Newest Sixer a champ

Posted: March 06, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY - Jarvis Varnado has something none of his 76ers teammates has. You can joke about it being the ability to block a shot, but it's much more special than that.

As a member of the Miami Heat during the playoffs last season, Varnado earned an NBA championship ring.

"It's close with me. It's close with me. Very, very close to me," he laughed when asked where he keeps the jewelry.

Just picked up by the Sixers on a 10-day contract Saturday, Varnado already is one of coach Brett Brown's favorites. He does possess that ability to block shots, a luxury the team hasn't had all season.

"It's my first time actually being thrown into the fire, because all the teams that I got called up on were veteran teams and making a run at a playoff, so I was just sitting and learning," Varnado said. "This is a good situation for me to come in and play, still be an energy guy, blocking shots and rebounding and talking on the defensive end. I have good timing on blocking shots. I'm not going to get all of them, but if I can change the shot, that's a win for me, too."

"Rim protector," Brown said. "In one play [against Orlando on Sunday] he had two blocks. He whacked it with his left hand and then he landed and got back up and whacked it with his right hand. That's who he is, that's what he does. When you start realizing what can happen behind the scenes and project it forward to what Nerlens [Noel] is going to bring to the table, it just adds a whole other layer of defense.

"I like Jarvis; I think he plays with a clean, high-integrity, high-intensity type of game and then he comes and sits down and goes back in and does his job. He is a very quiet person. I like his addition."

When LeBron James dumped 61 points on the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday, there was a heavy feeling that Kevin Durant would look to put up some kind of special point total against the Sixers last night.

"We'd all be pretty naive to think that he wasn't aware of LeBron's burst," Brett Brown said. "He just amazes me, because of how grounded he is. He is so grounded, and he can have whatever he wants. He just carries himself with a class and an integrity and gets it done on the court. It's quite an amazing package they have in him here in Oklahoma. They are really lucky."

The Sixers were anything but, last night, as Durant scored 42 in the Thunder's 125-92 win.

James' 61-point performance didn't surprise Jarvis Varnado.

"The stuff he does on the court, he does in practice," Varnado said of his former teammate. "He works extremely hard in practice, and I'm not surprised that he hit 61 points."

After missing 27 games with a knee injury, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook last night played in his sixth game since coming back on Feb. 20. In those games, the Thunder is just 3-3. The Thunder's period of adjustment to having the All-Star back is understandable, said Brett Brown, who experienced a similar situation as an assistant at San Antonio when star point guard Tony Parker missed games because of injury.

"For sure [it will take some time], especially a ball-dominant guard, which Tony is and Russell is," Brown said. "Those are two All-Star guards we mentioned in Tony and Russell, it's just they occupy the ball, so it's an evolution of getting used to somebody that is that ball-dominant playing again.

"Russell is such a great player that they will, and, in many ways, they're forced to find that identity again. They've been with each other for so long, and they've gone so deep into the playoffs and have experienced such great success that the familiarity will resurface quite quickly."

In his past four games including last night's triple-double, Westbrook is averaging 21 points on 58 percent shooting and 8.5 assists.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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