Before NBA trainer Idan Ravin began practicing with some of basketball’s biggest superstars, he was practicing law in San Diego.
After graduating from the University of Maryland, Ravin attended California Western School of Law. Shortly after completing law school, he was hired by a San Diego law firm doing litigation work. However, he quickly realized that he hated being an attorney. Even though he had invested many years into becoming a lawyer, Ravin decided to walk away from his job and guaranteed salary to find a new career path.
“It happened over many years but, in a nutshell, it was because I just didn’t like what I was doing,” Ravin told Basketball Insiders. “I was practicing law and I was miserable. I guess I chose a career that I was supposed to do rather than what I was meant to do. I’m working at this law firm and I’m dying inside. I didn’t have the courage to even think [about quitting] for a very long time. It was something that kind of grew gradually.”
While in San Diego, Ravin began volunteering as a basketball coach at a local YMCA to cheer himself up, and he managed to lead a team of pre-teens to an undefeated season. He had always loved basketball, playing countless pick-up games while in college – including some with Maryland Terrapins’ players. He dreaded going to work at his law firm, but he couldn’t wait for practices and games with his YMCA team. At that point, he decided to follow his passion and started pursuing a career in basketball.
“I was volunteering there with the kids just to escape from that life that I didn’t like,” Ravin said. “I started volunteering, hoping it would bring some normality into my life. Meanwhile, I was practicing law; I hadn’t quit my day job. But it got to a point after many years where I started realizing, ‘Wow, I really enjoy this and I’m actually pretty good at this.’ Then I sort of made that switch and started committing myself to doing it more full time. So it wasn’t like I just woke up one morning and said, ‘Okay, enough is enough, I am going to do this.’ It was more like I eased my way into it, just to be able to get out of the office.”
Ravin did eventually quit his job and moved back to Maryland. This was a risky career change, but Ravin was confident he could succeed in the basketball world. First, he thought about becoming an agent to put his law background to use. However, he soured on that idea, choosing instead to focus on training.
He started working out a group of players he had known from college, who were now trying to play overseas. A number of the players in Ravin’s group were friends with an extremely talented point guard who decided to participate in the workouts as well.
That point guard was named Steve Francis.
Francis, who is from Maryland and starred for the Terrapins, was intrigued by the former lawyer with the unique training methods (such as throwing tennis balls at players during dribbling drills). Not only did he train with Ravin’s group, he kept working out with Ravin after that. The two worked together while Francis prepared for the pre-draft process, and he ended up being the No. 2 overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. Francis and Ravin’s workout sessions continued after the top prospect entered the league. Suddenly, Ravin was coaching one of the NBA’s best up-and-coming point guards not long after coaching YMCA kids.
“Working with younger kids led me to older kids, which led me to taller and faster kids, which led me to even better kids, which then eventually led me to college kids, professional [overseas] kids and then NBA kids,” Ravin said with a laugh. “I never ever intended to be here; I never envisioned that I would be here. It was just more like I found something that I really loved and I was just stubborn enough to believe I could do it.
“I think sometimes people think that I just went from practicing law straight to training NBA players, but it was really not like that at all. For a long time, metaphorically, I was the zero-star chef. Then, I became a quarter-star chef, then eventually a one-star chef, then a two-star chef and then, years later, I would consider myself a five-star chef. It was just something that took a lot of time.”
With Francis as his first major client, Ravin started getting some exposure and new players. The point guard was so impressed with Ravin’s training style and basketball mind that he started talking him up to other NBA players. Soon, thanks in large part to Francis’ referrals, Ravin began working out other pros such as Elton Brand (the No. 1 pick in the 1999 NBA Draft) and Juan Dixon (who was also from Maryland and starred for the Terrapins). Many other NBA players eventually followed, and Ravin became one of the top trainers in the business.
