Tag: Vinny Del Negro

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Four

Clippers taking their time with coach Vinny Del Negro


It is a question Clippers management has been asking itself since the day after they traded for Chris Paul:

Is Vinny Del Negro the right coach to lead this team as a contender?

The Clippers have an option on Del Negro for next season but are not making any quick decisions, GM Neil Olshey told the Los Angeles Times. He said he wouldn’t really discuss it.

“I think we deserve the same courtesy everybody else gets. … [Atlanta Hawks Coach] Larry Drew got his option picked up a few days [after their season ended]. … I think Vinny did a great job, and that’s as far as I’m going to go today.”

Del Negro said “All that stuff works itself out,” and added that he was “not going to get into my contract stuff.”

The Clippers had a good season — they were 40-26, the five seed in the West, and they advanced to the second round of the playoffs. The Clippers grew in the playoffs and for stretches this season played good defense.

But his pick-and-roll heavy offense was slowed when he ran into a real contender in San Antonio. The Clippers defense was inconsistent all season and was expose by the Spurs (although, to be fair, the way the Spurs are playing on offense they are going to expose any and everyone). The thing is, Del Negro was hired to do one job — coach up a young team — but ended up in a totally different job the day Chris Paul arrived.

It’s easy to imagine the Clippers taking the next step in their evolution with someone like Stan Van Gundy were brought in as coach. But would the players want him (he’s not loved around the league) and would owner Donald Sterling pay the price tag for him?

Olshey needs to sit down with Chris Paul and discuss Del Negro. Not that CP3 should get to make the call, but Paul is the heart of this team and a free agent after next season. You need to keep him, and keep him happy. Plus, there are few players with a higher basketball IQ in the game. Ask him, listen to his advice.

Just don’t expect a quick move.

Clippers players say “it’s not him, it’s me” about Del Negro

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro watches a free throw during their NBA game against Minnesota

One of the rights of passage for an embattled coach — and make no mistake, Vinny Del Negro is an embattled coach, even the most reasoned of Clippers writers are talking change now — is for the players to rally to the defense of their coach.

The “it’s not you, it’s me” lines pour out. Players throw themselves on the sword.

That’s what the Clippers players were doing after they lost to the Hornets on Thursday night. Here are the comments, via the Los Angeles Times.

“We’re still behind him,” Blake Griffin said…”It’s not that. It’s us. It’s on me. I’ve got to find a way and we’ve got to find a way to put the fun back in it, the fun we had the first how many games and we were just going out and playing.”

“Coaches come and go in this league,” Kenyon Martin said. “We all know players make this league. But until we go out and play, we can’t always point the finger at the coach. That ain’t always the issue.”

The Clippers effort has not been great of late, which in part does fall on the coach. But even when it is, as it was for most of the loss to the Hornets Thursday, it doesn’t mask the team’s problems. They don’t play defense (23rd in the league in efficiency). They foul too much. And their offense is simple and predictable — defenses have adjusted and the Clippers never go to counters.

Right now in the West just four games separate the four seed Dallas Mavericks and the 11 seed Minnesota Timberwolves. It’s tight and it’s not going to take much to fall completely out of the playoffs. The Clippers are the six seed as you read this, but just one game ahead of the nine-seed Jazz. If the Clippers don’t find a way to shake things up and fast, they will be home for the playoffs. And that most certainly would mean Del Negro is out.

New night, same problems haunt Clippers in loss to Hornets

Blake Griffin

Three games in three nights. Three losses. Each seemingly uglier than the last.

Right now, the Clippers are not a good basketball team, and coach Vinny Del Negro could pay the price for that.

A night after Del Negro’s postgame tirade at his team after it was blown out by the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Clippers came out with a new energy in New Orleans on Thursday but were haunted by the same old problems — they don’t defend well (the Hornets shot 57.6 percent), they foul too much (the Hornets had 34 free throws) and when Chris Paul and the offense can’t bail them out they struggle.

The Clippers’ offense failed them late with 11 fourth-quarter points and the New Orleans Hornets won 97-90.

What has to turn the stomach of Clippers fans — and likely Clippers management — is how the less talented Hornets played with far more fire and passion. That is a feisty team that coach Monty Williams has executing to its strengths — Jarrett Jack (17 points, 9 assists) and Chris Kaman (20 points, 10 rebounds).

The feistiness got a little out of hand in the fourth quarter when Jason Smith put a full on body check on Blake Griffin as the Clippers star went up for a layup. Four Clippers including DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul ran over to Smith (who went back by the stands, which had to make David Stern queasy) but cooler heads prevailed.

Smith was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul and you can bet a multi-game suspension is coming. This hit was more reminiscent of something the Saints got in trouble for than the Hornets.

But while that put a new fire under the Clippers, it didn’t solve their execution problems.

Which may well tie into a report that Del Negro has lost the locker room. From Chris Broussard of ESPN:

Most of the players, according to sources, believe it’s time for a change. They cite the uncertainty of Del Negro’s rotation as a major problem…

Beyond that, players have complained that Del Negro’s offensive and defensive schemes are too basic and predictable and they say he plays favorites when handing out criticism, according to the sources. They say while he refuses to harshly criticize stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, he does not hold back in jumping on the team’s lesser players.

