When anonymously sourced reports surfaced that Chris Paul wasn’t the least bit happy with being tagged as the one responsible for the Clippers parting ways with Vinny Del Negro, the logical move would be for the team to reach out to Paul directly — and privately — to let him know that wasn’t the case.
But logic and the Clippers have never played well together, so the franchise embarrassed itself yet again.
Because both team owner Donald Sterling and the departed Del Negro each had their own way of hinting that Paul was indeed behind the decision — and again, even if Paul didn’t go to bat for Del Negro, that silence still qualifies as saying something — the team felt that it needed to respond publicly to the reports of their unrestricted free agent point guard being ‘angry’ with the way this whole thing has been playing out.
From Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com:
“The decision not to extend a contract to Vinny Del Negro was an organizational decision from the top down,” Clippers vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks said. “Our front office evaluated the season and Vinny’s three years here before making this move, and our conclusion and feeling was that we needed a change.”
“Our goal is to compete for a championship and I felt that in order for us to keep improving, we needed to make this move to help us achieve that goal,” Sacks said. “With the talent we have on our roster, it’s not our goal just to make the playoffs. It’s our goal to compete for a championship, and we need to find the right person who can lead us there.”
All of that might be true, and Del Negro wasn’t without his flaws. But if the team truly was concerned about how Paul would be perceived throughout this process, they would have said these things from the very beginning, and repeated them on a loop to any and all media outlets willing to listen.
By jumping in after the fact like this, the organization is coming from a position of weakness. Those in charge are letting it be known that they will do whatever is necessary to placate Paul to make sure he’ll re-sign with the Clippers in free agency.
That’s not the wrong thing to do, but this is the wrong way to go about it. Paul should take the way the Clippers have handled this whole thing as a sign that they still aren’t ready to compete at the level of of the elite, and look elsewhere for where he’ll spend his future.
He won’t, of course, because the Los Angeles market is too great of a place to play, and because he can get a max contract from the Clippers while playing for a team that’s relatively stocked with talent. But the organization groveling at Paul’s feet and responding to his every reported whim publicly is not the way to build a long-term, two-way relationship full of mutual respect with its cornerstone superstar.