Today, Ravin’s client list looks like an All-Star team. He has trained LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and Kevin Love among many others. He has spent varying amounts of time working out these players, but he has trained all of them at some point. In addition to his superstar clients, he has also worked out well-known players like Al Jefferson, Wesley Matthews, Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe, Joe Johnson, Tyson Chandler, Ty Lawson, Josh Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire among others.
“It was just sort of a word of mouth thing, where one player would recommend me to another player,” Ravin said when asked how he built his client list. “I wasn’t soliciting; I didn’t have relationships with people [around the NBA]. I don’t come from that world. My parents teach Jewish history! They don’t know the NBA world or professional sports. My uncle isn’t an agent – he doesn’t work in the league office. I don’t have those connections, so I just continued to try to do a good job with everybody and then that person would tell another person who would tell another person and then, eventually, you have a good player. With each person, the most important thing is you have to help them excel. [Players came] because the proof was in the pudding. So if I did a really good job with X and then people see X’s growth, they would ask X, ‘What did you do?’ And then X would share a little bit and that led to Y and to Z [coming to train with me too]. That’s how it grew. That’s kind of how it went, very slow and organic.”
Ravin’s workouts are known for being intense and exhausting – as well as unorthodox – with the idea being that actual games will be much easier if a player’s training sessions are rigorous. Another one of Ravin’s specialties is designing different workouts to fit each of his players’ specific needs.
“He is able to put you through a workout that suits your game,” said Blake Griffin, who has only worked out with Ravin a few times but came away impressed. “He’s a good motivator and he has a good understanding of the game.”
When asked what separates him from other NBA trainers in the business, Ravin admits he doesn’t know much about how others operate as he has always just stuck to his own methods. But there are a few things he feels strongly about. For one, he limits the number of players he’s training at one time so his clients can get individual attention. Second, he plans out unique workouts for each of his players based on what they need to work on rather than training all of his players the same way.
“I guess I’m just more customized,” Ravin said. “I wouldn’t take on 40 players; I wouldn’t have 50 people in the gym. Everybody does their work differently, but that’s just never been my approach. I just try to create a more unique experience for the athlete and try to find ways to help them in terms of developing them physically and mentally. I can’t actually speak to what other people do, because I have no idea what other people do. I just really try to give an unconventional, customized approach to every particular athlete. I watch the Food Network a lot to try and learn how to cook. Now, imagine one of the Iron Chefs lets you go into his house and he’ll make an awesome dinner for you, but you get to pick all of the proteins, the veggies, the fruits and all of that. Well, I hope to give that kind of [customizable] Iron Chef experience to the athletes that I work with.”
Over the years, Ravin developed the nickname “The Hoops Whisperer” (which is also the name of his memoir). He has received rave reviews from some of the biggest stars in the NBA. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony among others offered testimonials for Ravin’s website, praising the trainer and his methods.
“Idan inspired me to see my full potential, to become more than others had ever expected of me and challenge myself to do more than I had even expected of myself,” Curry said. “He showed me the importance of resilience and determination, and to capitalize on all my opportunities I had coming out of school and even to this day. His challenge to never become ‘regular’ stuck with me and kept me fierce in my determination to be committed to who I am, what I stand for, and to leave my lasting fingerprints on the game I so dearly love.”
“Idan is the first guy that I’ve worked with that brought something different to the workouts, who pushed me past my limits, who made me think of the game on a different level,” Durant said. “He pushed me with his words, encouraged me and built my confidence as the days went on. Truly one of a kind and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from him.”
“I never imagined that when I first worked with Idan before my rookie year, our relationship would extend more than a decade,” Anthony said. “He has influenced me tremendously and I am very grateful for his loyalty, friendship and guidance. He is passionate about everything he does and, while some may consider his methods unorthodox, the end results for me have been remarkable.”
While Ravin now has the respect of many superstars and people within the basketball world, that didn’t come right away. Initially, people were skeptical of him due to his unusual training style and the fact that he was a former lawyer with zero high-level basketball credentials. Today, he’s largely accepted by the basketball community, but says he still faces his share of doubters and skeptics.
