Former Bulls coach Del Negro has Clippers surging
November 18, 2012, 12:13 am
LOS ANGELES—Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro, now more than three years removed from his dismissal as Bulls head coach, had the last laugh Saturday night. His current team blew out his former team, 101-80, and while he said all of the right things afterwards, one got the feeling that the memory bitter taste he likely had in his mouth after leaving Chicago made the Clippers’ blowout victory that much sweeter.
“This is one of those nights. I have a lot of respect for Chicago,” he told reporters. “I thought we did a good job tonight in a lot of ways. It’s a good, solid win for us against a very good team. You have to play hard. We knew we had to do that and our guys came out, and we responded well.”
Prior to the game, at his pregame media availability, he talked about the fact that the Bulls are without injured superstar Derrick Rose, who Del Negro coached upon his arrival to the NBA.
“It’s Derrick Rose. He’s the MVP of the league. You take anybody of that caliber — which are very few — out of that lineup and obviously, it’s going to change. It’s just natural. Derrick’s that good of a player,” he said.
But these days, Chicago is in his rear-view mirror. Despite being looked at as the “other” professional basketball franchise in Los Angeles, Del Negro’s Clippers are actually the better team at the moment and at least early in the season, they appear to be a serious contender in the Western Conference.
“It’s been good. We have great guys. We have great balance to the roster. Looking forward to getting Grant [Hill] back, getting Chauncey [Billups] back [from their respective injuries],” he said. ”We have a lot of depth and we’re trying to use it right now. But we have nice balance, some younger guys, guys in their prime and some veteran guys who have great leadership. Things are built around Chris [Paul] and Blake [Griffin], and everyone else is accepting their role right now. We have to get a lot better. We have to improve in a lot of areas, but they’re giving me good effort and that’s all I can ask for right now, is us coming together with chemistry as the season goes on.
“We’ve got a lot of people that I think are quality players. It’s hard to give them the minutes that they probably deserve, but it’s about the team. It’s not about individual, and you win and lose as a team, and guys have to accept that a little bit and there’s nobody in our locker room that didn’t know what they were getting into when they started. We’ll work through it as guys come back, as we manage the schedule and injuries throughout the season,” Del Negro continued, discussing arguably the league’s deepest roster. “Chauncey will start in the backcourt. I’m not sure when he’ll be back. It’s kind of his call, really when he feels comfortable. He’s been practicing in all contact, in all practices probably at least the last few weeks. Looks very good, but he’s had a couple setbacks with his calf and his back, but he’s feeling great. And then, Grant will probably be back later than Chauncey, and we’ll just work through it. Grant went through training camp, played in China [during the preseason] for us. We had a good rotation off the bench then, so we’ll just work through it when they come back, but you’re talking about two guys who know how to play, know the big picture and are more than capable of accepting their roles, and they’re going to be contributors on our team.”
Still, he acknowledged that in the Hollywood culture of the city, the star-studded Lakers — and the recent drama surrounding Mike Brown’s firing, Phil Jackson getting passed over for the job and Mike D’Antoni being hired as the team’s new head coach — means the Clippers, even with the star power of All-Stars Paul and Griffin, play second fiddle in the arena the two teams share.
“It is unusual, but we don’t spend any time with that. That’s kind of the fans and the media, and things. But we’re just kind of focused in on what we can control, our preparation, our mindset, our improvement. We know we have to get better in a lot of areas. You can’t control other things that are going on, whether it’s the Lakers or the Bulls, or other organizations,” he explained. “You’ve just got to control your day-to-day routine here. We’re trying to continually build an environment, build a culture and do things the right way to be successful, and we’re not where we need to be yet, but we’re seeing signs of more consistency, so that’s great.”
Tags: Tom Thibodeau
, Los Angeles Clippers
, Chicago Bulls
, Vinny Del Negro