Reports were swirling last week that Vinny Del Negro had lost the locker room and his job was in danger. The Clippers were struggling — they hadn’t played much defense all season and teams had adjusted to their offensive sets.
But the guys who would pull the trigger on a Del Negro firing told T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times they do not plan to do so. That starts at the top with owner Donald Sterling.
“I like him,” said Sterling. “I usually follow the advice of my people, and I think they care for him, like him and want him to succeed. And I think he will.”
Then there is GM Neil Olshey.
“I see absolutely no reason why there would be a coaching change based on where the guys are now,” Olshey said. “I think everybody built us up into something because we got out to such a great start and the minute we didn’t live up to it for a short period of time everyone wanted to act like the Apocalypse was upon us.”
It doesn’t sound like they are making a move this season, although what are they going to say publicly anyway? Votes of confidence like this carry little real weight if a team keeps losing.
The team has an option on Del Negro’s contract for next season, a change this summer has always seemed more likely. Olshey tried to play that off noting that even Thunder coach Scotty Brooks doesn’t have a deal for next season. But his team is playing like a contender — the Clippers have contender talent but are not at that level.
There are coaches out on the market — Nate McMillan, Flip Saunders, and Mike D’Antoni among others — who seem more suited to the task of coaching a contender. Del Negro will get the first shot at it, but there are guys waiting in the wings if he can’t live up to that standard. (Whether Sterling would pay top dollar for an elite coach is another question.)
In the end it comes down to keeping Chris Paul — he is a free agent in the summer of 2013 and has options. The Clippers will offer a max deal but if he doesn’t think the franchise is committed to winning he may well pack up and move on. It’s up to the Clippers to show him that things are different with this franchise now.
DALLAS (AP) The Dallas Mavericks have signed rookie forward Ben Bentil to a 10-day contract to fill one of the two spots from a roster shake-up that came at the trading deadline.
The addition of Bentil on Sunday puts the Ghana native in position to make his NBA debut. The former Providence player was drafted in the second round by Boston but was waived during the preseason.
Bentil has played in the NBA Development League and in China since the Celtics let him go. He played 13 games in two stints with Fort Wayne in the D-League, interrupted by an 11-game stint with Xinjiang in China.
The Mavericks had two roster spots after sending Andrew Bogut and Justin Anderson to Philadelphia in a deal for Nerlens Noel and waiving guard Deron Williams.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Marquese Chriss got into a bit of a scuffle on Sunday, with the Milwaukee Bucks star earning a technical foul for his role in the hubbub.
It happened midway through the first quarter in Milwaukee after Antetokounmpo blocked Chriss on defense, then charged down the floor on the fastbreak.
Antetokounmpo drew the foul on Chriss, who was bumping with the Milwaukee wing with his arms up and his elbow parallel to the floor.
Chriss’ right elbow was above Antetokounmpo’s head, and there appeared to be incidental contact between the two players.
That, and a bump on the floor from Chriss’ leg sent Antetokounmpo off as the two ended up against the stanchion with Antetokounmpo pushing at Chriss.
After review, Chriss was assessed the foul and Antetokounmpo was given a technical.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert has been fined $25,000 for making contact with an official during the third quarter of Friday’s game between the Jazz and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The incident occured with 5:19 left in the third after a drive to the bucket by Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks star was driving past Jazz wing Joe Johnson, who fouled Antetokounmpo as he went up with a shot over Gobert in the paint.
A foul was whistled on Johnson, but it appeared that Gobert thought the call was initially on him despite his up-and-down contest.
That sent Gobert flying after the official, where he made slight contact, earning him an immediate technical foul.
Video of the incident was released by the NBA and can be viewed here.
Vlade Divac has started the clock on his own success or failure as an NBA GM with the Sacramento Kings. Speaking with the Sacramento Bee this week in a long Q & A, Divac said that if the DeMarcus Cousins trade hasn’t put the Kings in a better position in two years he will step down.
The trade that sent Cousins and teammate Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans returned Buddy Hield, a first round pick with protections, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, and a second round pick.
Via the Sacramento Bee:
Q: Well, the pressure is on you now. It’s pretty clear that Divac, not Ranadive, is making the personnel decisions. Some people still can’t believe Ranadive actually stepped aside and allowed you to trade his favorite player.
A: That’s my job, and I take responsibility. And I totally understand why some fans would be upset. They supported DeMarcus, and I like DeMarcus a lot. But I believe we are going to be in a better position in two years. I want to hear again from these same people in two years. If I’m right, great. If I’m wrong, I’ll step down. But if I go down, I’m going down my way.
Divac also mentioned that he approached Cousins’ management team about anger therapy, and again harped on the move as being the right thing for the “culture” he wants to build in Sacramento.
The clock is ticking.