“Well, I mean, everybody still looks at me funny because that space is filled with a lot of judgment and a lot of prejudice; [The belief is], ‘If you don’t come from that world, how could you know that world?’ Ravin said. “That will always exist and I’m okay with that. It’s alright for people to be skeptical. I don’t work for them and my priority is to be happy. But yeah, it takes a long time to be good at anything [so I had to improve early on and then showcase my ability]. But at the same time, I think I have a gift with people, I think I have really good intuition and I think I can just figure out stuff sort of on my own [so I didn’t need to come from the basketball world].
“There are plenty of amazing chefs who never went to the French Culinary Institute, but when you taste their food, you aren’t asking them where they went to college. There’s plenty of amazing screenwriters who don’t have a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from Columbia, but when you see their film, you don’t say, ‘Hey, where did you study?’ I find that with the athletes – and the athletes are really, really smart – they don’t ask you about your playing credentials or your PhD in Exercise Science. They are just saying, ‘Wow, I have access to a lot of different people and this has been the most helpful thing for my career of all the people I’ve ever been around.’ So I didn’t find myself having to prove anything to anyone; it was more like I just had to do my best and give the athletes the best that I could. Over time, you gain experience and you obviously become better. I’m sure the first time you wrote, you were just okay. Now, you’re considered brilliant. It just takes time to kind of get better at your craft.”
Even though Ravin has established himself as an elite trainer, he continues to work extremely hard and put in the necessary time to continue being great at his craft. His daily schedule is brutal. He wakes up shortly after 4 a.m. on most days and gets his own workout in around 4:45 a.m. Then, he’ll train his first player of the day around 6:30 a.m. After the workout, they’ll typically get smoothies and some food. Later in the day, he’ll work out additional players in the afternoon and the evening. He lets players decide when they’ll train, since their schedules can be equally packed. And in addition to his training with players, Ravin also has a number of side projects that take up his time. He owns some businesses, invests in a number of others, and has a partnership with Dove Men+Care as a fitness expert. Even though his planner is often packed, Ravin couldn’t be happier with how he’s spending his time – mainly because he never has to step foot in a law firm.
“I don’t mind the schedule,” Ravin said. “It’s just like you: you found something you really love to do, so you just try to give as much time to it as you can. We’re both kindred spirits in that respect.”
This summer, in addition to working with his normal cast of veterans, Ravin has been training three of the top rookies in the 2015 NBA Draft class: Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor, Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein and Miami’s Justise Winslow. Ravin has enjoyed working with the prospects and insists that all three players have star potential. While he’s a bit biased since they’re his clients, Ravin has worked with many stars behind the scenes and knows what to look for when projecting how a player will develop.
“They have just been terrific,” Ravin said of Okafor, Cauley-Stein and Winslow. “It’s a really scary time in their life, going from that sort of cocoon in college to this world of grown men who are all tall, fast, strong, rich and successful with an amazing résumé. It’s a very scary place, but their ability to handle it all has been very impressive. I think they are all going to be terrific.”
Ravin gave his scouting report on each individual player and how they’ve looked.
Okafor: “I think Jahlil could be Rookie of the Year and eventually the best big man in the world. Like the others, he is just amazingly awesome, diligent, strong, super bright and thoughtful.”
Winslow: “I think Justise could be an absolute motherf***er. When you’re around Justise, you feel like you’re around a college professor because he’s just very mature, bright, thoughtful and hardworking. But it’s not just that he’s hardworking – he’s also very, very, very talented.”
Cauley-Stein: “I think Willie could be revolutionary. You know what’s interesting? I think Willie’s versatility is extraordinary and I don’t think people even know it yet. I think he’ll eventually be able to shoot it very well, he puts the ball on the floor well and he runs well. He’s incredibly versatile. I think it would be a shame to just put him underneath the basket and have him run up and down the court blocking shots. I think that wouldn’t be taking advantage of his gifts and I don’t think that’s what he’s destined to be. I think it would kind of be putting him in handcuffs if that is his role and that is what he is limited to, because he could be very special.”
