Posts Tagged ‘Donald Sterling’

Clips, Nets Pressure Haughty Neighbors

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – In every metropolis boasting a pair of pro teams in the same sport exists an indisputable historical hierarchy.

The Yankees rule the Mets; the Giants squash the A’s; the White Sox won a World Series in the past century, yet the Cubs own Chicago; and Los Angeles will bleed Dodger Blue no matter what name the Angels give themselves. The Jets fall in line behind the Giants and, of course, the Nets bow to the Knicks while the Clippers kiss all those Lakers’ rings.

“They have a great chance to compete for a title,” Knicks Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith, speaking of the intruding Brooklyn Nets, told reporters at his charity golf event. “But we’re still the marquee team in New York.”

True, and as mentioned above, indisputable.

But… on both coasts, the NBA’s two most valuable franchises are being pressured like never before by their once-laughingstock, suddenly serious neighbors. The billion-dollar Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets’ black-and-white color scheme have proven popular in the borough, while owner Mikhail Prokhorov‘s deep pockets [which could shell out upwards of $70 million in luxury tax alone after next season and could pose significant cap/roster issues down the road] have delivered a team that, on paper, looks to have surpassed the Knicks as title contenders.

One of the Nets’ newest members said Thursday it’s time for the apple to turn in NYC.

“Everybody knows how much I disliked the Knicks when I was with the Celtics, but I think it’s grown to another level,” Paul Pierce told ESPN. “I think it’s time for the Nets to start running this city.”

That’s not going to happen, but there’s no doubt the spotlight will shine brighter than ever on the Nets with Pierce and Kevin Garnett joining Deron Williams, as well as in L.A. where notoriously cheap owner Donald Sterling has seen the light in his advanced age, and where there’s now a three-to-one superstar ratio favoring the Clippers [Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, coach Doc Rivers] over the Lakers [Kobe Bryant].

If the upstart Nets and Clippers get off to hot starts and the Knicks and Lakers don’t, the establishment will be subject to a changing-of-the-guard, 24/7 news-cycle grilling.

In key measurements of popularity and franchise value, the Nets and Clippers are gaining ground on, if not stealing fans and dollars from, their virtually impenetrable big brothers. In 2012-13 merchandise sales, the Nets, who have long languished in this department, spiked to No. 4 [with help from hipsters taking to the color scheme] behind the Knicks, Lakers and Heat.

The Clippers checked in at No. 8 for a second consecutive season, not coincidentally the two seasons with Paul on board. And it was the Clippers, not the Lakers, joining the Heat as the only two teams with two players [Paul, 9th, and Griffin, 10th] ranked in the top 10 for jersey sales.

Attendance has jumped for both clubs, too. The Nets ranked 30th, 28th and 30th during their final three seasons in New Jersey, drawing barely more than a half-million fans in 2009-10. They ranked 13th last season, their first in Brooklyn, attracting more than 704,000 fans to Barclays [capacity 17,732], nearly 95 percent capacity, compared to the 780,353 that caught the Knicks at typically sold-out MSG [capacity 19,033].

After the Nets acquired Pierce, Garnett and Jason Terry in the stunning trade with the Boston Celtics and signed Andrei Kirilenko, the club announced almost a month ago it had sold more than $3 million in new full season tickets, bringing it close to burning through its allotment.

At Staples Center, where 16 Lakers championship banners hang, the Clippers officially outdrew their co-tenant in each of the last two seasons, actually playing to more than 100 percent capacity. Capacity at a Clippers game [19,060] is slightly more than a Lakers game [18,997] and the Clippers benefit from two home against the Lakers [both drew more than capacity -- 20,179 and 19,768, while both games with the Lakers home games drew the usual Lakers sellout of 18,997].

All in all, the Clippers increased their total attendance by more than 118,000 from 2009-10 and by more than 50,000 from 2010-11, the season before Paul arrived.

It makes for a more valuable franchise. According to Forbes’ January valuation report, the Lakers and Knicks became the NBA’s first two billion-dollar franchises last year with New York valued at $1.1 billion and Brooklyn a close second at $1 billion.

