Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy wants a chance to coach a complete lineup
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With the Clippers sputtering to a 4-9 record and losing three of their last four games against teams not exactly among the NBA’s elite, the chatter regarding the job security of Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy has been inevitable.
Though Dunleavy had maintained his team would be able to absorb injuries better this season because of the organization’s off-season moves that included landing No. 1 draft pick Blake Griffin, Sebastian Telfair, Craig Smith and Rasual Butler, Dunleavy says the team’s current injuries are too large to ignore.
Dunleavy’s main argument for keeping his job entailed giving him a chance to coach a complete lineup, which is without Griffin (stress fracture in left knee), Eric Gordon (strained left groin), Kareem Rush (season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury to his right knee) and Marcus Camby (lower-back bruise.
‘When’s the last time you ever saw an interim coach come in and the team be successful and make a playoff run?’ Dunleavy said after Thursday’s practice. ‘It’s not happening. Nobody knows these guys better than I know them. Give a coach a chance to coach Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin. After that, fine. Let the chips fall where they may. Other than that, you just fall to pressure.’
‘I understand fans,’ Dunleavy continued. ‘I don’t blame fans. They’re not technically a lot of times savvy. They don’t understand and they don’t weigh issues the way that you weigh them. They know wins and losses. We’ve had an awful run with this, but my track record is I have not lost with my players. I have lost without my players, but I haven’t lost with my players. From an ownership standpoint, I know there’s always a lot of pressure. I’ll live with whatever decision our owner makes. I’ll live by it.
‘But from my standpoint, I feel very confident that with this team healthy I can coach this team at a very high level. I think the players feel the same way. But again, I’m not saying what’s going to happen, what’s not going to happen. I understand it’s always a tough decision for the owner and management in that regard. I can say the same thing to you that I would say to them. I feel good about our group. I felt great about them in training camp. I feel good about them right now and the things we’re capable of doing. I’m not naive to the pressures out there with whatever’s there. I’m not saying my job is secure, but I’m not saying it’s not. Obviously it’s up to our owner. It’s our owner’s call. I feel confident in the position.’
When Camby was asked if there needs to be any coaching or personnel changes, he shot down the idea.
‘I like the guys we got here,’ he said. ‘I think Mike is doing a great job with what he’s had. The last couple of years he’s been basically having to coach a depleted lineup. It’s not fair for him, but it’s just the circumstances. I’m sure he would like to have everybody healthy. I’m sure if we were all healthy, our record would be a whole lot different than it was. The players -- we’re a great group of guys. This is probably one of the most talented teams that I’ve ever been on in my 14 years. We just haven’t been able to get on the court together at the same time. Once we get those two guys back, we should be at full strength and I expect everyone will see a big difference.’
There is one change Dunleavy may make. He kept the possibility open that he may pursue someone to fill the team’s lineup because of Rush’s season-ending injury.
In other news, Camby said he will try to play Friday against the Denver Nuggets after his lower-back bruise limited him to 11 minutes in Wednesday’s 106-981 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. His injury stemmed from the previous night’s 110-102 loss at New Orleans. But Dunleavy says he won’t know whether Camby will play until tomorrow.
Dunleavy also said Gordon is on track to return in Monday’s game against Minnesota.
Stay tuned to latimes.com/sports for more coverage.
-- Mark Medina