If Okafor, Cauley-Stein and Winslow reach their full potential and do indeed become stars, they’ll join the long list of franchise players who have worked out under Ravin.
Many fans don’t know Ravin since he does all of his work with players behind the scenes (and typically during the offseason). But, without question, he has worked out a player from your favorite team. It’s even quite possible he helped your favorite player develop. Ravin’s training has had a huge impact on the NBA and many players have him to thank for their progress and success.
Not bad for a litigation lawyer and volunteer YMCA coach.
Georgetown Prospect Omer Yurtseven is Ready for Center Stage
Omer Yurtseven spoke with Drew Maresca about playing for coach Patrick Ewing, training for the NBA during a pandemic and why he feels he’s the best center in the 2020 draft class.
Omer Yurtseven, the 7-foot tall, Georgetown center, posted an impressive junior season in 2019-20; he averaged 15.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. With legitimate NBA size and skills, it’s no mystery why he’s confident. “I don’t think anyone has my combination of tools and versatility,” Yurtseven recently told Basketball insiders. But he’s also a student of the game –well aware of the game’s history and where it’s headed.
“I wouldn’t put anyone ahead of me. I haven’t seen anyone with the tools that I have. I can shoot the ball, the three-ball, and that’s where the big man is headed,” Yurtseven said.
But he’s not satisfied with what he’s accomplished thus far. He wants more. And he understands that he’ll have to continue working to ensure his spot in the league.
“Some guys might be more athletic [than me], but there are a lot of athletic bigs in the league who don’t stick,” Yurtseven continued. “The skillset is just as important, if not more. So is the [willingness to put in] the work. I think I’m better or as good as any other players, and my rookie year, that’s my goal, to prove that.”
Yurtseven transferred to Georgetown from N.C. State in 2018 after a successful Sophomore season in which he shot over 50 percent on three-point attempts. He sat out the 2018-19 season voluntarily to play for Georgetown and coach Patrick Ewing. The opportunity to work with the Hall of Famer was too good to pass up.
“That’s what I was looking for coming in [working with Ewing]. I needed someone to see the game from my perspective,” Yurtseven said. “I was looking for that feedback and I demanded to be coached. I wanted to learn from him. The thing he stayed on me the most about was the pace of the game and how quick my moves would have to be at the next level.
“The turnaround jumper was one of his major weapons,” Yurtseven continued. “He was ahead of his time, but he wanted to see me do the same thing and give 100 percent effort every time.”
Yurtseven jumper is a major weapon in his arsenal, so a pairing with Ewing was an obvious fit. His numbers remained strong during his junior year season with Georgetown, but with one glaring drop off – three-point percentage. Ewing demanded that Yurtseven operate from the low post, a role that the prospect didn’t love, but accepted. Could a new role be to blame for a down shooting year? Yurtseven would never blame anyone other than himself, especially not Ewing. But it’s clear that he felt like he could have done even more if given the opportunity.
“The biggest thing is, I played how I played because that was the role demanded of me. All I had to do was be the inside presence, the defense collapser, and we had to stick to the strategy that coach thought was best for the team.
“I would love to have caught the ball at the top a little more,” Yurtseven continued. “But I was happy to be the post guy. I knew I had to get into my moves quick, so that’s what I did. I sacrificed what I think is my best skills for the team, and I was fine with it.”
It’s evident that Yurtseven is a team-first guy but his three-point shooting took a significant hit. As mentioned above, Yurtseven shot 50 percent on 1.3 three-point attempts as a sophomore in 2017-18, but only 21.4 percent on only half an attempt from long range per game in 2019-20. However, it’s not in his nature to look back – only ahead.
