Lob City has once again become Sloppy City.
The Clippers are once again mired in a mess caused by their owner, Donald Sterling. And once again, only the very future of the franchise is at stake.
In an interview this month with The Times’ T.J. Simers, Sterling essentially admitted what everyone already knew -- the decision to fire coach Vinny Del Negro was Chris Paul’s decision. It was a great scoop, but it was no surprise. The Clippers were acting like any NBA team that caters to their best player. In order to convince Paul to re-sign with the Clippers, they were getting rid of Del Negro on Paul’s behalf and allowing Paul to pick the coach of his choice.
The problem is, Paul is not like any other NBA player. He is intensely conscious of protecting one of the league’s cleanest images. Only Chris Paul could pull off a national ad campaign in which his alter ego is a kind, sweater-wearing insurance agent. Chris Paul likes the world to look at him as if he’s Cliff Paul, and Cliff Paul would never have a coach fired.
So while Sterling’s comments were absolute truth, they were also absolutely damaging in the Clippers attempt to re-sign their star. Paul is not going to want to walk into a situation where people think he is a coach-killer. He doesn’t want the pressure of being the guy who had the coach fired. His reputation is worth more to him than the $28 million extra that the Clippers could give him in negotiations.
Suddenly, the chances of him returning to the team have been reduced, and the Clippers are worried. They admitted as much Friday when they refuted the words of their owner, with team Vice President Gary Sacks telling the Times’ Brad Turner, “Ultimately, the decision was made by myself and the front office ... all this other stuff that’s out there, to me, it’s just ridiculous.”
Only the Clippers, it seems, would try to woo their best player by calling their owner ridiculous.