The Clippers are struggling — 1-4 in their last five. The why is that two of the reasons they showed so much improvement at the start of the season have regressed — their defense has been a total mess the past week plus and DeAndre Jordan has reverted to his old self. That and defenses are now paying attention to Jamal Crawford as the sixth man. Teams have adjusted to the Clippers, now they have to counter those moves.
That has yet to happen. And after the Clippers ugliest loss of the season Monday night to the Hornets, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin made interesting comments as relayed by the Orange County Register. First Blake.
“We tried to change some of the things we’ve been successful doing,” Griffin said.
And CP3, via twitter:
CP3 said #Clippers lost to “a less-talented team that was well coached.”
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) November 27, 2012
Be careful reading too much into this last comment, Paul played for Monty Williams in New Orleans and has said in the past how much he respects him. This likely was not intended as a shot across the bow of Vinny Del Negro. Even if it can feel like one.
But the question remains — can Del Negro help turn this Clippers team around and help make them contenders?
And will Chris Paul — who is a free agent next summer and not been afraid to use that leverage to ask for players like Crawford to come to Los Angeles — be willing to use that on the coach?
He wasn’t last summer. Both Griffin (who got a max extension) and Paul had leverage but didn’t use it to pressure for a coaching change. Sources said that was in part because they didn’t want to be seen as coach killers, especially for a coach who had just taken the franchise as deep as it had gone in the playoffs in decades.
But that’s different than trusting him totally.
There is another dynamic here — reports are that then Clippers GM Neil Olshey wanted to make a coaching change in the middle of last season. He wasn’t given the okay. Now Olshey is gone (to Portland) and reports are owner Donald Sterling really likes Del Negro.
There is not a lot of pressure on Del Negro yet, the Clippers are not going to follow the pattern of their building-mates and try to make a pre-emptive move to change coaches. He is safe. But there will be pressure building on Del Negro if the Clippers do not take a step forward as the season wears on and into the playoffs.
And while the Clippers stars are not intentionally hammering their coach in public right now, their inadvertent comments seem to suggest all is not well in Clippers land. Which is obvious from the last five games.