“That’s been my main focus,” Yurtseven told Basketball Insiders. “In April, I was shooting 30 or 40 percent two steps behind the college three. That percentage has added up 5 or 10 percent each month. Doing it isn’t easy, but it pays off and that’s why we do it. Now I’m at 75 or 80 percent (in practice sessions) and I’m really confident in my ability.
“And that’s the most important skill set for big men right now,” Yurtseven said. “You’ve got to be a perimeter shooter, as well as a perimeter defender, because big men are evolving away from the rim.”
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Yurtseven – and all of the 2020 class – received longer than normal between the end of the 2019-20 NCAA season and the 2020 NBA Draft. And while mock drafts have slowly whittled down the number of prospects, Yurtseven is working tirelessly to improve his stock in any way possible. impressive game.
“No one knew this offseason would be so long. It’s been 6, 8 months already,” Yurtseven continued. “But the team around me has been a blessing – coordinating workouts and making sure I’m taking steps to improve, from nutrition to training lateral quickness to shooting.
“It’s speed and agility, studying the game and having the knowledge about how to position yourself,” Yurtseven continued. “It’s timing and positioning and footwork. It’s all pieces of the puzzle. But the league is another level than college. That’s why I’ve been preparing, increasing lateral quickness, strengthening my glutes, making sure my quads and hips are firing well and that my lateral push-off is explosive as I want.”
“And seeing it translate on the court in two-on-twos and three-on-threes. Switching on guards and providing I can do it to myself. It’s been really fun and fulfilling.”
Yurtseven could have opted to play professionally in Europe – he had numerous professional offers as an 18-year-old prior to coming to joining N.C. State. But Yurtseven is driven by more than money and fame. He is family-oriented and understands the long game. His parents wanted him to receive a college degree before pursuing basketball – a decision that Yurtseven is happy to have made.
“The education was the main reason [I chose to play in the NCAA]. My family’s dream was that I get a college degree.
“When I was 18, [Turkish teams] offered me a huge contract. I’ve never seen so many zeros in my life,” Yurtseven continued.
“Now it’s time to chase my dream. And my team, my circle, it’s our goal to find a franchise that allows me to grow into a player for 10-plus years – and I’ll never stop working at it.”
Where Yurtseven ultimately plays is anyone’s guess – but he’s already spoken with 17 NBA teams.
Whatever franchise selects the center will add a hard-working and versatile big man that looks well-suited for the modern game – or he may not be selected at all. Yurtseven is currently ranked outside the top 50 according to some mocks – but if he gets an opportunity, he knows how he’d like to play.
“My aim is to get a double-double, year one,” Yurtseven told Basketball Insiders. “And, of course, guarding 1 through 5 is another big thing that coaches are looking for. Look at the Bucks, they were ranked first in offense (in 2019-20). Most of their points come from spot-ups. Defenses collapse on Giannis and Middleton – and Brook Lopez stays alone in the corner. I think that’ll be where I get my shots, too.”
Only three rookies in the past 10 years have averaged a double-double in their first season in the league – Blake Griffin, Karl-Anthony Towns, Deandre Ayton. That’s an elite club in which Yurtseven is seeking membership. Can he surprise the basketball world? Only time will tell.
There isn’t much data on him against elite big men. But there is one relevant contest worth examining: a Nov. 22 matchup against Duke and Vernon Carey, who is projected to be drafted No. 26 overall by Basketball Insiders.
Carey filled the stat sheet with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but so did Yurtseven (21 points, five rebounds and four blocks). That night, his entire repertoire was on full display – decisive drop steps, smooth turnaround jump shots over both shoulders, baby hooks, midrange jumpers and hard-nosed defense.
“He was the only true big man that I played against,” Yurtseven recalled. “He was quick and Duke did a good job putting the ball in his hands as soon as he stepped in the paint. I had to exert a lot of energy keeping him off his spot, but I adjusted quickly.
“I figured he would be very strong, but he ultimately didn’t feel as strong as I expected. My maturity and strength helped me a lot.”
Yurtseven’s skill and build render him tailor-made for the NBA. But for most, sticking at the professional peak is about more than skill and body. IQ, on and off of the floor, play a major role, too.