The previously depressed Nets and Clippers made headway. Spiked by the move to Brooklyn, the Nets came in at No. 9, a 48 percent change from the previous year [when it ranked No. 14]. Forbes estimated the Nets’ value jumped from $357 million to $530 million. The Clips’ value increased from $324 million [No. 20] to $430 million [No. 18], a 33 percent change.

While all this won’t threaten the Knicks’ and Lakers’ air-tight thrones, for two long-wallowing and overshadowed franchises, these are rare power moves in a promising, and profitable, direction.

Report: Rivers To Clippers Done Deal?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Doc Rivers coaching the Los Angeles Clippers is apparently back on and, this time, it’s all but a done deal.

The Clippers have reached an agreement in principle with Rivers to become their coach in exchange for a future first-round Draft pick, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, salvaging a week’s worth of talks by reviving and then reaching the deal by Sunday afternoon:

The Los Angeles Clippers have reached an agreement in principle to send an unprotected 2015 first-round draft pick to the Boston Celtics for the rights to hire coach Doc Rivers, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Rivers has agreed to a three-year, $21 million deal with the Clippers, league sources said.

Talks started again on Sunday when the Clippers offered the Celtics the first-round pick to free Rivers from his contract with Boston, sources said.

The NBA still needs to grant approval to the deal, but the teams have been led to believe that won’t be a problem, sources said.

The Clippers and Rivers believe Rivers’ arrival will solidify star free agent Chris Paul‘s commitment to sign a five-year contract extension in July, sources said.

Rivers told the Clippers that he was no longer interested in the position on Friday, but pressure from Paul stayed strong on Clippers management over the weekend and Los Angeles reconsidered its unwillingness to give Boston a first-round pick, sources said.

The key language to pay attention to here is that the “league has to approve the deal,” something that didn’t seem possible when Rivers was linked to the trade between the Clippers and Celtics that would have also included Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan, Celtics All-Star Kevin Garnett and future draft picks.

Concerns about Clippers owner Donald Sterling‘s willingness to pay top dollar for a coach will be silenced with this deal, as Rivers will receive the exact same compensation from the Clippers he was due from the Celtics.

This move also signifies the change in direction that has been rumored for the Celtics, who could be in the process of turning the page completely on their “Big 3″ era. Celtics boss Danny Ainge is preparing for a franchise rebuild that not only does not include Rivers or Garnett, but also veteran All-Star forward Paul Pierce, whose entire career has been spent in Boston.

If that is the case, this is a loud start to what could be a wild summer for all involved. The Clippers have plans of their own, designs on being a championship-caliber team for the 2013-14 season in what should be a wide-open Western Conference race.

Rivers, Paul and All-Star forward Blake Griffin are excellent pieces to start with. But the Clippers have their sights set on even more splashy moves. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see how much of what they are planning actually gets done.

Report: Clippers Targeting Pacers’ Shaw



MIAMI – The Los Angeles Clippers might have solution to whatever problems have been created with prized point guard Chris Paul recently.

Former Lakers and current Indiana Pacers’ assistant Brian Shaw is at the top of the Los Angeles Clippers’ wish list, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, along with Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. One of these guys could help give the Clippers some much-needed stability in their coaching situation with free agency less than a month away:

Shaw is considered the team’s top choice at this point, multiple sources said. His youth, championship experience with the Los Angeles Lakers and player development skills, which have been showcased by his work with Indiana’s Paul George and Lance Stephenson, have intrigued the Clippers management and players. He also received strong reviews from Clippers forward Lamar Odom, who played under Shaw with the Lakers.

But since no candidate has formally interviewed for the position, or met with Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the situation remains fluid. The Clippers front office has done extensive background work on a handful of candidates: Shaw, Hollins, former Cleveland coach Byron Scott, former Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy and Denver head coach George Karl.

Van Gundy was previously near the top of the Clippers search, but talks with him have cooled recently, sources said. Karl is also still under consideration, but the Clippers have yet to formally ask permission from Denver to speak with him. Karl, the NBA’s Coach of the Year after leading the starless Nuggets to a franchise-record 57 wins, will enter the final year of his contract with a new general manager at the helm, following Masai Ujiri‘s departure to Toronto. A source said Saturday that his situation in Denver remains “unsettled.”

