Vinny Del Negro talks to Chris Paul on Wednesday. (Sue Ogrocki / Associated…)
After beginning the season with soaring expectations, the Clippers have skidded to a dismal low.
They have lost three games in a row for the first time this season after falling to New Orleans, 97-90, on Thursday. And since the All-Star break, during which they were at the top of the Pacific Division for the first time in franchise history, they have lost 11 of their last 16. They are now in second place in their division, three games behind the Lakers, and could be in danger of missing the playoffs if they don't turn things around.
The team's sudden collapse has led people to question whether Coach Vinny Del Negro should remain at the helm.
Chris Broussard of ESPN is reporting that sources have said that "Vinny has lost the team." He added that a majority of the Clippers want a coaching change, according to his sources.
However, after the Clippers' embarrassing loss on Thursday, the players publicly defended their coach.
"We're still behind him," Blake Griffin said. "It's not that. It's us. It's on me.
"I've got to find a way and we've got to find a way to put the fun back in it, the fun we had the first how many games and we were just going out and playing."
Said Kenyon Martin: "Coaches come and go in this league. We all know players make this league. But until we go out and play, we can't always point the finger at the coach. That ain't always the issue."
The team's rapid decline could be due to many factors, including the devastating loss of Chauncey Billups to a season-ending Achilles' injury in early February. Without their veteran guard, the Clippers are 11-14.
There has also been a seemingly endless shuffling of players.
Since the shortened 66-game season began, the Clippers have added Reggie Evans, Kenyon Martin, Bobby Simmons (for two 10-day contracts) and Nick Young to the roster while Brian Cook was traded away.
A coaching change this deep in the season would add yet another obstacle to the team's developing chemistry.
Del Negro told The Times' Broderick Turner that he's not putting "credence" into "sources" who say that he may lose his job or that the team no longer stands behind him.
"When you're losing games, everyone jumps on you. If you can't take the heat, you shouldn't do the job," Del Negro said. "That's part of it. You have to win games. That's what you're measured on and we haven't played as well as I would like or anybody."