“A lot of guys [in this draft class] haven’t played many games,” Yurtseven told Basketball Insiders. “Having a college degree and that experience is a huge tool.
“Playing overseas as a pro is another layer of experience that I have compared to these guys. My IQ has improved. Those one-and-done guys are gonna be thrown into the fire, but I’ll be more ready.
“I saw a study,” Yurtseven explained. “Guys that come in 21-and-under stay in the league two or three years on average. Guys that come in and are 21-or-older stay seven or eight years on average. That just shows how much time it takes to mature your game.”
Comparatively, only four players were 22 or older as on draft night in 2019 – Yurtsevein is 22.
At the end of the day, it will be about how he performs on the court, and he’s comfortable with that.
“If I get drafted, I’ll be the first guy coming out of Turkey with a college degree,” Yurtseven said proudly.
“I’m ready for the next step. I appreciate everyone wishing me luck and supporting me from afar. I can’t wait to show my game’s evolution and reap the benefits of all of the work I’ve put in.”
NBA Daily: Tyronn Lue is the Right Coach for the Clippers
Is Lue the right coach for the Los Angeles Clippers? David Yapkowitz thinks so.
When Doc Rivers was first hired by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013, the expectation was that he would be the one to guide the franchise into respectability. A laughingstock of the NBA for pretty much their entire existence, marred by bad coaching, bad management and bad ownership, Rivers was supposed to help change all of that.
For the most part, he did.
Rivers arrived from the Boston Celtics with the 2008 championship, and he helped the Celtics regain their standing as one of the NBA’s elite teams. The Clippers were a perennial playoff contender under him and were even in the conversation for being a possible championship contender. The Lob City Clippers led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin certainly were talked about as being a title contender, and this season’s group led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were definitely in the mix as well.
Not only did Rivers steady the team on the court though, but he was also a very steadying presence off the court. He guided the franchise through the Donald Sterling controversy and he was a positive voice for the team as they navigated the bubble and the ongoing charge for social reform in the country.
But when things go wrong with a team, the coach is usually the one who ends up taking the fall. While Rivers did bring the Clippers to a level of respectability the franchise has never known, his record was not without blemishes. Most notably was his team’s inability to close out playoff series’ after holding three games to one on advantages two separate occasions.
In 2015, the Clippers had a 3-1 lead over the Houston Rockets only to squander that lead and lose Game 7 on the road. In Game 6, their shots stopped falling and neither Paul nor Griffin could do anything to halt the Rockets onslaught.
This season, in an incredibly similar fashion, the Clippers choked away a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets and ended up getting blown out the second half of Game 7. Just like before, the offense stalled multiple games and neither Leonard nor George could make a difference.
There were also questions about Rivers’ rotations and his seeming inability to adjust to his opponents. In the end, something had to change, and whether it’s right or wrong, the coach usually ends up taking the fall.
Enter Tyronn Lue. Lue, like Rivers, is also a former NBA player and has a great deal of respect around the league. He came up under Rivers, getting his first coaching experience as an assistant in Boston, and then following Rivers to the Clippers.
He ended up joining David Blatt’s staff in Cleveland in 2014, and when Blatt was fired in the middle of the 2015-16 season, Lue was promoted to head coach. In the playoffs that year, Lue guided the Cavaliers to victory in their first 10 playoff games. They reached the Finals where they famously came back from a 3-1 deficit against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors to win the franchise’s first championship.
The Cavaliers reached the Finals each full year of Lue’s tenure as head coach, but he was let go at the start of the 2018-19 season when the team started 0-6 after the departure of LeBron James.
In the 2019 offseason, Lue emerged as the leading candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job, before he ultimately rejected the team’s offer. After rejoining Rivers in LA with the Clippers for a year, he once again emerged as a leading candidate for multiple head coaching positions this offseason before agreeing to terms with the Clippers.