Convincing Shaw to leave the Pacers for the Clippers would be a coup for the franchise that has bungled the process since coach Vinny Del Negro was let go. But they have to move quickly where Shaw is concerned since he’s at the top of Brooklyn’s search list as well. Both jobs offer some interesting specifics for a first-time coach.

The respective owners, the Clippers’ Donald Sterling and the Nets’ Mikhail Prokhorov, have very different styles. And you better believe that will be a factor in Shaw’s decision-making process, depending on how quickly things process on both fronts.

CP3 Steamed At Clippers, As He Should Be!





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If this is the Los Angeles Clippers’ way of wooing Chris Paul, they might want to come up with a new strategy.

Hanging your superstar out to dry by indicating he’s the reason coach Vinny Del Negro was not retained and that whatever other decisions are made rest on his shoulders is not a sound strategy. That’s especially true with Paul just a month away from the full-court press of free agency from suitors around the league.

Paul is reportedly upset about being thrown into the middle of this Del Negro mess, by Clippers owner Donald Sterling of all people, and he should be upset. CP3 has been mindful throughout this entire process to stay clear of any controversy regarding the Clippers’ front-office plans. Both he and All-Star forward Blake Griffin have been thrust into this drama, as the main culprits in the decision-making process that they are believed to have influenced, despite no evidence to support this.

Chris Broussard of ESPN The Magazine reports, via sources, that Paul is upset that he’s being portrayed as some sort of coach killer:

“He’s angry right now and his anger is directed toward the Clippers organization,” the source said. “Chris is a man of principle and if he feels like you’ve gone against his principles, it will affect how he feels about you. He’s very agitated that his name has been put out there as the reason for Vinny’s firing. He had nothing to do with it.”

This fire started last week, when Del Negro was fired and T.J. Simers of The Los Angeles Times put Sterling on the hot seat about the decision. Sterling didn’t name names, but he made it clear that the wishes of the players were a part of the process:

“The coach is a wonderful man, and I’m sad about the whole thing,” Sterling said.

“Was this done,” I asked, “just to hang on to Chris Paul?”

“I always want to be honest and not say anything that is not true,” Sterling said. “So I’d rather not say anything.

“But you know, the coach did a really good job. I think he did. And I liked working with him. There are just factors that make life very complicated and very challenging.”

So the Clippers are trying to hang on to Paul.

But don’t they already have him locked up? The team has done everything to make him comfortable, even hire his favorite PR guy from New Orleans.

Do the Clippers really think he would accept almost $28 million less to sign elsewhere?

“Here you have two inexperienced people running your basketball operation in [GM] Gary Sacks and [son-in-law] Eric Miller,” I told Sterling. “And Andy Roeser doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to basketball personnel decisions.

“So I wonder, is this decision being made because the players are now calling the shots? Am I off base?”

“No, you’re not off base,” Sterling said. “This is a players’ league, and, unfortunately, if you want to win you have to make the players happy. Don’t you think that’s true?”

I answered: “No. Money makes players happy.”

As stated, the Clippers can offer Paul more money than any other suitor that will chase him in free agency. Anyone assuming they’ll be able to buy their way out of this mess with Paul doesn’t really know the man.

Del Negro isn’t the first coach (and he won’t be the last) thrown in the trash bin because he didn’t get a ringing endorsement from his star players. Paul didn’t force the Clippers’ hand in this matter and didn’t have to. Trying to make Paul the scapegoat for the fact that Del Negro’s ego is bruised because his stars didn’t lobby on his behalf is childish at best.

It’s a cheap shot for a franchise that can’t afford to squander the opportunity it has with this star-studded core capable of leading the organization to new places — namely on the right side of the divide in a city practically painted in Lakers’ purple and gold.

The fact the franchise is throwing Paul under the bus long before free agency begins only reinforces the belief that the Clippers often serve as their own worst enemy in the court of public opinion. There have been rumors that Del Negro was going to be fired from the moment he was hired by the Clippers. To lay it all on the doorstep of Paul and Griffin after the fact is disingenuous to say the least.

