The Los Angeles Clippers began the 2012-13 NBA season with an impressive record of 8-2. Such a hot start came by virtue of victories over the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies.
On the heels of a four-game losing streak, however, we find ourselves asking an all too familiar question. Are the Clippers doubting head coach Vinny Del Negro?
According to Dan Woike of The Orange County Register, franchise point guard Chris Paul had choice words about the Clippers' most recent loss which suggests he and his teammates are. After a 105-98 home defeat against Paul's former team, the New Orleans Hornets, Paul praised former coach Monty Williams.
Was his message subliminal?
CP3 said #Clippers lost to "a less-talented team that was well coached."—Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) November 27, 2012
Paul wasn't the only player who voiced his concerns, as fellow superstar Blake Griffin came out with questionable comments of his own. With that being said, Coach Del Negro echoed the sentiment (via The Orange County Register):
“We tried to change some of the things we've been successful doing,” Griffin said.
“It's an embarrassing game for us,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.
The question here is simple. Are the Clippers actually doubting Vinny Del Negro's ability to lead this team or are we reading too far into the words being transcribed?
Chances are, we're reading into things. Let's just not forget that we've been here before.
We've Been Here Before
This latest development in the early 2012-13 NBA season has offered Clippers fans with a sense of deja vu. After all, this is not the first time that the Clipper locker room appears to be at odds with Vinny Del Negro.
During the 2011-12 NBA regular season, we saw much of the same.
According to Chris Broussard of ESPN Los Angeles, Del Negro "lost the team" during March of 2012. This came after the Clippers had lost 12 of 19 games, thus falling from 19-9 to 26-21.
It appears as if this type of streaky basketball is a piece of the Clippers identity under coach Del Negro. Due to this level of inconsistency, L.A. has developed a reputation as a team that is on the cusp of elite but unable to take the final step.
The question is, have the players lost all faith in VDN's ability to lead them to the promised land?
Turned It Around Before
Remember when the Clippers lost 12 of 19 games and fell to 26-21? If you do, then you might also remember the way the Clippers closed out the season:
Winning 14 of 19 games and finishing at 40-26.
In other words, the Clippers have no reason to worry about a four game losing streak. They've proven how talented they are with early season victories over the Heat, Thunder, Spurs, Knicks and Grizzlies.
They even defeated their rival Los Angeles Lakers 105-95.
Del Negro has proven that he can overcome the odds in the past, which offers confidence as for what's to come in the future. He led the 2011-12 Clippers to their first Western Conference Semifinals appearance since 2006, and the team appears to be on track to do the same in 2012-13.
Allow VDN the opportunity to turn things around before you crucify him.
Merely a Scapegoat
Last time I checked, Vinny Del Negro is not responsible for Blake Griffin having scored four points on 1-of-9 shooting against the Hornets. Nor is he the reason that Griffin fouled out. VDN is also the last person to blame for Jamal Crawford having completed his fifth consecutive game shooting under 40 percent.
Del Negro is simply the individual who will be burdened with the blame when all goes wrong. It happens to the best of head coaches, so why not the guy attempting to build his reputation?
When the Clippers started 8-2, we praised the players as if they had done it on their own. When we suddenly see a change in pace and they lose four in a row, however, we blame the coach who supposedly played no role in their winning eight of 10.
Either find balance or drop it all together. I suggest the former.
Del Negro and the Clippers may be prone to these dry spells, but we're also just 12 games into the season. With a roster made up of extraordinary depth, it's only rational for Del Negro to experiment with rotations early in the season.
In turn, the results will be inconsistent. What this builds toward, however, is a properly sculpted rotation which will maximize the team's talent and pairings.
As difficult as it may be for a Los Angeles fanbase, supporters, detractors and analysts simply need to display a little patience. VDN and his players will be just fine.
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