In a bit of a surprise last week, the Nets hired both long-time NBA coach Steve Clifford as a coaching consultant and all-time 3-point shooter Kyle Korver as a player development assistant coach. So what to make of the two additions to one of — if not the — biggest coaching staffs in the NBA.
First of all, there’s going to be a big difference between the two in their duties and between them and the rest of the Nets eight-man staff. Clifford will be more of an adviser to both Steve Nash and Sean Marks while Korver is going to be on the court working with players from Joe Harris to Nic Claxton on everything from free throw shooting to 3-pointers.
Brian Lewis caught up with Clifford who spoke to what he sees as his role.
“Steve and I have had a few discussions about the best way for it to be structured. But basically I’ll be working for Steve and maybe in some instances for Sean on any area that they view I could be helpful with,” Clifford told Lewis. “On any staff, staff chemistry is just like team chemistry. Steve’s the head coach, he’s already proven to be terrific at that; they have a veteran staff, a talented roster.
“Everybody that’s added — like myself, which will be obviously a smaller role — the one thing I’ve learned over the years is staff chemistry is determined by everybody on the staff taking direction from the head coach, and doing as good a job as you can in the areas you’re given to concentrate on. That’s what I’m going to do.”
So, don’t expect Clifford to be on the sidelines or on the team plane for road trips. In fact, he sees himself as more of a “resource” for Nash and Marks. The former head coach of the Hornets and Magic has a reputation for defense ... and for getting the most out of his players. He also told Lewis that he and the rest of the staff can learn from the “Big Three.”
“You learn so much from players of that caliber. So yeah, obviously it’s a big part of it, the talent level. And learning from Steve and the way he’s set such a foundation,” said Clifford, who was also an assistant with the Knicks, Rockets and Lakers, where he worked with Nash in 2012-13.
Korver, said Shams Charania on The Stadium, is going to be more hands-on. And although the 17-year veteran was known for his general basketball acumen, he was hired as a shooting coach. Charania noted that one area of focus will be helping the Nets big men improve their shooting not just beyond the arc but at the free throw line as well.
“They’re bringing in Kyle Korver for his expertise on the floor. He was a guy who was known for his sharp basketball acumen over his career but lets be honest. He’s known as a shooter. He’s fourth all time in the NBA in three pointers behind Ray Allen, Steph Curry among them, one of the best shooters,” Charania said.
“So I’m told the priority for him will be to work with other shooters on this team: the Joe Harris’s of the world, Nic Claxton, big men on this team who can learn a lot from Kyle Korver when it comes to free throw shooting and overall shooting. Just another guy like they brought in Amar’e stoudemire on Steve Nash’s staff and I think they’re making it a priority to bring in former players with high basketball acumen for this coaching staff.”
Indeed, Claxton shot less than 50 percent from the line last season. And although he showed some shooting progress when with the G League two years ago, it didn’t translate to the NBA, where’s taken only 12 three’s, making two. DeAndre Jordan, who had upped his free throw shooting in recent years, dropped back to 50 percent last season. Similarly, rookie big Day’Ron Sharpe shot only 50.5 percent from the line at North Carolina.
Charania also gave his assessment of the job Nash did last season as a rookie head coach. It’s all about the “Big Three,” he said, but noted the losses of Mike D’Antoni and Ime Udoka.
“I think Steve Nash did a good job because he allows players to go be themselves, to give them the flexibility. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, these are the leaders of this team and he gives them really the keys to the offense and the defense. He lets the players coach themselves to a degree but at the end of the day, he allows them to implement a certain culture, a certain style,” said Charania.
“But it’s going to be difficult next season. He’s going to be without Mike D’Antoni on that sideline who went to New Orleans as a coaching consultant, be without Ime Udoka who went to Boston to be head coach. So he’s going to be without those two guys. How will he fare? It’s going to be interesting to see.”