About a week before the playoffs, Knicks point guard Raymond Felton, who had never been on a team that won a playoff series before this season, his eighth in the N.B.A., thought he needed extra time on the court. So he sent a text message to his shooting coach, Ivorie Manning. “If you have some free time, I’d like for you to come down,” he wrote. Three days later, the two of them were alone in the Knicks’ practice center about 7 p.m., shooting from several spots on the court: the free-throw line, the 3-point arc, the corner.
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Manning critiqued Felton’s technique on each shot, watching his elbow, his shoulders and his release. A former assistant for the Harlem Globetrotters, Manning is in demand as a shooting specialist. He has worked with the N.B.A. players Ty Lawson, Rajon Rondo and Jerry Stackhouse.
It was a high-priority situation. So 44-year-old Ivorie Manning was dispatched direct from Las Vegas to Portland on Saturday. He packed a single suitcase, and from that he pulled a pair of canvas Army-style camouflage tennis shoes, and blue jeans, and a brown shirt and sport coat. This is what he wore to the Trail Blazers’ 117-97 win over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night. And then, Manning sat courtside, corner seat, staring at elbows and pointing at shoulders, and looking at little else, and you should know, this is a man with the kind of influence that might just save Portland’s season. “I teach a lost art,” Manning said. He teaches shooting.
So meet Raymond Felton’s private shooting coach. A guy he worked with years ago and recently summoned for a brush-up session with the blessing of the Blazers coaching staff. Felton got a 20-minute session before Saturday’s game, and scheduled two sessions with Manning on Sunday. “Ray doesn’t have bad mechanics,” Manning said. “He’s got a left shoulder that is drifting back at times. It’s throwing his shot off. And he’s not looking for his shot because he lost his confidence. Being off by one inch with that shoulder is the difference between a make and a miss. It’s a small thing, but he needs to keep that left shoulder forward and squared and he can work through this. “Ray’s a good shooter.”