Vinny Del Negro has not done a bad job this season.
The city of Chicago just rolled their eyes, but he hasn’t. The Bulls sacrificed this season on the alter of 2010 free agency. They brought in no new talent. Then as injuries ravaged the team they traded John Salmons away, so he could spark a revival in Milwaukee. They traded away Tyrus Thomas. It was all about next year.
Yet the Bull are in the playoffs — and competing hard in them. They are standing up to the Cavaliers, and they won one game. You can question some of Del Negro’s late game decisions, he has not been perfect, but he is not the problem in Chicago. He did an admirable job in tough circumstances.
The most persistent rumor in the NBA is that Vinny Del Negro is a goner. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone around the league — agent, executive or scout — who thinks Del Negro will return next season as coach of the Chicago Bulls.
The fact that Bulls management has not shot down such speculation or offered Del Negro even a whiff of public support has only strengthened that sentiment.
“He’s a dead man walking,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “He won’t be back.”
Del Negro and Bulls Vice President John Paxson are oil and water. They clash a lot, and recently it has turned physical.
Del Negro runs simple offensive sets, this is far from the sophistication of the triangle that won put the six banners in the rafters of the United Center. He makes bad decisions. But his team plays good defense and works hard for him.
But what is happening on the court is not what is getting him fired. His relationship with management is.
What will be interesting is to see how Del Negro does in his second head-coaching job. Because he will get one. And that team will play hard, too.
Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.
A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.
Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.
In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.
Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.
After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.
Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.
The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.
At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).
But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.
Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.
Report: Dennis Smith Jr. planned to have J. Cole dunk in dunk-contest routine
The dunk-contest scoring system – five judges ranking dunks on a scale of 6-10 – is plenty flawed. There should have been a larger difference between the Smith and Victor Oladipo dunks the Dallas point guard mentioned. But Oladipo didn’t advance, either. Personally, I thought the right two players – eventual-winner Donovan Mitchell and runner-up Larry Nance Jr. – advanced.
Maybe Smith was more upset about the missed opportunity – dunks (plural!) involving rapper J. Cole.
If Dennis had made it to the finals, Cole was going to throw him the alley-oop. But then the plan was, he was going to throw him the oop, Dennis would dunk it, and then Cole would catch the ball, and then he’d dunk it too. That was going to be the ill, craziest dunk-contest use of a prop or a person ever. But we never got to saw it, because they were holding out until the final round. They didn’t want to bring it out in the first round.
This certainly would have been unprecedented and cool. But unless Smith had something amazing planned for the alley-oop, the best element would have been Cole dunking. That would have upstaged Smith, who’s presumably the one being judged.
For what it’s worth, Cole can dunk. We’ve seen it in the celebrity game: