Jamal Crawford must be cursed.
The man is about to enter his 14th NBA season and joining him will be coach No. 17 of his professional career. 17! Can a guy get some consistency?
With yesterday’s news that the Clippers will not retain Vinny Del Negro as head coach, Crawford’s coaching polygamy isn’t the only thing affected. Del Negro made his stamp on the Clipper roster over the past three years – good or bad, we knew the traits of a Vinny Del Negro team, one that had a propensity to play veterans and one that supported a roll-the-ball-out-and-let-Chris-Paul-do-his-thing offense. A new coach means a new philosophy, a new philosophy means new roles, and new roles mean it’s not just a piece of random Jamal Crawford trivia that is going to change. Here is a look at how those changes might affect individual Clippers:
This is the obvious one, isn’t it? Everyone assumes that a Bledsoe trade is inevitable. It’s the worst-kept secret wearing red in Los Angeles: The Clippers will (or at least should) trade Eric Bledsoe. But with a new coach, that idea could disintegrate. If someone new comes in and says to himself, “You know what? I think this guy, Bledsoe, is a shooting guard”, something that is supremely possible, then maybe Bledsoe doesn’t leave the Clippers. Maybe he ends up playing the 2 more than the 1, getting 20 minutes a game at shooting guard while also playing backup point guard. Maybe he isn’t run out of town and the Clippers actually do extend him with that sort of plan. At the very least, if we see any of Bledsoe in a Clipper uniform next year, it’s probably safe to say he’ll be getting more playing time than the allotted 18 minutes a game he saw in games that Chris Paul started this past season.
In some ways, Jordan is like Bledsoe. With Del Negro out, Jordan is out, too – out of the doghouse that is. We saw DeAndre sit the entire fourth quarter 52 times this past season. He averaged only 5.0 minutes per quarter in fourth quarters in which he actually played. He attempted fewer shots per 36 minutes in the fourth (6.8) than he did in any other quarter. There was no crunch-time trust at all. That’s not something you want to see in your starting center. But presumably, it’s a new game for DeAndre in 2013-14. There’s a reason he’s included in trade rumors so often: it’s because there are teams out there that see something in him. He just hasn’t gotten an opportunity to show that in Los Angeles.
Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul
This is where we get to see exactly how much validity there is in the “Chris Paul is running the entire organization” jokes. If the Clippers sign Billups to a cheap deal this offseason, that’s not such a bad thing. The trouble comes if Billups once again has a prominent role in the Clippers’ rotation. If Billups is out there starting for the Clips for the third season in a row, we might have to start considering the idea that it wasn’t Del Negro who wanted Billups starting, but it was Paul all along. We know Paul considers Billups to be his basketball older brother. We know the two of them are close. We know Paul likes playing with spot-up shooters. Now, we’ll finally know (or at least get a chance to speculate more) on if Billups playing over guys like Eric Bledsoe, Willie Green, and Matt Barnes was an idea formulated by coaches or players.
Barnes has gone on the record with his Vinny fandom. Del Negro allowed him to play free. He gave him a chance. He had faith in him. Barnes enjoyed playing for a coach like that. So will Del Negro leaving have a negative affect on Barnes’s desire to return? Probably not. Barnes has spent his entire career bouncing around from team to team, taking small contracts on contending squads. If he wants to contend, returning to Southern California, where he grew up and went to college, makes as much sense as going anywhere else. Barnes has changed teams eight times in his career. He’s used to playing for new coaches.
Griffin’s numbers went down this year, but that wasn’t necessarily the biggest critique of his season. His biggest problem was that he became a first-quarter player. The Clips would often run the offense through him in first quarters, sometimes even in first halves, and then would get away from him down the stretch. With a different offensive philosophy, it’s possible we see Griffin more involved in the Clipper offense in third and fourth quarters. Look out to see if there’s a change in his crunch-time production and/or usage.
The backup centers
Who knows if Ryan Hollins or Ronny Turiaf will be back, but it’d probably be smart to bet that we won’t see a two-backup-center rotation in the playoffs next season. Del Negro was the only playoff coach running two backup centers out there in the postseason, Hollins in first halves and Turiaf in second halves. If the Clippers return to the postseason next year, a feat that doesn’t seem particularly bold to predict, it’s probably safe to say that only one player will be manning the backup center duties.