Clippers set to hire Vinny Del Negro as coach

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delnegro.jpgTwo years ago, the Chicago Bulls were faced with a choice: the experienced and tactically wise Dwane Casey, or the energetic newcomer who had no experience but had a plan for developing young talent in Vinny Del Negro.

Two years later, the Clippers were faced with the exact same choice — and they had gotten to see Vinny Del Negro in action.

They made the exact same choice.

Vinny Del Negro is expected to be the new coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, as Kevin Arnovitz reported over at ESPNLosAngeles.com. The two sides have a deal in principle, but the details have to be worked out.

Del Negro pitched player development in his meetings with the Clippers, coming in with plans for each player. That impressed on a Clippers team that will be very young next year — Blake Griffin will be key and he is essentially a rookie (after missing his rookie season with a knee injury), Eric Gordon, plus just drafted forward Al-Farouq Aminu and guard Eric Bledsoe. Outside of Chris Kaman and Baron Davis, there is very little experience on this team.

Davis may be the key to Del Negro’s success. When focused and motivated, he remains one of the better point guards in the league. But he was frustrated under the controlling Mike Dunleavy and never seemed to care during the Chris Hughes era. Heck, let’s be honest — Davis has had issues with every coach he’s had since Paul Silas. If Del Negro can get buy in from Davis — real buy in and effort nightly — the Clippers become a much better team. But that seems a long shot based on history (and that one would not be on Del Negro).

Del Negro was not a tactical specialist with the Bulls — they ran a lot of top-of-the-key pick and rolls, their plays out of timeouts were unimpressive, and their sets were pretty basic. Teams could adjust to them and did. Granted, Del Negro may have more raw talent now, but he did not utilize what he had all that well in Chicago. That led to his rocky tenure.

But the Bulls also played hard for him. Players like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah developed under him. He had his supporters and his teams made the playoffs both years.

Still, it feels like the Clippers failed to learn from history.

Scottie Pippen on LeBron James, Michael Jordan: “It’s not a fair comparison”

AP
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The battle has, stupidly, raged on between supporters of Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Both sides seem to believe their preference is irrefutably the choice for the best player in NBA history.

And because they did not play in the same era, the question will never be answered. No doubt in 50 years they will write columns about Jordan vs. LeBron, just like their fathers, and their father’s fathers before them.

James has certainly seemed to take a bit of a leap in the eyes of the NBA community this season, likely because of his wonderful performance at age 33. He’s also single-handedly won two playoff series this year. It’s been incredible.

But LeBron rising above Jordan has also brought out some more reasonable takes. Former Chicago Bulls legend and Jordan running mate Scottie Pippen spoke up recently about the debate, giving a measured analysis that I think is pretty strong.

In short, Pippen basically said you can’t compare the two because of the eras, the style, and the fact they just don’t play the same position (if LeBron even has a position, that is).

Via Twitter:

That sounds right to me.

Cavaliers’ Kendrick Perkins not into “all that new stuff” like Chewbacca

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Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.

Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.

After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).

That’s vintage Perkins.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

Associated Press
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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.