Paul has every right to be upset about the way he’s being portrayed. He was going to weigh all of his free-agent options anyway, including the rumored joining of forces with Dwight Howard (and Al Horford) in Atlanta, where there is cap space galore and the chance to for the Hawks what he did for the Clippers.

If Del Negro is such a wonderful man and coach, Sterling should have stood by his guy and then allowed Paul to make a decision on his own future without the sort of foolishness that will be involved in the process now.

Hollins Wants To Stay With Grizzlies … What’s The Hold Up, Memphis?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This is where the coaching carousel business starts to get a little silly.

The Grizzlies are coming off the greatest overall season in franchise history which included their first trip to the Western Conference finals. They have a solid roster and an excellent coach in Lionel Hollins, who has publicly expressed his desire to stick around and try to take the Grizzlies to that next level.

“Hopefully, I will be here,” Hollins said. “I love the guys. I love this city and the fans and everybody associated with the team. But we’ve got to be very, very realistic in what the future holds.”

When a man speaks like that, you have to wonder what’s not being said. What’s the hold up for the Grizzlies?

The Grizzlies are not going to publicly negotiate with their soon-to-be free-agent coach. And Hollins would be wise to use whatever leverage he has to get the deal he wants (and deserves). There are, after all, only four coaches in the league who can say they took their team to the postseason’s final four.

While a handful of teams around the league, including the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers (L.A. owner Donald Sterling was reportedly at Game 1 of the Western Conference finals observing Hollins) are searching for the right coaching fit or the next Hollins or Frank Vogel, the Grizzlies have the guy that fits perfectly with their roster under contract until June 30.

If it’s just numbers they are dealing with in the negotiations, fine. Both sides want the best deal possible, and there’s still time to haggle over details. But if there is more going on here, if there are some philosophical differences between Hollins, Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien and his front-office staff, there is no telling where things are headed.

If the Grizzlies think that a different coach can get the same things out of Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and the rest of a team that, up until being swept by the San Antonio Spurs, looked like a team built to compete for a championship, they better be sure.

Proven commodities in the coaching ranks don’t always pan out in every situation (just ask the Los Angeles Lakers how that Mike D’Antoni thing is working out). Hollins has already shown what he’s made of. He didn’t take over an elite team, but the Grizzlies have become exactly that under his stewardship.

Why anyone would want to tinker with that chemistry, with that tangible success, is beyond me!

Hollins wants to stay in Memphis. He loves his team, the city and the direction the franchise is heading in with the new ownership and management.

Sounds like a slam dunk.

What’s the hold up?

CP3, Del Negro Top Disappointed Clips’ Summer To-Do List

 

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – California’s basketball hierarchy is on its head.

As the second round is set to begin, in is the All-Star-snubbed Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors; out are the two biggest superstars set to hit the free-agent market: Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers and Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers.

In strange symmetry, Howard and Paul were both ejected in their final games of the season. Howard twice lost his cool and got the heave-ho early in the third quarter of the Kobe-less and totally injury-depleted Lakers’ Game 4 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Referee Joey Crawford gave Paul a more controversial walk to the showers late in the fourth quarter of Friday’s Game 6 downer at the Memphis Grizzlies, the Clippers’ fourth consecutive defeat after taking a 2-0 series lead.

Both superstars will become free agents on July 1. While the smart money still says D12 and CP3 love L.A. and will stay, unceremonious endings to what were supposed to be storybook seasons for both franchises at least adds a layer of intrigue and speculation to the proceedings.

For the Clippers, 118-105 losers Friday, suddenly the celebrations of a franchise-best 56-win season and a first-ever Pacific Division title are being washed away by a tidal wave of disappointment and tough offseason decisions headlined by Paul’s choice of where next to take his talents.

“I got a lot of time to think about that,” Paul, wearing a Clipper red sports coat, told reporters after Friday’s game. “As I do with any decision I make, I consult with my wife, my parents, my brother, my family. I might even let little Chris chime in on this. We’ll see what happens.”

