Del Negro beats the odds with Clippers

Del Negro beats the odds with Clippers
May 14, 2012, 4:52 pm
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The world works in mysterious ways sometimes. How else to explain former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro and the Clippers moving on to the second round of the playoffs and the Bulls, along with Tom Thibodeau -- the fastest NBA head coach to 100 wins and owner of the league's best record in two consecutive seasons -- already being on vacation?

Circumstances have something to do with it, of course, as Thibodeau's Bulls were snake-bitten by injuries and Del Negro's Clippers feature All-Star Blake Griffin and point guard Chris Paul, third in the recent league MVP voting, but still, it's ironic that a coach ran out of Chicago and considered to be a lame-duck coach earlier this season, has taken a moribund franchise to the second round of the postseason. It just proves how much things can change in a matter of weeks in the results-oriented NBA, where perception is everything and a Bulls team expected to contend for a title is at home and the Clippers, predicted by most to be bounced out of the opening round, are still competing.

Give Del Negro credit, especially for the way his team won Game 7 on the road, in a hostile environment, against a favored Memphis squad that was supposedly too tough for his "Lob City" crew. Despite his talented co-stars being hobbled by injuries, the Clippers persevered and Del Negro went to the bold move of riding his bench in the second half of a physical, defensive-minded game.

Rather than Paul and Griffin taking over, the likes of veteran blue-collar types Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin, midseason acquisition Nick Young, known for gunning when he was with a sad-sack Washington team and fearless second-year guard Eric Bledsoe carried the Clippers down the stretch, beating the Grizzlies at their own game. How the Clippers will fare against the team Del Negro once played for, top-seeded San Antonio, is a different story, but a job that many observers thought would be vacant come the offseason now looks like it will have continuity, as Del Negro will likely have to receive a contract extension for his success.

Meanwhile, Thibodeau faces questions for his game management, including injuries suffered by Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah during the Bulls' first-round playoff series defeat to Philadelphia, and is still awaiting the organization picking up his option for the 2012-13 season, a likely occurrence, though a long-term extension might not be quickly forthcoming. That might not be fair, but that's life, especially in the NBA, where fortunes can turn as quickly as a torn ACL, turned ankle and in some cases, a couple of years, a cross-country move, a blockbuster trade for a superstar and one successful playoff series.