Clippers' bigs benefiting from ex-Sixer Iavaroni

021113-marciavaroni-slideshow-uspw.jpg

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.”

Bryan Colangelo: 'Never a period of discomfort' with Sixers' bigs

Bryan Colangelo: 'Never a period of discomfort' with Sixers' bigs

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers on Friday unveiled their brand new, state-of-the-art practice facility in Camden, New Jersey (see story).

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo, while speaking to media members at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, touched on a variety of topics. That included the team's surplus of big men, an issue that has been years in the making.  

One of the major questions surrounding the Sixers this offseason is how the team plans to utilize all three of its talented young big men in Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid. With Embiid finally healthy and on track to play this season, the Sixers have some tough decisions when it comes to balancing playing time as well as maximizing each player's potential.  

There have been rumors throughout the summer that Colangelo has been actively trying to shop either Noel or Okafor because of his discomfort with having three big men on the roster. His comments on Friday cleared up the situation. 

"We're excited for the season. We’re excited to have three, talented young players that can play that position," Colangelo said. "I said something this summer that was somewhat tongue and cheek that was taken so seriously and everybody hung on that one word that I would be uncomfortable going into the season or absolutely uncomfortable, it was literally overstated so many different times. It was never a period of discomfort, in fact, it's actually comfortable knowing we have that much talent there.

"The discomfort comes in trying to manage and maintain the happiness of three talented young players and that’s something that I think will work itself out."

This offseason has been one of transition for the Sixers. The days of "The Process" are long gone, and the Sixers seem poised to finally become a competitive franchise again after years of tanking.

During their summer overhaul, the Sixers brought in nine new players in hopes of forming a roster that features actual NBA-caliber players that could compete on a nightly basis. 

The team now not only features a surplus of bigs, but for the first time in a long time, a healthy balance of talent at each position. 

"The availability of those players is going to be an experiment all season long, not just with the bigs but with this entire team," Colangelo said. "We’ve got a good mix of talent and there's going to be a lot of competition at every position."

Colagelo expressed that under the former regime ran by Sam Hinkie, the Sixers lacked any sort of competitive drive and identity, something that he emphasized greatly when first put in charge. 

"We really have brought some things to this team that I think was sorely lacking," Colangelo said. "One was veteran leadership, whether it's Gerald Henderson, Jerryd Bayless or bringing Elton Brand back. Playmaking ability between Jerryd Bayless, Sergio Rodriquez, Dario Saric coming into the mix, Ben Simmons — these are playmakers as much as they are good basketball players and scorers.

"So we’ve got a good mix of talent, but what we actually have will play itself out on the court in the coming months."

Sixers unveil new state-of-the-art practice facility in Camden

Sixers unveil new state-of-the-art practice facility in Camden

CAMDEN, N.J. — The doors to the Sixers' new training complex are officially opened, welcoming players into the 125,000-square-foot facility designed to be a one-stop basketball shop.
 
On Friday, the Sixers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the sprawling building on South Front Street. After years of sharing space at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) on City Avenue, the organization now has its own dedicated facility. 
 
The complex was built with the intention of becoming a “year-round destination." The team has taken each aspect of daily life into consideration to provide players and staff with the resources they need on-hand in Camden.
 
“We’re trying to create a culture of not only excellence, but of maximum performance and trying to give them as many things that can help enhance that and get us there quicker,” president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said, also noting, “We’re not trying to trap them, but we’ve literally given them so many things that they may not want to leave.”
 
Players arrived at the complex ahead of the official opening, and many were there on Friday as tour groups circled through. Ben Simmons and Dario Saric were among those taking shots on the expansive courts, which account for 20,480 square feet. There are two full-size NBA courts and six additional baskets, comprised of over 16,000 pieces of maple wood athletic flooring.
 
With an extra emphasis on health and fitness, the weight room and training room are located next to each other right off the court. Their proximity fosters communication between the training staff with strength and conditioning coaches to easily discuss medical situations, whereas they were separated on different floors at the previous facility.
 
“It makes for a great place of what we call ‘continuity of care,’” head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson said on a tour of the building.
 
The Sixers now have increased medical resources available, including a dedicated physician’s room. They are implementing a videolink system which allows them to videoconference with players offsite and with other medical professionals. The team is also moving into ultrasound diagnostics to assess tendon health.
 
Right off the weight room are four hydrotherapy pools — cold water immersion, hot tub, warm lap pool/plunge pool and underwater treadmill that can go eight feet deep. The team took the height of the players into consideration when installing the pools. The jets on the hot tub, for example, were placed strategically for their wingspans. A video system in room allows the team to monitor pool work.
 
Following the goal of keeping resources in one place, a video room includes a dual-sided projection screen that enables players to review film directly from the court through glass walls.
 
The Sixers are honing in on nutrition and diet this season. They installed a full-service kitchen with customizable options based on the players’ needs versus a buffet meal. The organization found its head chef in an unconventional way — impressed by the food at the popular Philadelphia restaurant Parc, Colangelo inquired about its chefs and hired Jae Hee Cho.
 
And if the Sixers want to get some rest after a full day’s work, the team also may look into sleeping pods.
 
“I learned years ago they come here and it’s sort of the field of dreams. If you build it, they will come,” Brett Brown said. “You learn that they spend more time here because it’s convenient and they feel like they’re getting better. It’s a chance to bring families together. It’s a chance to bump into a teammate and go up and have lunch … get some shots together. The opportunity to have and form greater relationships exists here. I saw that in 2002 [with the Spurs] and I believe we’re going to see it again in 2016.”
 
The Sixers believe the new complex will set them apart from other teams around the NBA. Players consider more than just wins and losses when choosing teams in free agency, and this facility could give the Sixers an edge.
 
“In the business today, there’s so many things that you’re competing with with other franchises,” Colangelo said. “It’s become a little bit of an arm’s race, if you will, with respect to what player amenities you have, how you travel, what the practice facility is, what kind of creature comforts you give them. ... We’re doing everything possible to maximize performance not only of the players and the athletes, but also of the organization.”
 
The team incorporated aspects of its history in the complex. The reception desks at the main and player entrances are made of the wood from the basketball court of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game.
 
The Sixers will hold training camp in Stockton University next week and then will begin practicing at the complex for the rest of the season.
 
“Part of building a winning team, an elite team is culture,” managing general partner Josh Harris said. “Certainly you need talent, but how everyone works together and how people enjoy themselves, that’s one element. The second element is having them available to experience all of the capabilities we can bring, whether it be training, massage, health, wellness, diet, sleep, there’s a lot of things we can put in their hands.”