Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
The Clippers have the second-best record in the West: Are you convinced that Vinny Del Negro is a good coach?
Steve Aschburner: No, Vinny Del Negro does not spring to mind when I conjure a list of the NBA’s good coaches. Unless, y’know, we’re going with the Little League, everybody-gets-a-trophy definition of “good.” Yes, Del Negro has one of the 30 jobs as head coach at basketball’s elite level. He is considered a very good communicator and he seems to have his team ready to play. He hasn’t shown himself to be all that creative offensively, yet defense hasn’t been a calling card for his crews either. Now he might be out of sync with the sudden exuberance over the Clippers and an easy variable to change (i.e., fire) – though losing Chauncey Billups might dial down the expectations there.
Fran Blinebury: Well, he’s been good enough and smart enough not to get in the way of everything that Chris Paul has been doing. We won’t get a definitive answer on his coaching ability until the playoffs when game-planning, adjustments and late game situations are magnified over the course of a seven-game series (or three).
Scott Howard-Cooper: He is no X-and-O mastermind, no. But he has developed young talent. Guys play hard for him. They were sound defensively last season, which counts for a lot, and should improve on a bad start in that department this time. Coaching is motivating and driving talent, not simply Red on Roundball. Del Negro has done all that.
Shaun Powell: We won’t know about Vinny until the postseason, especially now, after Chauncey Billups pulled up lame. Once in the playoffs, bad coaches can’t hide. Their strategies, adjustments and motivational tactics are all magnified in a seven-game series, which can become sort of a chess match. Ultimately, the Clippers must do more than throw lob passes, which will get you through December-April safely, and hope their smallish backcourt isn’t exposed.
John Schuhmann: Right now, I think they’re mostly getting by on talent. They rank fifth in the league offensively and 24th defensively. They’ve had as much practice time as any team in the league, but their defense has been far too inconsistent. They foul too much, are bad at defending the 3-point line, and are a below-average defensive rebounding team, despite their athleticism on the frontline. I’m not sure he’ll be able to do it, but Del Negro has plenty of time to clean that stuff up. If he’s a good coach, the Clippers will be a much better defensive team come April.
Sekou Smith: Good or bad is always a relative term when discussing coaches in the NBA. And considering the track record of guys being named Coach of the Year one season and canned the next, it’s hard to come up with any concrete evidence one way or another. That said, Del Negro’s reckoning will come later, in the playoffs when he has to match wits with George Karl or Gregg Popovich or someone of that ilk. He’ll get a chance to prove any haters he has wrong and confirm what his supporters already believe they know about him. It certainly helps a coach’s Q-rating to have a loaded squad to work with.