L.A.’s front office will wait on pins and needles for July 1 to get Paul’s answer, but they will likely move much quicker to determine the future of lame-duck coach Vinny Del Negro. When management assesses the job he’s done in leading the Clippers to the playoffs in consecutive seasons for just the second time in the franchise’s 29 years in L.A. and first time in 20 years, there will be two sides of the coin to each topic of debate.

Since being hired to lead Chicago with no previous coaching experience, Del Negro has been scrutinized, even ridiculed, like no other coach regarding his acumen of the X’s and O’s.

In this series, Del Negro’s team allowed a 2-0 lead to slip away. But how much of that is on the coach and how much is on a team that seemed to get outworked in the final four games? Did the coach not have his team prepared or did the players not show up? Did the coach fail to make proper adjustments or did the players fail to execute?

Paul averaged 22.8 points and 6.3 assists. He shot 53.3 percent and rarely turned the ball over. He didn’t get a lot of help from what was considered to be the deepest team in basketball. His All-Star teammate Blake Griffin sprained an ankle and played 24 minutes in the final two games. He finished the series with a well-below-average 13.2 ppg and 5.5 rpg while nemesis Zach Randolph dominated in the final four games.

Veteran point guard Chauncey Billups, who missed most of the season due to injury, played as if his head wasn’t in it, finishing the series with more turnovers (eight) than assists (six). After going 4-for-8 from the floor in Game 1, he went 7-for-28 the rest of the way.

Sixth Man of the Year runner-up Jamal Crawford was 7-for-21 in Games 3 and 4 and was benched in the second half of Game 6 after going 0-for-5. Matt Barnes, who threw in 30 points Friday night, was 9-for-24 in Games 2 through 5.

Caron Butler averaged 5.8 ppg in Games 2 through 5 and scored five points in 34 minutes of Games 4 and 5. Del Negro ripped center DeAndre Jordan‘s effort. Grant Hill, either injured or buried on the bench this season, was on the floor in the second half of Game 6.

The Clippers could look quite different next season. They have $45 million tied into Griffin, Jordan, Butler, Crawford, Hill and Eric Bledsoe. Two million could get returned if Hill retires as he speculated he might last month.

So let the introspection begin for a franchise that has scrapped bottom for decades and seemed to be headed for better days, if not glory days. Owner Donald Sterling in his later years has seemed to soften and to smartly open his wallet to make things happen. It’s resulted in two sensational seasons that have produced regular-season results like never before, two rare trips to the postseason while also rousing a fan base and creating a fun environment at Staples Center.

Yet the Clippers failed to accomplish Del Negro’s goal and that was go deeper in the playoffs that last season’s second-round sweep at the hands of the Spurs when Griffin was again hurt and unable to perform at a peak level.

So while Curry and the Warriors keep doing their thing, the mood is considerably darker today down in L.A.

 

Back Away From The Edge, Clipper Fans

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HANG TIME, Texas — From Bill Walton’s feet to Danny Ferry’s bolting for Italy to the choice of Michael Olowokandi to practically any decade of Donald Sterling’s long and painful stewardship, it is practically built into their DNA.

Fear! Dread! Panic!

So maybe you can’t blame Clippers fans for seeking out a tall mast from which to jump.

But we will.

Relax.

Yes, it’s now a three-game losing streak that has your boys slipping behind the Spurs into third place in the Western Conference playoff race. Yes, the latest blow came at the hands of the lowly Suns, who are more barren than an Arizona desert and are memorizing the name of their new coach (Lindsey Hunter).

No, the ball’s not going into the basket as often as they’d like. No, Blake Griffin wasn’t zooming toward the rim to catch alley-oops for dunks, wasn’t attacking the basket and wasn’t taking enough shots.

Come on, surely you can take off your sunglasses to see that handsome young man in the dapper outfit sitting over there on the bench, not far from coach Vinny Del Negro.

Meet Chris Paul, fire-starter, All-Star and MVP candidate whose stock is only soaring higher as he waits for a sore knee to feel better.

Maybe everyone was fooled when the Clippers swept a three-game road trip a week ago with Paul on the sidelines nursing his knee. But does anyone really think this team, this season, this talk about the Clippers as real championship contenders doesn’t revolve around CP3?

