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.
Did P.J. Carlesimo have to go? Does Vinny Del Negro have to go?
Steve Aschburner: Let’s see, all Brooklyn did under P.J. Carlesimo was win at a clip (.648) greater than any Nets coach in history. Then, in the span of two weeks, he got lousy at his job? Right. That crew in the locker room has issues, from self-absorption to softness to an odd array of talents (not even the Teamsters need brawn badly enough to have Reggie Evans, Keith Bogans, Kris Humphries, aging Gerald Wallace and a 42-year-old Jerry Stackhouse on one roster). Blame the owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, who is impatient and star-driven, essentially the opposite of team-building. Del Negro? Well, the franchise has had two seasons of .600 or better winning in its 41 years. So of course the coach who oversaw it must go. In this case, it might be a win-win. Point guard Chris Paul gets control not just on the floor but off it and Del Negro gets that boost on his resume that accrues to all who exit the Clippers.
Fran Blinebury: I thought P.J. did a solid job after taking over for Avery Johnson and thought he earned a chance to come back next season with his own coaching staff and a full training camp. It’s pretty clear Nets ownership wants a name they can put up on the marquee. On the other hand, despite 56 wins and the first division title in franchise history, the Clippers have clearly gone as far as they can go with Del Negro. Yes, Chris Paul is their best player and team leader, but he can’t be the only voice. The Clips need a coach who can put his stamp on the team, teach Blake Griffin to play defense and stop simply relying on the whole Lob City facade.
Jeff Caplan: I like P.J., he’s the genuine article, but this roster needs a stern hand to come in and throw down the hammer. Because of the payroll and the restrictive nature of the new CBA for teams like Brooklyn that are over the luxury tax, this club is going to look very similar next season so a new approach is needed to maximize players like Joe Johnson and a low-scoring forward duo of Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace, who after the entire season weirdly stated that he had no idea what his role is. As for Vinny Del Negro, what does Chris Paul want? I mean that’s really all that matters at this point. But man, I really want VDN to succeed. He’s been ridiculed and ripped since he entered the league as a no-experience head coach with Chicago. The bottom line in L.A. is that the roster was not as good as many thought. Did VDN not squeeze enough out of these guys or did players like DeAndre Jordan not fulfill his contract and potential? The bottom line is if the organization believes VDN’s strategies, adjustments, etc., did not serve the team well and/or the players don’t respect him, then it’s time to move on.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Carlesimo did not have to go — the Nets’ problems were in place before he got a chance — but it is no surprise that he did. Del Negro is more in the has-to-go category. Bad finish to the regular season after a good start. Bad finish to the playoffs after a good start. Players openly questioning the lack of strategy.
John Schuhmann: Though I was pretty critical of his extended use of a forward combination that was clearly hurting his team offensively, I don’t necessarily think that Carlesimo had to go, because we don’t know what kinds of changes he would have made with a full summer and training camp. He was handed the reins in late December, righted the ship and got his two best players playing well again, which was very important. And come playoff time, his bench options were pretty limited, because guys like Keith Bogans and Jerry Stackhouse couldn’t hit a shot. Still, I think he could have been more creative with his offense and given a floor-spacer like Mirza Teletovic more playing time to figure things out. The Clippers should probably make a move too. Like the Nets, they need someone who can be a little more creative offensively and hold his players accountable on the defensive end. That team has top-five talent, but seemed to be treading water over the last two months of the season.
Sekou Smith: Carlesimo had to go. The Nets haven’t exactly hid the fact that they’re interested in some superstar type to come in and run the show in Brooklyn. And that’s not a knock on Carlesimo, mind you, it’s just the facts as we all know them. Truth be told, it wouldn’t have mattered who coached this team. The moment that Game 7 debacle at ended Saturday night at Barclays Center, it was obvious that the Nets’ next move would be to relieve their head coach of his duties and begin the hunt for suitable replacement. The Del Negro question is best suited for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Because we all know that they are the guys who hold Del Negro’s fate in their hands. If the Clippers’ two biggest stars demand that Vinny D remains in place, then it will be hard for the Clippers to make that move without a blockbuster hire to replace him (and we’re talking about a Phil Jackson-type blockbuster). As long as the monstrous shadow of the Zen Master hovers over both the Clippers and Lakers, no coach in either franchise is free from the drama. It’s nothing personal against Vinny. It’s just time to go if the Clippers plan on going bold in their pitch to keep Paul.
Lang Whitaker: As much as I like PJ Carlesimo, I understand why the Nets let him go. This is a franchise very concerned with perception, and Carlesimo was too much of a ham-and-egger to ever fit in perfectly. The first-round knockout surely didn’t help matters, although as the Bulls continue to rampage through the postseason, I wonder if eventually a postseason loss to this Bulls team will be viewed in a less harsh light? The Clips obviously need to settle the Del Negro question as soon as possible, with Chris Paul approaching free agency. The Clippers’ flameout in the Playoffs got progressively worse as they went along, and Del Negro’s inability to settle on a rotation became more and more glaring. The Clippers have improved greatly, but if they’re going to contend for a title, they need to do it now. As such, it’s time for a coach who can get them over that final hurdle. And that coach is not Vinny Del Negro.