Following the Clippers series loss to the Nuggets, many players openly talked about the team’s lack of chemistry and how that may have played a factor in the team’s postseason demise. Adding two-star players in Leonard and George was always going to be a challenge from a chemistry standpoint, and the Clippers might have secured the perfect man to step up to that challenge.
During his time in Cleveland, Lue was praised for his ability to manage a locker room that included James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. In Game 7 against the Warriors, Lue reportedly challenged James at halftime and ended up lighting a fire that propelled the Cavaliers to the championship.
Lue’s ability to deal with star egos isn’t just limited to his coaching tenure. During his playing days, Lue was a trusted teammate with the Los Angeles Lakers during a time when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant weren’t seeing eye to eye. He also played with Michael Jordan during Jordan’s Washington Wizard days.
Now, he’ll be tasked with breaking through and leading the Clippers to a place where no Clipper team has ever been before. He’ll be expected to finish what Rivers was unable to accomplish and guide the Clippers to an NBA championship.
For one, he’ll have to change the Clippers offensive attack. This past season, the Clippers relied too much on an isolation heavy offense centered around Leonard and George. That style of play failed in the playoffs when after failing to adjust, the Clippers kept taking tough shot after tough shot while the Nuggets continued to run their offense and get good shots.
With the Cavaliers, Lue showed his ability to adjust his offense and work to his player’s strengths. In the 2018 Playoffs, Lue employed a series of off-ball screens involving Love and Kyle Korver with James reading the defense and making the correct read to whoever was in the best position to score.
When playing with James, the offense sometimes tends to stagnate with the other four players standing around and waiting for James to make his move. Lue was able to get the other players to maintain focus and keep them engaged when James had the ball in his hands. Look for him to try and do something similar for when either Leonard or George has the ball in their hands.
He’s already got a player on the roster in Landry Shamet who can play that Korver role as the designated shooter on the floor running through off-ball screens and getting open. Both Leonard and George have become efficient enough playmakers to be able to find open shooters and cutters. That has to be Lue’s first task to tweak the offense to find ways to keep the rest of the team engaged and active when their star players are holding the ball.
The defensive end is going to be something he’ll need to adjust as well. The Clippers have some of the absolute best individual defensive players in the league. Leonard is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, George was a finalist for the award in 2019 and Patrick Beverley is a perennial All-Defensive Team selection.
When the team was locked in defensively this season, there wasn’t a team in the league that could score on them. The problem for them was they seemingly couldn’t stay engaged on the defensive end consistently enough. The other issue was Rivers’ inability to adjust his defense to his opponent. Against the Nuggets, Nikola Jokic had a field day whenever Montrez Harrell was guarding him.
Lue’s primary task will be to get this team to maintain their defensive intensity throughout the season, as well as recognize what matchups are and aren’t working. Both Ivica Zubac and JaMychal Green were more effective frontcourt defenders in the postseason than Harrell was. Look for Lue to play to his team’s strengths, as he always has, and to trot out a heavy dose of man-to-man defense.
Overall, Lue was the best hire available given the candidates. He’s got a strong rapport among star players. He’s made it to the finals multiple times and won a championship as a head coach. And he already has experience working with Leonard and George.
Given the potential free agent status of both Leonard and George in the near future, the Clippers have a relatively small window of championship contention. Lue was in a similar situation in Cleveland when James’ pending free agency in the summer of 2018 was also a factor. That time around, Lue delivered. He’ll be ready for this new challenge.
NBA Daily: The Lakers’ Third Scorer Is By Committee
The Los Angeles Lakers have a whole unit of third scoring options – and that’s why they’re one win from an NBA Championship.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers once the NBA bubble began was who was going to pick up the mantle of being the third scoring option.
Even before the 2019-20 season began, it was obvious that LeBron James and Anthony Davis would be the primary offensive weapons, but every elite team with championship aspirations needs another player or two they can rely on to contribute on the offensive end consistently.
