After establishing themselves as the clear 2 or 3-seed in the Western Conference just twelve games ago at 19-9, the Los Angeles Clippers have lost eight of these last twelve contests after a brutal road trip and sobering home return to Staples Center.
The Clippers find themselves struggling to hold on to the 5-seed, their ability to protect home court disintegrating. With the obvious move to be hiring a competent, tested head coach for a young, talented, explosive team, wouldn’t firing Del Negro to hire Mike D’Antoni make absolute perfect sense? Have the stars not aligned for the Clippers to become a perennial playoff dynasty should they hire D’Antoni and succeed in locking up Chris Paul and Blake Griffin for the next decade?
Assuming the regular season ended today (for my column’s sake), the Clippers would be up against a surging Memphis Grizzlies attack that will likely have a healthy Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph in the active lineup come the NBA Playoffs at the end of April/early May. That’s a scary match-up. Of the 10 or so teams in the West who could be in the Playoffs, the Grizzlies are one of the two or three scariest teams to face as a Clippers fan.
Losing Chauncey Billups has been devastating for Los Angeles. Randy Foye can’t penetrate or split defenders the way Chauncey could, nor is he the type of playoff-tested, high-caliber leader on and off the court that Chauncey was to this team. Vinny Del Negro proved himself to be a below-average coach well before the Bulls paid half of his subsequent season’s salary with the Clippers to get rid of him. Chauncey helped reduce his mistakes. They’ve struggled to close games and to score, the latter of which this team should be excelling at. Caron’s high release was supposed to help with contested shots, but we’re finding he’s struggled without the open shots Chauncey was getting him with his inside penetration and ability to draw help defenders opposite Chris Paul.
Now that Mike D’Antoni has parted ways with the Knicks, wouldn’t his pick & roll offense be a perfect fit with this Clippers team? His Phoenix teams were explosive. The Clippers have that kind of versatility.
Should he get hired by some kind of miracle, the Clippers need Caron to regain his confidence, for Foye to return to his bench scoring role and to hopefully pick-up a quality shooter and defender at starting SG. The Clippers set themselves up for severe disappointment in a first or second-round playoff series unless Del Negro is replaced with someone above-average for this young, inexperienced team.
After beating the reeling Hawks, the Clippers lost their ninth game of their last 14 games to the lowly Suns shortly after completing a trade that sent Brian Cook to the Wizards for Nick Young, an LA-native who fits far better than Brian Cook. Now, about that coaching issue…