Clippers to retain Vinny Del Negro as coach next season

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Vinny Del Negro — who oversaw arguably the best Clippers season ever but left lingering doubts about whether he could take them any farther — will get a chance to prove he can.

The Clippers announced Tuesday that they have picked up the option year on Del Negro’s contract.

Chris Paul signed off on this, or at least he and his agency (CAA) didn’t stand in the way of it. No way it happens otherwise. Paul is entering the last year of his contract as well and the Clippers have to keep CP3 far more than they need to keep any coach. Also, Blake Griffin’s first extension to his rookie contract will be offered up this summer so he had some leverage. If they had asked for someone like Stan Van Gundy or Jeff Van Gundy or even Mike Malone of Golden State they could have pressured the Clippers to make a move. It was reported that midseason GM Neil Olshey was ready to make a move (he has denied this, as he must).

I think Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN said it best (via twitter):

LAC buys itself 12 months. VDN a favorite of ownership. Paul/Griffin camps don’t feel strongly enough to be labeled coach-killers.

It’s a very Clippers owner Donald Sterling move to go with the guy he likes (and isn’t paying as much as he would have to an elite coach). That said Del Negro is far from safe. Next summer the Clippers need to get Paul re-signed and if he feels the team can’t win with Del Negro the coach will be gone. Without hesitation.

Del Negro led the Clippers to a 40-26 record and they knocked off the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. For a Clippers team used to planning lottery parties this time of year, it was a huge step forward.

But the Clippers run a simplistic offense that relies heavily on the pick-and-roll and Paul. When the Spurs in the second round cut that off and forced the Clippers to their counters and other sets, the offense stalled out. While management likely chalks that up to learning to win as a team, a lot of fans and others pointed at Del Negro’s offense.

And the Clippers were an inconsistent defensive team this year.

The job Del Negro was hired to do — help a young team grow on the path to winning — changed the day Paul arrived and the Clippers had the makeup of a contender on the rise. The Clippers are now where the Thunder were a year or two ago. The question now is if Del Negro is really enough of a coach to lift the Clippers up to the next level next season.

In Chicago Del Negro seemed to hit a barrier that Tom Thibodeau (and some good roster additions) broke through. Del Negro gets a second chance to prove he is that guy, but if he’s not the Clippers have set themselves back. And that one year setback could cost them very dearly.

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.