According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, the superstar point guard feels disrespected and claims to have had no part in the workings behind Del Negro’s departure.
A source close to the situation told Broussard:
Chris is a man of principle and if he feels like you've gone against his principles, it will affect how he feels about you. He's very agitated that his name has been put out there as the reason for Vinny's firing. He had nothing to do with it.
It was initially thought that cutting ties with Del Negro was a strong indication that the Clips would re-sign CP3—an unrestricted free agent—this summer, but that could all change now that his name is being soiled by the man who signs his paychecks.
T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times recently asked Sterling if Del Negro wasn’t extended because of Paul’s desires for a new coach.
The owner’s answer was vague but damning:
I always want to be honest and not say anything that is not true. So I'd rather not say anything. But you know, the coach did a really good job. I think he did. And I liked working with him. There are just factors that make life very complicated and very challenging.
While CP3’s name wasn’t explicitly dropped in this segment of their conversation, it appears that Sterling is strongly hinting that the veteran had a big say in the decision to part ways with VDN.
The owner seems to be insinuating that things would not have turned the same way had he not had to care about re-signing his best player.
Considering Paul is free to sign with whichever team can pay his asking price this offseason, Sterling’s lack of discretion is concerning at this juncture.
If Paul wanted Del Negro replaced, the owner should have been trying to appease him and doing what’s right for the franchise behind the scenes, not publicly supporting the ex-coach after the choice has been made, and certainly not giving out venomous quips to local reporters.
Given that Del Negro was the winningest coach in the Clips’ long and painful history, there certainly was some merit to keeping him aboard.
However, if CP3—one of the league’s best players and proven winners—felt he couldn’t take the club to the next level under VDN’s guidance, it was time for the coach to go.
The Clippers made the right call in avoiding a contract extension for the oft-criticized coach, but they seem to be backtracking significantly by putting the blame on Paul in a public forum.
If Sterling continues to slander his prized superstar, don’t be surprised if Paul takes his talents elsewhere in free agency.