“That’s a big problem,” one player said. “The best coaches jump on whoever deserves it, no matter who it is.”

Del Negro’s job changed when the Chris Paul trade happened before the season — they instantly went from a young team that Del Negro was supposed to help grow to a contender. There were questions in Clipper camp then if he was the right coach for that job, but he was going to be given a chance. He was going to get the season (his contract has a team option for next season).

“Vinny has lost the team,” one source said. “They don’t want to play hard for him.”

Even when they do, their flaws and execution betray them.

Something needs to change with the Clippers. They are 7-12 in their last 19 games and while they are still going to make the playoffs in the West they are fast becoming the team everyone hopes to draw.

It’s hard to see how that changes without a major shakeup.

Clippers crossroads: Is Vinny Del Negro’s job in danger?

Vinny Del Negro

The Clippers are regressing.

They have gone 7-11 since Chauncey Billups went down with his Achilles injury and they have looked a mess, including a blowout loss to the Thunder Wednesday. The Clippers have not played good defense all season but early on their offense was able to overwhelm teams — Chris Paul in the pick-and-roll is one of the league’s great weapons.

Paul and Blake Griffin continue to play well but the cast around them has been a mess — in their last 10 games Clippers not named CP3 or Griffin are shooting just 39.5 percent. The team’s rotations are a mess — Bobby Simmons was finishing games for a while, Eric Bledsoe has played well off the bench but got a DNP-CD the other day, Randy Foye went from starting to DNP-CD when Nick Young arrived. Roles seem in flux.

Coach Vinny Del Negro is searching for answers, but there are whispers he may be seen as part of the problem. Bill Simmons of ESPN and Grantland — not known as a guy who breaks news but has done so in the past including Chris Paul to the Clippers — tweeted this Wednesday:

Heard today that Vinny Del Negro is on super-thin, could-go-any-day ice. A blowout loss in OKC tonight won’t exactly help… 2 things going in VDN’s favor: 1) Sterling is too cheap to pay for 2 coaches, and 2) can’t hire an interim coach for a playoff contender.

This somewhat falls in line with what I was told earlier in the season — the Clippers were in evaluation mode with Del Negro, they weren’t sure if he was the right guy but they wanted to give him a chance to prove he could do it, through the end of the season. However, that was before this current run of losses and ugly play, which may have changed the dynamics.

To be fair, the job Del Negro was hired to do has changed. He was hired to coach a young team led by Blake Griffin that needed to learn how to be professionals and start to win at the NBA level. The arrival of Chris Paul turned this team into a potential contender — now the job is about deep playoff runs and getting players to mesh around the team’s stars. About putting in sets that maximize strengths and hide weaknesses. And getting everyone to play defense. There is no evidence Del Negro can do all that.

He is clearly frustrated and went off after the loss to the Thunder Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Vinny Del Negro was mad — mad enough to be heard yelling at his Clippers in the locker room after the game, mad enough to admit to the media that he expressed his anger at his players….

“I’m big into how you approach games and how you compete,” Del Negro said. “We have to get the mentality of we have to play a certain way to win right now. And it has to be through our defense because we lack certain things. In order for us to score enough points to take pressure off of us, we have to be able to guard better.

“But our overall approach and everything to the game has to be better. That’s what is disappointing to me. We have to do a better job of being in the moment from the get-go and not waiting to get into the game.”

The question is, can Del Negro get this team to do those things? More and more it doesn’t look like he can.

Clippers hold hour-long, closed-door meeting after ugly loss

Vinny Del Negro, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin

The Clippers blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead at home to a Phoenix Suns team playing without Steve Nash or Grant Hill. That is pretty much the textbook definition of an ugly loss.

The Clippers have had a number of losses lately, most accompanied by some poor end-of-game execution. Take the ball out Chris Paul’s hands at the end of games — as the Celtics did Monday night — and the Clippers do not quickly go to a counter like an experienced team. They just flounder. Then after the game coach Vinny Del Negro will talk about “flow” and “effort.”

There is something amiss. Which is why the Clippers met for an hour with the doors closed after an ugly loss to the Suns Thursday night. Fellow NDHS grad Arash Markazi wrote about it at ESPNLosAngeles.com:

“It was how we lost, it looked like we almost tried to lose the game,” Clippers guard Chris Paul said. “When you’re at home and you are where we are in the standings, you can’t lose games like that. There’s no way we should have lost that game. We had that game won.”

Several players stood up in the meetings and voiced their concern about issues on the court, ranging from defensive assignment to communication.

“It was very productive,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. “It wasn’t a point the finger at somebody meeting, it was good. We got veterans in this locker room. I can’t say that it would have gone the same way last year. It wasn’t about guys getting their feelings hurt or guys trying to hurt people’s feelings. This is real. We got a good team and we got to do better.”

I still think the Clippers are now where the Thunder were a year or so ago — a good team learning how to win, how to be elite. This is part of that process, and like any growth process it’s not painless. They are going to be awkward and uncoordinated at times like a 15 year old who had a six-inch growth spurt. But they can get through this and be a very dangerous team in the playoffs.

Whether Vinny Del Negro is the coach who can lead them through it is another question altogether.