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.”

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley is jumping on the Sixers bandwagon.

"I think the Sixers gonna get really good, really quickly, but it all depends on (Joel) Embiid," Barkley said. "They're not gonna win a championship the next couple years, but I think they can really become a perrenial playoff team in the next three years."

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. There are a lot of "ifs" according to Barkley. 

Most of those "ifs" ride on the health of center Joel Embiid. If the big man gets healthy, and the Sixers can resolve the "glutton of big guys," Barkley likes the Sixers chances.

"I think the most important thing they need to figure out is if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. ... I like (Jahlil) Okafor and I like (Nerlens) Noel, but they gotta figure out if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. 

"I like Ben Simmons, but that team's got a long way to go," Barkley said.

To hear more of Barkley's thoughts on the Sixers' future, watch the full video above. 

 

 

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

LAS VEGAS -- New team. Same old result.

Full of new star power -- and dominant on the inside -- the U.S. men's basketball team opened its bid for a third straight Olympic gold medal Friday night with a 111-74 exhibition romp over Argentina.

A game that was over almost before it began showed the U.S. has to improve its shooting and conditioning. It also showed that there is plenty of talent among a group of players that seem to want to play well for each other and their country despite the absence of Olympic stalwarts Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

"There's a willingness from these guys to work on anything we need and to work hard," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "These are very good guys."

A U.S. team that hasn't lost a game in 10 years had little trouble with Argentina, which some consider a medal contender in Rio. Paul George scored 14 first-half points, Kevin Durant added 12, and the U.S. blew open the game early before an appreciative crowd on the Las Vegas Strip.

Even with Bryant retired and James taking this Olympics off, there was no real talent drop off on a team heavily favored to win gold once again. The depth of the U.S. showed as coach Mike Krzyzewski rotated players in and out, searching for the right combinations on a team with 10 new players from 2012.

"Nothing is for sure," Durant said. "We want to get this gold and right now we have a job to do. We have to prepare the right way."

Count the Argentines among those who were impressed at the first real game for the Olympic team.

"Obviously, they have the best talent and the best size in the world," Argentina's Luis Scola said. "That's a big difference in their favor."

The game was the first of five exhibitions the U.S. will play before traveling to Rio to defend the gold medal. The U.S. team has spent the last week practicing in Las Vegas in preparation for the tour and the games.

There weren't any opening night jitters, though the U.S. shot only 45 percent and missed all but 14 of 41 3-pointers. With DeMarcus Cousins pulling down 15 rebounds in just 16 minutes, the U.S. dominated inside, outrebounding Argentina 53-30.

"The big thing is getting in shape and they are not there where they will be," Krzyzewski said. "But we really have an inside presence on the boards."

For Durant the game was a chance to play with a pair of his new Golden State teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. It was also a chance for Durant and Carmelo Anthony -- the only two players from the 2012 team -- to demonstrate that this will be their team in Rio.

Both players cheered from the bench as the minutes were spread around, jumping up to clap for teammates. Every U.S. player got quality time, with Green's 12 minutes the least played by any American.

"We're going to have fun and we're going to enjoy ourselves," Anthony said. "If it's not fun it's not worth it. We're going to enjoy ourselves but at the same time we're going to be focused in trying to get that gold medal."

Durant finished as the game's high scorer with 23 points, while George had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17. Andres Nocioni had 15 for Argentina, while Manu Ginobili added 11 for Argentina, which lost to the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics.

Though at times little defense was played, there was plenty of offense to keep the crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena happy. The teams combined to put up 70 3-point attempts, 41 of them from the U.S.

Oddsmakers had made the U.S. a prohibitive 29.5-point favorite in what at times looked a lot like an NBA All-Star game. But while the U.S. team is loaded with 12 NBA players, the Argentines had only three on their roster and the talent difference showed.

While the team is full of new players, the gold medal run will be the last for Krzyzewski, the national coach for the last decade. His teams have lost only one game during his reign, which will end after the Olympics with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich taking over.

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

The Spurs have been one of the most consistent NBA teams for nearly 20 years. They have made 19 consecutive postseason trips and won five championships during that span. 

The Sixers, on the other hand, are entering a phase of building a new foundation with a group of young players. They are working to improve upon a 10-win season, let alone making the playoffs.

Yet four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili saw more than records when weighing his options in free agency. The veteran point guard looked to the Sixers sidelines and was intrigued.

Head coach Brett Brown previously worked in the Spurs basketball operations department and on the coaching staff under Gregg Popovich. He was part of four championship teams in San Antonio. When the Sixers approached Ginobili this offseason, he gave them consideration before returning to the Spurs, where he has spent his entire 14-year career.

“The fact that Philadelphia had a great coach and a person I appreciate so much as Brett Brown, made it more appealing in the case the Spurs didn’t happen,” Ginobili told The Vertical on Thursday. “But the Spurs happened and they always had the priority.”

The Sixers reportedly offered Ginobili, 38, a two-year, partially-guaranteed deal worth around $30 million. The Spurs first offered him a one-year, $3 million contract. Ginobili ended up re-signing with the Spurs for one-year, $14 million. 

“It was not my main option. I never wanted to leave San Antonio,” Ginobili said. “But I had to listen to all the options that are there.”

Ginobili averaged 9.6 points, 3.1 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 19.6 minutes coming off the bench last season. The Sixers are adding veteran leadership, and Ginobili is one of the most experienced in the game. In addition to his reliability at the position, he could have been a mentor to the entire team and worked with Ben Simmons to help hone his point guard skills as the rookie big man plays point-forward. His years of international competition would have gelled with incoming players such as Dario Saric, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Sergio Rodriguez. 

The Sixers signed point guards Jerryd Bayless (three years, $27 million) and Rodriguez (one year, $8 million) this summer. T.J. McConnell and Kendall Marshall still are under contract. Last season's starting point guard Ish Smith signed with the Pistons at the start of free agency.