Chris Paul thought his visit to New Orleans against the worst team in the Western Conference would go a little easier, a little better. Nothing is easy for the Los Angeles Clippers these days, losing their third straight game on the road and their ninth in March, slipping to the sixth spot in the Western conference after a 97-90 defeat against the Hornets.
Paul was far from his best, finishing with 15 points and 9 assists, but shooting 5-14 from the field while hitting only 1-5 from three point. Blake Griffin finished with 21 points, DeAndre Jordan finished with 14, and that was about it. The problems seem to be coming from the bench, and the locker room, where, reportedly, there’s little love for Vinny Del Negro.
On his second season with the Clippers, it’s more and more evident the change and influx in wins has more and more to do with Chris Paul then Del Negro, who won 32 games with the Clippers in 2010-2011. The team’s poor defense and struggles in the fourth quarter with executing anything but a Chris Paul isolation and improvisation play seems to be hitting back at the Clippers after two very optimism flowing first months.
Chauncey Billups going down did cause a major blow on the team – going 11-13 without the veteran guard, but it seemed like the Clippers were made for more than the 6th spot in the West, or at least made sounds of being more. Just looking at the effort, or lack of it, the Clippers don’t produce when they should, might tell you a bit about how these players are losing their faith in their coach, and their will to play for him.
As absurd as it always sounds, changing the coach is always the easier option. Just look at the Knicks, who are thriving without Mike D’Antoni. The big stars hated him, and this is a players and owners league. Head coaches? There are few with that kind of power. Maybe only one left, like that guy on the bench in San Antonio. No wonder you never hear about dressing room problem in Texas.
Unclear rotation, lack of defensive and offensive schemes, and simply stating the fact that Blake Griffin hasn’t made an inch of a progress this season. He’s completely relying on his athletic ability. If teams read his spin and move into the paint fast enough, he finds it very hard creating points. Creating them for himself? Impossible.
Now it’s easy blaming everything on Del Negro, who took his share of heat from the media and fans while with the Chicago Bulls, but look at the Bulls now. I know, they added a few big and small pieces to complement Derrick Rose, who himself has vastly improved then during his Del Negro years. Still, you have to wonder.
The Clips will make the playoffs, but not go far in it. They have a big problem when the game slows down, and the only known thing is that Chris Paul, Griffin and Jordan will be on the court. Who else? Who to depend on to finish plays and hit open shots? That’s for the head coach to figure out, with time of making a lasting impression so his option will get picked up for a third season running out.