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T.J. SIMERS

To be perfectly clear, the Clippers are as confusing as ever

New Coach Vinny Del Negro isn't very consistent in his assessments of his team and their lousy start to the season, making him a good fit for the inconsistent organization.

November 01, 2010|T.J. Simers

The Clippers remain as disappointing as ever, but they have finally found their man, so clueless it's as if he was born to be this organization's spokesman.

He likes to speak in contradictions, so he's almost always right as well as wrong, and as joke's go, Vinny Del Negro is a hoot. He's the latest tough guy to think he can turn around this clown operation, yet only a few games into his first season at a loss to explain why the Clippers are playing like the Clippers.

And the answer is so obvious — they are the Clippers.

It's now four losses in a row to start after a nine-point loss to the Spurs, the Clippers the first team to be eliminated from the NBA playoffs this season.

How bad is it already? Del Negro's star guard, Eric Gordon, found success under Coach K this summer on the U.S. national team, and so he returned to the Clippers with high expectations.

But right away Gordon is quoted in the newspaper Monday morning saying the Clippers played hard in the season opener, "but that was the only game where we played hard.''

What a stunning admission.

The Clippers might not have as much talent as other teams, but with a new coach, fresh start and all that, shouldn't everyone expect them to give their all for at least more than one game?

"I think it's pretty accurate,'' Del Negro says after being read Gordon's comment. "The mentality of not playing hard every game is ridiculous.''

So how do you explain your team not playing hard?

"I don't have an answer,'' says the guy who is paid to have the answers as coach, his team losing by 10, 18 and 16 points in their first three games.

Then he snaps, "ask the players,'' going on the offensive with the media, his way of reminding everyone, I guess, that he took a poke at his own GM while in Chicago, so don't press him.

But a few minutes later, Del Negro is telling the same room full of reporters he doesn't think it's accurate what Gordon has said. If this is any indication of the confusing message being sent to his players, it's understandable why they appear so lost.

"I don't think anyone has the right to say we're not playing hard,'' Del Negro says after earlier saying Gordon's assessment is "pretty accurate.''

As he continues to talk, he sounds so far in over his head it's no wonder he's already drowning. The Del Negro error has begun, all right.

He tells everyone, "we got good character guys," which goes to show you he read the team's $5 program for the game with the Spurs. The lead story in the program is, "For Clippers, C is for Character.''

If so, then why did the Clippers just pack it in after losing the first game of the season?

"I want guys here that have the right mentality in terms of preparing the right way,'' Del Negro is quoted as saying in the story, so then why is Baron Davis still here?

He went to UCLA, so while Rick Neuheisel probably has him winning the MVP award this year, everyone else knows he's been a big fat zero in a Clippers' uniform.

"Is Baron a bad role model for this group?'' I ask the coach.

"No, I don't think he's a bad role model,'' Del Negro says before going on to paint a picture of a bad role model.

"I just think Baron knows he was behind in his conditioning.… That causes a lot of problems for everybody, for Baron, for the team, for everyone involved. So he needs to be a leader and a catalyst for this team. By not preparing the right way, it's hurting himself and more importantly, it's hurting the group. So he needs to do a better job in that area.''

The Clippers had an entire offseason, everyone hyped about the return of Blake Griffin, a new coach and promise. So how does the team leader, who is getting paid $65 million and already coming off two disappointing seasons, explain why he shows up out of shape?

"I don't know, man,'' says Davis, which is really a pretty telling answer.

He then swears this is going to be his year.

"I'm motivated; I'll run through a brick wall for this dude,'' he says of Del Negro, his way of reminding everyone he would never have done the same for Mike Dunleavy.

A few minutes later, Del Negro says of Davis, "talk is cheap,'' and after listening to what Del Negro has to say, he has a point.

But the thing is, if Davis lived up to expectations, he would already be one of the most popular players in town.

"You can see how fired up I am,'' Davis says. "I'm smiling and not ripping your head off. My joy is back after two years of frustration. You watch this season, I'm going to get the last laugh.''

That's when he tells me he's not playing Monday night because his knee is sore, and all I can do is laugh.

I'M SURE it's a mistake. Reader Harry Myers e-mailed to say he heard a tape today of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on the "John and Ken" show. He says he thought he heard the L.A. mayor telling everyone at a rally of Democrats, "Go Giants. We all like the Giants, don't we?''

The tape must have been doctored, or someone impersonating the voice of the mayor. I understand politicians will say almost anything to get someone elected, but you would think the mayor of L.A. would be smarter than that, wouldn't you?

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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