Everything the Clippers try to do with their offense is based on having the ball in Paul’s hands, letting him make plays, buckets and decisions, as Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles notes:

The Clippers don’t want to make any excuses while Paul is out, and there’s certainly a chance he could be out for a week as he was the last time he sat out with a bruised right kneecap. But with the Clippers up by one with 7:45 left in the game, the Clippers sure could have used Paul or at least Chauncey Billups running the offense to close the game out. Eric Bledsoe is a great change-of-pace point guard and can give the Clippers a spark in the second and third quarters, but Del Negro likes to lean on Paul (and Billups when he’s healthy) early and late in games and it’s not hard to see why.

“All that stuff changes with Chris or Chauncey out there,” Del Negro said. “There’s no excuse. We were in this game and whoever is out there I have confidence in and they got to make the plays.”

Paul is the one who gets the ball to all of the other Clippers in the best position for them to score. Paul is the one who creates the open spaces for open shots. Paul is the one who turns them from a collection of diverse talent into a team.

Yes, there are games that you can win over the course of a long season without your star player. The Clippers did that in going 3-0 through Memphis, Houston and Minnesota. But that was never the point.

Imagine the Heat without LeBron James or the Thunder without Kevin Durant. Heck, even imagine the Three Stooges without Curly.

The show still goes on. But nobody really comes to see Shemp.

We don’t need laboratory slides to know that panic is in your blood, Clipper fans.

Just relax and know that CP3 is just collecting a few more MVP votes this week.

Ex-Clipper Kaman Says Old Team On Rise


DALLAS –
As Chris Kaman returns to Los Angeles Wednesday for the first time to play the Clippers since the team that drafted him sixth overall in 2003 traded him nearly one year ago for Chris Paul, the 7-foot center shared his unique perspective on his former club’s sordid history under owner Donald Sterling and its ongoing venture to reverse field as…

“The worst possible franchise in NBA and all sports history … to one of the top ones,” Kaman said.

But, before you think Kaman is about to roll on the floor laughing…

“And I think that’s possible,” continued Kaman, now the starting center for the Dallas Mavericks after a brief stop in New Orleans following the Dec. 14, 2011 trade that also sent Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu to the Hornets, and completely recast the Clippers. “They’re in L.A., they got the market, they got the sponsors, they got the people, they got the fans, they’re getting the players. It’s getting there.”

With All-Stars Paul and Blake Griffin surrounded by a deep and talented supporting cast, the Clippers sit atop the Pacific Division at 11-6. They are in the very real position of turning three decades of failure and embarrassment into a bright, new era bubbling with possibility if…

“If Sterling sold the team,” Kaman quipped, “they might be able to.”

But, before you think Kaman is about to rip on the stingiest and arguably the most abhorred owner in league history…

“The truth of the thing is, while I was there my first four to six years, he was tight with everything.  He didn’t want to spend the money,” Kaman said. “I think as he’s getting older he’s realizing, ‘Hey, I don’t know how much time I have left, whatever it is, I’m older.’ You can’t, you know, win in the grave. I’m serious. I think he’s getting close to 80 years old and I think that he’s seeing like, “Hey, I’m getting older, I’m not getting any younger, I want to try to win.’ So he’s putting that money out.”

Kaman noted the team’s $50 million, state-of-the-art practice facility that opened in 2008 in an upscale West Los Angeles neighborhood, the contract extension afforded to Griffin, the free-agent signings of Caron Butler and Jamal Crawford and several other smaller examples of Sterling opening his wallet that are less noticeable to the public, but that players notice.

The question now is whether it will be enough to keep Paul, who promised to give the Clippers a two-year test run and is expected to become a free agent after the season. The truth, of course, is the Clippers need Paul more than Paul needs the Clippers.

Yet, few franchises offer the promise of becoming a living legend if Paul helps to turn one of sports’ worst franchises into one of the best.

“They made the trade last year for me, Eric and Farouq and I thought for the organization of the Clippers, that was an awesome trade,” Kaman said. “You’ve seen since they picked him up all the guys wanting to be there. Before he was there no one wanted to be there. It was like people hated themselves for being there.”

