Chris Paul (center) has spent two seasons playing for Clippers owner Donald Sterling. (Noah Graham/Getty Images)
The franchise point guard is reportedly upset with his franchise.
ESPN.com reports All-Star guard Chris Paul, set to become an unrestricted free agent in July, is not happy with the Clippers because he feels he is being wrongly blamed for the organization’s decision to part ways with coach Vinny Del Negro earlier this month.
“He’s angry right now and his anger is directed toward the Clippers organization,” the source said. “Chris is a man of principle and if he feels like you’ve gone against his principles, it will affect how he feels about you. He’s very agitated that his name has been put out there as the reason for Vinny’s firing. He had nothing to do with it.”
The site further reports, citing a source, that Paul “refused to get involved” with the organization’s coaching position and that the decision to let go of Del Negro was made solely by Clippers management.
The Los Angeles Times asked Clippers owner Donald Sterling about the decision to part ways with Del Negro, and Sterling told the paper that he felt the need to “support” the team’s “special players.”
“Was this done,” I asked, “just to hang on to Chris Paul?”
“I always want to be honest and not say anything that is not true,” Sterling said. “So I’d rather not say anything.
“So I wonder, is this decision being made because the players are now calling the shots? Am I off base?”
“No, you’re not off base,” Sterling said. “This is a players’ league, and, unfortunately, if you want to win you have to make the players happy.”
“But if you have special players, and special players think that they know the best opportunity to win, you have to support them.”
L.A. claimed its first division title, winning 56 games this season, the most in a franchise history that dates to 1970-71. However, the Clippers were eliminated by the Grizzlies in six games in their first-round Western Conference playoff series. That result represented a step back from their semifinals appearance in 2012.
Del Negro told The Dan Patrick Show earlier this week that he was “surprised” that he was let go and said that Paul has “a lot of say-so” in the organization’s decisions.
“Well, Chris is a free agent,” Del Negro said. “They were compelled to make a decision. He’s entitled to his opinion. He made First-Team All-NBA both seasons on defense and on offense and that’s the first time he’s done that in his career. And we set every franchise record. But, in saying that, obviously he’s a free agent, he’s going to have a lot of say-so in a lot of things, as he did the previous summer when we put the team together. … It’s behind me. They are positioned for success in the future. … However it went down, it doesn’t matter.”
When word first broke that Del Negro was being let go, Yahoo! Sports noted that Del Negro wouldn’t be returning because Paul “wanted a different coach.” CBSSports.com also reported Paul was “not a fan” of Del Negro and that lack of support was “among the biggest reasons” the Clippers chose to move on.
The Clippers have not yet picked Del Negro’s successor and are expected to conduct a deep search for his replacement. The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday former Suns coach Alvin Gentry, Pacers assistant Brian Shaw, former Cavaliers coach Byron Scott and ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy are among the names being considered.
Del Negro, 46, holds a career coaching record of 210-184 (.533) in five seasons with the Bulls and Clippers. He was 128-102 (.557) in his three seasons in L.A.
Paul, 28, was selected to his sixth All-Star Game, the All-NBA First Team and the All-Defensive First Team this season and posted averages of 16.9 points, 9.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. He can sign a five-year deal with the Clippers this summer or settle for a four-year contract with outside suitors.
BY BEN GOLLIVER, POSTED MAY 31, 2013