Los Angeles Clippers: Step-by-Step Coaching Guide to Help Vinny Del Negro

Oren FriedmanCorrespondent IIAugust 19, 2012

Los Angeles Clippers: Step-by-Step Coaching Guide to Help Vinny Del Negro

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    With the Los Angeles Clippers' decision to pick up head coach Vinny Del Negro's contract option for the 2012-13 NBA season, the pressure is on the young coach to take the Clips to the next level.

    After a disappointing sweep to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals last spring, the Clippers will be using a reloaded roster to propel them into the conference's upper echelon.

    With elite players on the floor in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, LAC has the foundation for success.

    Throw in veteran leadership in Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill, as well as young talent in Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan, and the Clippers could make some noise if the team comes together.

    Following a miserable March in which Lob City dropped games to the Suns, the Hornets and the Nets, the criticism has mounted for Del Negro.

    Covering up the team's deficiencies will be challenging, but it is possible.

    Here is a step-by-step guide to help Vinny Del Negro properly coach the Clippers in 2012-13.

Hire a Defensive-Minded Coach

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    As it stands, the Clippers coaching staff features no prolific defensive mastermind.

    Vinny Del Negro is known for cultivating young player development, as he once did with Derrick Rose in Chicago.

    The rest of the his coaching staff, Marc Iavaroni, Robert Pack and Bob Ociepka are all locker room favorites, but none of them has the ability to help transform the Clippers into a defensive-minded stopper.

    The Celtics enjoyed a championship season in 2008 by pairing up Doc Rivers with defensive specialist Tom Thibodeau. The Spurs were dominant with Gregg Popovich and defensive-minded assistant coach Mike Brown.

    It is on Del Negro to stack his staff with another coach that can tighten up the defense.

Diversify the Offense

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    Despite featuring the best point guard on the planet, Vinny Del Negro's offense is disturbingly basic.

    The Clippers often opt for the high pick-and-roll or the side pick-and-roll with Chris Paul and either Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan.

    While they attempt to space the floor with weak-side shooters like Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler, the Clips' offense can be stymied by a nice hedge, forcing the team to rely on Paul's brilliance.

    Having Paul create is a solution, but it is unsustainable at best.

    Del Negro would be smart to consult his old coach Gregg Popovich, and come up with some new plays to maximize the versatility of his roster.

Work the Post

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    Vinny Del Negro and his coaching staff need to better develop the Clippers' post players. Immediately.

    Blake Griffin is a beast down low, but his moves have become predictable, and defenses are able to hone in on his deficiencies.

    Against elite defenses in the postseason, Griffin's game and efficiency took a hit. 

    His rebounds were down significantly from the regular season to the postseason (10.9 to 6.9) and his PER dipped from 23.50 to 20.8. Although he was hurting from the physicality of the series, there is no denying the impact that steady defenses had on the young forward.

    Griffin's low-post counterpart DeAndre Jordan's numbers were even more disappointing.

    Jordan's points and rebounds went down significantly from the regular season. His playoff numbers were a disastrous 4.5 PPG and 5.3 RPG, unacceptable for a playoff team's starting center.

    Hopefully a summer under the tutelage of Hakeem Olajuwon benefits the big man.

    Del Negro needs to work with Griffin and Jordan, as they will be crucial against the West's dominant big men.

Master the Inbounds Pass

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    As elementary as it seems, the Clippers seem to always struggle with getting the ball inbounds during critical plays.

    Whether it is calling another timeout or throwing the ball away (Ryan Gomes anyone?), the Clips often lose their cool when they need it most.

    Simply, Del Negro needs to draw up a series of plays, with alternatives, in order to prevent any additional turnovers or wasted timeouts. 

    Having some consistent starters bring the ball in would also benefit the team.

    Last season the Clippers tried to use their length to inbound the ball over smaller defenders. While the decision seemed reasonable, bringing in DeAndre Jordan or Kenyon Martin to make an important pass should have had red flags all over it.

    Del Negro needs to get some consistency out of his inbounds passes and inbounds play this season.

    Sometimes being able to capitalize on the most basic nuances of the game can separate the contenders from the pretenders.

Go-To Plays

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    Unlike the Lakers or the Thunder, the Clippers lack some go-to plays to get an easy basket.

    Unfortunately for the Clippers, much of their offense involves debating what to do and running down the shot clock.

    Del Negro needs to develop some go-to plays, especially in tight games.

    As currently complected, the Clippers' fourth quarter offense involves giving Chris Paul the ball, setting a high screen, and letting him work his magic.

    While Paul rode this strategy to some impressive late game finishes, the Clippers will need team efforts down the stretch to offset the firepower of the West's best teams. 

    If Del Negro can get the offense humming in crunch time, then the Clippers could finish with a lot more W's this season.

Play Small

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    Last season the Clippers enjoyed success playing three-guard lineups.

    Once Eric Bledsoe got going in the playoffs, the Clips hit their stride by putting out Chris Paul, Mo Williams, Bledose, Griffin and another big man.

    Although LAC lost sharpshooters in Williams, Nick Young and Randy Foye, the team is more versatile than ever.

    It would be unsurprising if the team's most effective lineup this season is something like Paul, Bledsoe, Billups, Griffin and Lamar Odom.

    Outside of DeAndre Jordan and the serviceable Ryan Hollins, the team does not have a legitimate center.

    Del Negro would be wise to play to his strengths and get his best players on the floor.

    Play the matchups and assess the situation. Dominant small-ball is becoming harder and harder to stop.

Run and Gun

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    Given the athleticism and speed of the roster, it is confounding that Vinny Del Negro does not utilize a more up-tempo offense.

    While Chris Paul is masterful in the halfcourt, he is also adept at running a high-octane offense.

    Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are two of the most athletic players in the NBA, and the Clippers have the legs in Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford to run opponents into the ground.

    Despite the personnel, the Clippers finished 14th in the league in points per game at 97.5 last season, behind lottery teams like the Sacramento Kings and the Houston Rockets.

    This issue goes back to Del Negro's inability to capitalize on the team's greatest strengths.

    Hopefully a full offseason and training camp result in some cogent offensive play in 2012-13.

    Del Negro should be wary, as his seat will be red hot heading into this season.