They are seemingly not good enough to be a serious championship contender, but are almost guaranteed to make the postseason. Is the reason behind this stalemate the owner or the coach?
Donald Sterling hasn't exactly been the best owner in recent years. Before I start blaming Del Negro for anything, I should point out the painfully obvious—Sterling is the one who hired him in the first place.
There have also been some issues regarding his personality and one incident where he even heckled one of his own players.
Not everything had been negative with Sterling, either. He did sign Blake Griffin to a five-year contract extension this offseason. He also went out and added Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill and Lamar Odom to the bench.
As for Del Negro, well, he has simply not shown the ability to lead the team as head coach. There have been issues relating to his game plan, lineups and, most importantly, his role in player development.
Great coaches have reputations of developing players so as to maximize their potential. All you need to do to see whether or not Del Negro has gotten the most out of his players is look at Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Griffin is a great player, but his lack of a jump shot and poor defensive play doesn't seem like an issue to Del Negro. Jordan is one of the most athletic centers in the league, but there is nothing else to his game.
I am not going to try to put all the blame on Del Negro, because he's only been there two years and players only improve when they have that inner drive. With that said, a good coach can motivate any player to work harder.
Griffin and Jordan both took seemingly no steps forward last year, and a good chunk of the blame has to go to Del Negro. From Sterling's perspective, he hired a relatively young coach who he thought could develop.
Del Negro was just starting to not be liked by the fans, but his second season as Clippers head coach did end with a trip to the postseason. He also provided us with one of the most exciting playoff series in history, when his Bulls took the the Celtics to seven games in 2009.
Sterling gave him a chance to prove himself one more time, and he failed to make his stamp on the team.
So, if I was to play the blame game, I would say that Vinny Del Negro is the biggest problem in LA. Despite the team's clear improvement, Del Negro has failed to improve as a coach. If Sterling keeps him around, the Clippers coach may keep the team from taking the next step—title contention.
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