Patrick Beverley was dribbling through pregame warmups Sunday when his focus was interrupted by a voice he’d last heard nine years before, half a world away.
Beverley is a stoic figure before Clippers games, even surly toward opponents. But upon seeing Shanghai Sharks assistant Manos Manouselis, the veteran guard stopped his dribble, walked behind a row of courtside seats and embraced the coach who says he’s not surprised at how far Beverley has come since their last meeting, in Greece.
“It was obvious,” Manouselis said, “he was going to play at a higher level.”
The Clippers went on to rout Shanghai, 127-87, at the Stan Sheriff Center in a preseason game of low stakes and little drama. Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Lou Williams rested for the Clippers, who finished their Hawaiian training camp with a blowout, despite committing 21 turnovers and shooting 31% on three-pointers, thanks to 33 Sharks turnovers. Maurice Harkless scored a team-high 16 points and JaMychal Green (13), Montrezl Harrell (12), Johnathan Motley (11) and Terry Larrier (11) also were in double figures.
Afterward, Beverley was less interested in his six points, three assists, two steals and two drawn charges than he was the unexpected reunion with Manouselis, a 55-year-old with graying, slicked-back hair and a Shanghai T-shirt tucked into dark dress pants.
They’d met in 2009, when Manouselis was an assistant with storied Greek club Olympiacos who needed to fill a roster spot. He went to Dnipro, Ukraine, to scout the local team’s American guard Devin Green, a former Laker, but left sold on Beverley’s tenacious defense. It reminded him of the “fighting spirit” he’d seen from Beverley while scouting the 2007 FIBA U19 World Championships.
“It was obvious, he was so energetic, that he was something special,” Manouselis said. “I told our coach, ‘This is the guy that we need.’”
A second-round draft pick in 2009, Beverley averaged more than 16 points a game with Dnipro. In Athens, Beverley had to try out to make the team, despite Manouselis’ recommendation.
Beverley was earning the most money of his young professional career — $200,000 — but was still the lowest-paid player and, in a backcourt alongside future Clippers teammate Milos Teodosic, had limited opportunities. The roster was powered by Josh Childress and Linas Kleiza, bigger names at the time.
“It was humbling for me,” Beverley said. “I played a lot in Ukraine but I was the youngest American on the team [in Greece] so I earned my keep and waited. Wait my turn. Normal Americans, Christmastime, if they’re not playing, they would have probably went back home and all that. I stuck with it. I stuck with the grind.”
By the time Olympiacos played for the Euroleague title against Barcelona, Beverley was the team’s best defender and a favorite of the coaching staff because of his all-out play.
“The type of guy that every coach loves,” Manouselis said.
The Clippers share the sentiment. Coaches and executives call Beverley vital because of his rabid defense and wild-eyed intensity, the same characteristics Manouselis saw while visiting Dnipro. They valued him enough to offer a three-year contract worth $40 million in July.
Manouselis called Beverley’s path to becoming an NBA mainstay “unbelievable.”
“I’m praying for him and his family,” he said. “He’s an unbelievable person and I wish him all the best.”
Beverley and his former assistant hugged one last time after Sunday’s final buzzer before going their separate ways. The Clippers are less than two weeks from starting the most anticipated season in franchise history, one in which Beverley will play the role of locker room cornerstone.
This development does not surprise Manouselis.
“Our coach with Olympiacos kept telling him, ‘You’re going to be better than anybody here,’” Manouselis said.
As they talked before Sunday’s game, Beverley reminded the assistant of that prediction.
“This is what [Beverley] said to me,” Manouselis said. “‘You see? It happened.’”