Are Griffin, CP3 comments the start of pressure on Vinny Del Negro?

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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:

 

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.

Rockets owner appears to leave seat, yell at refs during matchup with Thunder (VIDEO)

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The Houston Rockets are in control of their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and were up 3-1 heading into Tuesday night’s Game 5 in Texas.

That did not stop what appeared to be Rockets owner Leslie Alexander from complaining to NBA referees. During gameplay. While standing directly next to an official, some 20 feet from his courtside seat.

Via Twitter:

Congratulations are in order to Bill Kennedy, the official in question, for keeping his cool. Or perhaps he just was so surprised by some dude yelling in his ear from right next to him he didn’t know how to react.

Brandon Jennings no fan of the NBA’s new Awards Ceremony event

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Come June 26, Drake will be on stage in New York City, handing out the NBA’s awards — Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and so on. (We need to set an under/over on the number of players Drake hugs that night.)

The NFL does it. The NHL does it. And the NBA has decided to follow suit with a broadcast awards ceremony where everything — except the All-NBA Team — will be announced that night. It’s happening because the broadcast partners want it.

Brandon Jennings is not a fan. Here is what the Wizards’ point guard Tweeted:

Jennings took down a Tweet that said if he had won the award he would have wanted to get it with the organization and his teammates around him. (And no, he knows he’s not winning the award. If you were going to put that in the comments be more creative.)

There’s something to what Jennings is saying. The NBA award roll out was awkward at times in previous years, but it gave the fans a chance to celebrate the awards with their favorite player. Now, everyone will watch it unfold on television from a ballroom in NYC. That feels a little colder. Also, we will get to see the reaction of those who don’t win (particularly this season, where several players can make a strong case for MVP).

It will be interesting to see how this first year goes, and how the league tweaks it going forward. The more than two month gap between the end of the regular season and the awards could feel a bit awkward. But we’re not going to knock the idea until we’ve seen it in action.

Portland GM makes it official, Festus Ezeli will not be back with team next season

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This season the Portland Trail Blazers found their center of the future (and the present) in Jusuf Nurkic.

Which makes the next step fairly obvious: Portland will not pick up the option on Festus Ezeli for next season, GM Neil Olshay confirmed at the team exit meetings Tuesday.

Portland signed Ezeli on what they thought was a great contract (one-year, $7.4 million, with a team option for the second year) because he was coming off knee surgery last summer. However, Ezeli was never healthy, needed a second surgery, and never got on the court. After taking it slow over last summer he practiced with the team twice in mid-October, there was more swelling, so he pulled back.

This summer Ezeli will not draw any guaranteed money from teams, but some teams may take a look at him. Athletic bigs get a lot of chances in the NBA.

Gordon Hayward will play for Jazz in Game 5 without minutes restriction

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Gordon Hayward has averaged 20.5 points a game in these playoffs — and that includes a 40 point outburst in Game 3 — but what has been more impressive is he has done it efficiently, with a true shooting percentage of 61.1. While Joe Johnson and others have stepped up, Utah will need Hayward’s shot creation if they are going to win this series.

They will have it Tuesday night in Game 5.

After missing the second half of Game 4 due to food poisoning (he tried to play but was ineffective in the first half), he is back and ready to go this time around.

So is Rudy Gobert. The Jazz will be at full health, while the Clippers remain without Blake Griffin for the remainder of the playoffs.

Having those two back is a boost for the Jazz, they need to score more consistently against the Clippers, but the bigger key will be defensively trying to deal with Chris Paul on the pick-and-roll. He has been masterful this series, and the Jazz need to keep him in check to give their offense a chance.