If the Clippers can convince Paul to stay, he and Griffin will play together for at least the next four seasons. And that has the potential to transform L.A’s longtime red-headed stepchild of a franchise into a targeted destination of future free agents and, against all odds, a perennial contender.

“They’re coming a long ways,” Kaman said. “And I think the next three to five years, if they can keep on to Chris Paul, and maybe get some other young talent in there, they have a great opportunity to at least be successful, whether it’s winning the championship or just getting there.”

Pressure Often Outweighs Praise For Clippers’ Del Negro

 

What the late, great Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) reputedly said about money (“A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money”), friends and family of Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro might want to say about NBA postseason berths.

As in, “A playoff apperance here, a playoff apperance there and pretty soon you’re talking about real coaching.”

Del Negro doesn’t seem to be held in high regard by the basketball cognescenti as a cunning X’s & O’s tactician, a savvy, psychological buttons-pusher of elite athletes or a great leader of men in general. Many think of Del Negro simply as lucky in a right-place, right-time way.

He came by his first coaching job in Chicago in 2008 as the team’s third choice, after Mike D’Antoni jumped and Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf had reservations about his close relationship with Doug Collins.

He got a rookie Derrick Rose dropped in his lap that first year.

When Del Negro landed with the Clippers in 2010, the whispers in coaching circles was that he agreed to work cheap for owner Donald Sterling, on a bargain contract light on salary and guarantees but long on lockout holdbacks.

Blake Griffin, sidelined for all of 2009-10, was back strong for Del Negro’s first season in L.A. and Chris Paul showed up on their doorstep last December.

He figures to hear his job security bandied about again in 2012-13. The Clippers are poised to be one of the darlings of the league again in what – given the Lakers’ fortified arsenal – figures to be the hottest market in the NBA this season.

Will that happen in part because of Del Negro? Or in spite of him? Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times penned a story about the “burden to succeed” that Del Negro faces, with his returning stars and with newcomers such as Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Ronny Turiaf.

In May, the Clippers picked up the option on Del Negro’s contract, giving him a third season as coach for about $2 million. Still, Del Negro, 46, enters the new season in the final year of his contract.

Sitting in his office Wednesday afternoon, Del Negro leaned back in his chair and said of his situation: “I think there’s always pressure, but I think that’s a position that you want to be in.

“My goal coming here was to help change the environment, change the culture and change the direction of the organization.” (more…)

L.A.’s ‘Other’ Team Closing In On CP3?

NBA.com staff reports

– For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

When we last left the Chris Paul-to-wherever saga, one team had been officially ruled out: the L.A. Lakers. Per our man David Aldridge early Sunday morning, the Lakers stunningly got out of the CP3 sweepstakes and instead made a move that shook up their championship core: dealing Lamar Odom to the defending-champion (and, as of last season’s playoffs, Lakers-ousting) Mavericks. (It wasn’t a deal that exactly excited Kobe Bryant about the 2011-12 campaign, that’s for sure.)

Per D.A., the Celtics and Clippers were possibly next in line after Paul, but no one knew for sure. Then, we wake up Monday morning as a fresh week of free agency-palooza begins and read that L.A.’s ‘other’ squad has been working frantically to get the four-time All-Star Paul into the red, white and blue of Clipperland. According to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, the framework for a (new) Paul-to-L.A. (Clippers) deal may be close:

The Clippers and the New Orleans Hornets were working vigorously Sunday night to consummate a blockbuster deal that would send All-Star point guard Chris Paul to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers’ cross-town rivals, said two people with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to speak on the matter.

The deal hasn’t been completed, but both sides were in the closing stages of the negotiations.

The Clippers would send the Hornets center Chris Kaman, backup second-year guard Eric Bledsoe, second-year forward Al-Farouq Aminu and the No. 1 draft pick they got from the Minnesota Timberwolves that is unprotected in the 2012 draft, considered to be one of the best in recent years.

Clippers owner Donald Sterling and the NBA have to sign off on the deal.

A package from the Lakers for Paul was turned down by the league.

The NBA will probably review the Clippers deal Monday.

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