Holmes) sees daylight a little bit. 

“There aren’t many teams, I would suspect, that have the ability to roll out three young guys when somebody like Joel goes down and look forward to watching them develop more, look forward to giving them the opportunity to play NBA minutes.”

Okafor has been receiving the start when Embiid is out. (He has been out of the rotation when Embiid does play.) Okafor, though, is dealing with right knee soreness he experienced on Saturday. The Sixers kept an eye on him Monday and held him out of 5-on-5 drills in practice. Okafor said the team was being cautious, and he wanted to rest his knee given the number of games coming up. He is listed as probable against the Clippers.

“It was bothering me a little bit in the warmup lines, I started to feel it. When I got going, it started feeling really good, then when I sat out for an extended period, it got kind of sore on me again,” Okafor explained. “Today they were trying to make sure I could get back to being 100 percent because they knew that my knee was bothering me. They haven’t really told me what the plan was for tomorrow. Today was really focused on getting me back to being healthy.”

The Clippers are shorthanded, as well. Blake Griffin has been sidelined since Dec. 18 because of a right knee procedure and Chris Paul had surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb. Griffin could make his return against the Sixers.

Embiid's honor
Embiid's Player of the Week honor is rare for a rookie. He's only the third Sixers rookie ever to win it, joining Allen Iverson and Michael Carter-Williams.

The last Sixer before Embiid to be named Eastern Conference Player of the Week was Thaddeus Young in January 2014.

The Sixers won all three games Embiid played last week. He averaged 22.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.