There have been no shortage of people around the Clippers wondering if Vinny Del Negro really had the coaching chops to lead this team to new heights. And so far he has — they reached the second round of the playoffs last season for just the second time since coming to Los Angeles, then this season they won broke the 50-win barrier and won the Pacific Division for the first time ever.
But are the Clippers doing that because of or in spite of Del Negro?
They run simplistic offensive sets and their defense throws a lot of different looks at you but they don’t execute any of them at an elite level. Yet they win. They put on a show. And if you’ve got Chris Paul on your team, shouldn’t you let him run the offense?
Del Negro’s future with the franchise is wobbly — he is in the last year of his contract and if the Clippers can’t get past a very good Grizzlies team in the first round the blame could fall on the coach.
Del Negro’s status was discussed by T.J. Simers in the Los Angeles Times (in a column defending the coach).
The front office turned sour on Del Negro earlier this season when he chatted with Celtics’ boss Danny Ainge about a deal to acquire Kevin Garnett. They felt it wasn’t his place to do so. Hard feelings remain.
First off, one hint from Chris Paul either way could decide Del Negro’s fate.
Paul is a fierce competitor, he wants to win. Badly. He doesn’t want to be a coach killer but if he thinks the team lacks discipline or offensive set diversity and that is keeping them from advancing, he’ll hint to management it’s time for a change.
If the Clippers don’t get out of the first round, he may not have to.