Clippers owner, GM say Vinny Del Negro’s job safe

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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.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.

Kings hire former WNBA Seattle coach Jenny Boucek as assistant

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The NBA now has a third female assistant coach.

The first was Becky Hammon, who has been part of Gregg Popovich’s Spurs staff for several years (and has coached their Summer League team). The second was Nancy Leiberman, who has been on the staff in Sacramento for a couple of seasons now.

Now the Kings have hired former Seattle Storm coach Jenny Boucek as an assistant coach on Dave Joerger’s staff. She will work as an assistant player development coach.

A former WNBA player in the league’s inaugural season, the past three years she has coached the WNBA’s Seattle Storm (she was fired midway through the last season), and prior to that had been the head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs from 2007-09.