The obvious choice was Kyle Kuzma. In his third year in the NBA, Kuzma was the lone member of the Lakers’ young core that hadn’t been shipped elsewhere. His name had come up in trade rumors as possibly being included in the package to New Orleans for Davis, but the Lakers were able to hang on to him. He put up 17.4 points per game over his first two seasons and had some questioning whether or not he had All-Star potential.
For the most part this season, he settled into that role for much of this season. With Davis in the fold and coming off the bench, his shot attempts dropped from 15.5 to 11.0, but he still managed to be the team’s third scorer with 12.8 points per game.
But here in the bubble, and especially in the playoffs, the Lakers’ role players have each taken turns in playing the supporting role to James and Davis. Everyone from Kuzma to Alex Caruso, to Dwight Howard, to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, to Markieff Morris and even Rajon Rondo have had games where they’ve given the team that additional scoring boost.
Earlier in the bubble, James himself said they need Kuzma to be the team’s third-best player to win, but Kuzma himself believes that it’s always been by committee.
“We don’t have a third scorer, that’s not how our offense is built. Our offense is really AD and Bron, and everyone else plays team basketball,” Kuzma said on a postgame media call after Game 4 of the Finals. “We’ve had a long season, hopefully by now, you’ve seen how we play. Everyone steps up at different times, that’s what a team does.”
On this particular night, when the Miami HEAT got a pregame boost with the return of Bam Adebayo and wealth of confidence from their Game 3 win, it was Caldwell-Pope who stepped up and assumed the mantle of that third scoring option.
He finished Game 4 with 15 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 37.5 percent from three-point range. He also dished out five assists and grabbed three rebounds. Perhaps his most crucial moments of the game came late in the fourth quarter with the Lakers desperately clinging to a slim lead and the Heat not going away.
He hit a big three-pointer in front of the Miami bench with 2:58 to go in the game, and then followed that up with a drive the rim and finish on the very next possession to give the Lakers some breathing room.
Caldwell-Pope has been one of the most consistent Lakers this postseason and he’s been one of their most consistent three-point threats at 38.5 percent on 5.3 attempts. He was actually struggling a bit with his outside shot before this game, but he always stayed ready.
“My teammates lean on me to pick up the energy on the defensive end and also make shots on the offensive end…I stayed within a rhythm, within myself and just played,” Caldwell-Pope said after the game. “You’re not going to knock down every shot you shoot, but just staying with that flow…Try to stay in the rhythm, that’s what I do. I try not to worry about it if I’m not getting shots. I know they are eventually going to come.”
Also giving the Lakers a big offensive boost in Game 4 was Caruso who had a couple of easy baskets at the rim and knocked down a three-pointer. He’s become one the Lakers best off the ball threats as well, making strong cuts to the rim or drifting to the open spot on the three-point line.
He’s had his share of games this postseason when it’s been his turn to step up as the Lakers additional scoring threat. During Game 4 against the Houston Rockets in the second round, Caruso dropped 16 points off the bench to help prevent the Rockets from tying the series up. In the closeout Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets, he had 11 points and finished the game in crunch time.
For him, it’s about staying ready and knowing that the ball is eventually going to come to whoever is open. When that happens, it’s up to the role players to take that pressure off James and Davis.
“Our third star or best player is whoever has the open shot. We know what AD and LeBron are going to bring to the table every night. They’re going to get their attention, they’re going to get their shots,” Caruso said after the game.
“It’s just about being ready to shoot. We have two of the best passers in the game, if not the best, so we know when we are open, we are going to get the ball. We have to be ready to do our job as soon as the ball gets to us.”
And if the Lakers are to close out the series and win the 2020 NBA championship, head coach Frank Vogel knows that it’s going to take a collective effort from the rest of the team, the way they’ve been stepping up all postseason.
“We need everybody to participate and contribute, and we’re a team-first team,” Vogel said after the game. “Obviously we have our two big horses, but everybody’s got to contribute that’s out there.”