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.”

Sixers Mailbag: Joel Embiid's return, signing Kyle Lowry?

Sixers Mailbag: Joel Embiid's return, signing Kyle Lowry?

This week I tweeted asking for questions for a Sixers mailbag, and the replies came pouring in. (Thanks, everyone!)

So we changed it up and in addition to answering the questions in these articles, we also discussed some of the topics on PST Extra. Read below and watch the video for the responses.

If you tweeted a question with #CSNSixersMailbag and don't see it on here, there will be plenty more answered leading up to the draft and free agency.

Both players are planning to return to the court during the offseason.

Joel Embiid recently said he intends to be ready for opening night and to play all 82 games next season. That would mean he has a lot of work to do before then. Embiid, who underwent knee surgery in March, has been pleased with his rehab and is scheduled for another scan. He has not been jumping and plans to be cleared for 5-on-5 this summer.

"Every day I go in and do some rehab on my knee, on my whole body basically," Embiid said last week at the draft lottery. "Then [I] get on the court, shoot a little bit flat-footed, and then lift. After lifting, I go in the pool and [on the] treadmill and then start running in the pool. Usually, I'm there for about four, five hours every day."

Covington underwent surgery for a right meniscus tear in mid-April. He actually began his rehab before the procedure, which doctors told him could cut down on his recovery time. Following the surgery, the Sixers announced Covington was expected to "resume basketball activities" this summer.

Training camp is still months away. The players will be closely watched during that period before their availability and minutes are determined for the start of the season.

Rye.

And for the non-question, I'll give that a reply too. I see this point of view: draft a young small forward and bring in an experienced guard. I could envision an opposite scenario, though.

The Sixers could bolster their perimeter play through free agency or a trade. They lacked depth at small forward last season. A player with years on his résumé could fill that void faster than a rookie who will need time to develop into an NBA player.

As for Lowry, there's no question he can improve any NBA team. As I noted a few weeks ago, he is at a different stage in his career than the Sixers are in their progress. The Sixers also have Jerryd Bayless on the books to provide that veteran leadership to Ben Simmons as he learns how to play the one spot.

If I had to go with adding experience at one position or the other, I'd lean toward small forward over point guard.

NBA Notes: Cavs-Warriors III joins past championship trilogies

NBA Notes: Cavs-Warriors III joins past championship trilogies

It never happened between Magic Johnson's Lakers and Larry Bird's Celtics. Same for Michael Jordan and Karl Malone or Jerry West and Bill Russell.

While there have been 14 rematches in NBA Finals history, this year's meeting between LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors will be the first trilogy in league history.

After the Warriors beat the Cavs for their first title in 40 years in 2015, Cleveland got revenge last season with a comeback from 3-1 down to give the city its first major championship since 1964. Now they meet for the rubber match starting June 1 in Oakland.

While this may be unprecedented in the NBA, it has happened once before in the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball with matchups that included some of those sports' biggest stars.

There was Babe Ruth vs. Frankie Frisch in the 1920s and then a pair of memorable three-peat matchups in the 1950s featuring Otto Graham against Bobby Layne in the NFL and Gordie Howe against Maurice Richard in the NHL.

Warriors: Durant once team’s 2nd choice
Truth be told, Golden State's former coach wasn't sure the Warriors needed Kevin Durant.

The Warriors were already small-ball sensations, capable of piling up the points with their daring drives and sizzling shooting. So rather than add another scorer, Don Nelson figured Golden State might be better off getting a dominant man in the middle to shore up the defense in the 2007 NBA draft.

Nelson thought the Warriors needed Greg Oden.

That was 10 years ago, leading up to the heavily hyped draft in which the Oden-Durant debate raged throughout basketball. And now, as Durant leads the league's most potent team into the NBA Finals while Oden is long gone from the NBA spotlight, it's easy to forget that a lot of people agreed with Nelson.

"I think everyone felt that there were two players there that were going to be prominent players, but one thing you can't count on is injuries," Warriors executive Jerry West said. "So Greg really never had a chance to have a career, where Kevin's obviously been more than advertised."

Celtics: Thomas unsure if he’ll need surgery
Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas wanted to keep playing in the Eastern Conference finals, but team doctors and officials convinced him he needed to shut down his season for his long-term health.

"They had multiple people come in and talk to me about what's more important," Thomas said Friday, a day after the Celtics were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers. "But I definitely wasn't trying to hear that at that point in time."

Thomas injured the hip in March and aggravated it in the second-round series against Washington. He played three halves against the Cavaliers before limping off the court in the middle of Game 2.

The Celtics lost that game by 44 points to fall behind 0-2 in the best-of-seven series, then announced the next day that Thomas was done for the season. Still, they beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland the next game before falling easily in Games 4 and 5.

"Eastern Conference finals, that's the biggest stage I've ever been on," Thomas said at the team's practice facility in Waltham, Massachusetts. "To not be able to go back out there in that second half and continue that series was painful. Like it hurt me."

Speaking for the first time since the end of his season, Thomas said he might need surgery but it's "not the No. 1 option right now." He will have to wait for more tests until the swelling goes down, he said (see full story).