The question is, do we owe head coach Vinny Del Negro an apology for our criticism? Or could the Clippers coach themselves?
No matter how talented the players may be, Del Negro deserves the praise he may never have received.
As for evidence as to why, we'll start with Twitter. The always comical Not Bill Walton account provided a valuable piece of information.
Let's just say that the numbers never lie.
That awkward moment when you realize that Vinny Del Negro is coaching the team with the best record in the NBA.— Not Bill Walton (@NotBillWalton) December 28, 2012
Like it or not, that is a factual truth.
Fortunately for the sake of Del Negro, his defense to the criticism goes beyond a Win-Loss record. In fact, VDN has been piecing together one of the more impressive resumes in the NBA over the past two seasons.
The key to it all has been responding to adversity.
Responding to Adversity
During the 2011-12 NBA regular season, the Los Angeles Clippers began the year at 19-9. They proceeded to lose 12 of their following 19 games and ended up at 26-21 with 19 outings remaining.
In turn, Chris Broussard of ESPN Los Angeles reported that head coach Vinny Del Negro had lost the locker room.
The Clippers would respond by winning 14 of their final 19 regular season games. They'd finish 40-26 and make their first Western Conference Semifinals appearance since 2006.
This year has seen more of the resilient same.
During the 2012-13 season, the Clippers lost two consecutive games early to fall to 2-2. They proceeded to win six straight and reach 8-2.
Following that six-game stretch, LAC collapsed during a four-game losing streak. In a repeat of 2012, speculation began to mount surrounding VDN losing his players' trust.
CP3 said #Clippers lost to "a less-talented team that was well coached."— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) November 27, 2012
You want a response to adversity? How is a month-long winning streak?
Following their November 26th loss, the Clippers proceeded to win 15 consecutive games. As of December 28th, they remain undefeated in the month of December.
Say what you will about VDN, but he has responded to adversity with pure and utter brilliance. Each and every time.
With respected leaders such as Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill, one could make the case that the Clippers coach themselves. The fact of the matter is, it takes a head coach to handle the most taxing aspect of all.
Teams that get off to hot starts often become comfortable with their success and expect it to sustain. The fact of the matter is, one can only maintain greatness if one works as hard to keep it as one did to reach it.
Coach Del Negro has learned that lesson.
As previously alluded to, LAC started hot in 2011-12 and began to slow down. They responded with 14 wins in 19 games.
In 2012-13, we've seen more of the same. They've responded to lapses by posting dominant stretches and convincing victories.
They've won their past 15 games by an average margin of 16.3 points per game.
According to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times, this level of play comes a result of Del Negro's constant desire for improvement. One that still hasn't been satisfied during this 15-game winning streak.
Say what you will about VDN's reputation, but that is a sign of a great coach.
"Sometimes when you win, as coaches, you still see mistakes and things that we have to get better at," Del Negro said. "If you don't improve, eventually it's going to catch up to you. So it's a never-ending process."
Del Negro would proceed to point out the areas in which he feels the Clippers must raise their game.
• Better rebounding.
• More trust on defense and better team chemistry.
• Continue to make athletic plays but be more efficient and cut down on turnovers.
• Better three-point defense.
"I can keep going if you want," Del Negro said. "But that's just a handful."
Hate him or love him, Del Negro is working the Clippers until they reach perfection. Fortunately for those with championship aspirations, VDN doesn't seem to believe perfection is attainable.
With that being said, that doesn't mean he won't continue working towards it.
Del Negro's perfectionist style is a primary reason the Clippers are playing at a sustainably brilliant level. L.A. is responding to VDN's demands and proving to be the best regular season team in the NBA.
It's about time we pay Del Negro the respect he deserves.
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