Vinny Del Negro coached the Clippers to a franchise-best 56 regular season wins, yet he is a man without a contract for next season.
It’s been widely assumed that the team would go in another direction after L.A. was bounced from the playoffs in the first round, especially after getting out to a two games to none lead over the Memphis Grizzlies. It is believed by many that while Del Negro is not without talent as a head coach, he may not be strong enough in his craft to bring a talented team to that elite level of championship contention.
A report surfaced earlier this week, however, that Del Negro being replaced was far from a forgone conclusion, and that the organization is even considering bringing him back. Whatever his ultimate fate in Los Angeles turns out to be, it is expected to be decided fairly quickly now that a meeting has been scheduled with Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
From Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com:
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has scheduled to meet with head coach Vinny Del Negro over the weekend to discuss Del Negro’s fate with the organization, a league source informed CSNNW.com.
According to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation, says the two will meet in Los Angeles and a decision is anticipated shortly after.
Sterling’s fondness for Del Negro is one of the main reasons why he’s still being considered, but you have to believe an even bigger one will be what Chris Paul thinks of all this. Paul is an unrestricted free agent, and the Clippers will place plenty of weight behind the superstar point guard’s wishes in terms of whether or not he believes Del Negro is the right man for the job.
Part of the reason Del Negro may be brought back on a short-term deal (even if it’s just for one more year) is the lack of big-name, experienced head coaches on the open market. Most of the guys being talked about for openings around the league are assistant coaches currently, and it might be hard to justify taking a chance on an unproven talent when the Clippers organization already knows it can get at least a serviceable job out of Del Negro, who might even show some improvement after learning from some of this season’s mistakes.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.