ESPN's Chris Broussard cites a source who tells him that Chris Paul is angry with the Clippers because he is being blamed for the firing of Vinny Del Negro. The former head coach was relieved from his duties about ten days ago, amidst chatter that Paul "wasn't a fan" of Del Negro and didn't endorse him while speaking with management after the season ended. While it isn't clear on how much this will impact the free agent point guard's decision to remain with the franchise, Broussard's source intimated that it could lead Paul to consider looking elsewhere. Should the six-time All-Star decide to leave L.A., Broussard won't rule out the Hawks as a possible landing spot, making note that Atlanta is in the position to offer max contracts to both Paul and Dwight Howard.
In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Clippers owner Donald Sterling hinted that Paul was among those on the team who played a role in Del Negro's firing. When asked if the players were now calling the shots, Sterling responded:
"This is a players' league, and, unfortunately, if you want to win you have to make the players happy…If you have special players, and special players think that they know the best opportunity to win, you have to support them."
In an interview on the Dan Patrick Show (hat tip to Zach Harper of CBS Sports), Del Negro implied that Paul was the reason why he was let go:
"Well, Chris is a free agent…They were compelled to make a decision. He's entitled to his opinion. He's a free agent and he's going to have a lot of say on a lot of things as he did in the previous summer when we put the team together."
Despite those implications, Broussard credits a source with knowledge of the situation that the superstar guard had made it clear to the organization that he wanted nothing to do with the decision making regarding Del Negro's future, and that Blake Griffin did not play a role either. The source also said that the front office had long been at odds with the coach, claiming that Del Negro had been the one to initiate trade calls with the Celtics involving DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe for Kevin Garnett – something that the front office was strongly against. In general, Broussard relays the notion that the tension between Del Negro and team brass had been so high that the players wouldn't have had to be involved in his ouster.
According to another of Broussard's sources, Paul is not involved in the team's current head coaching search. Should the six-time All-Star decide to leave L.A., there are a handful of teams who could make a viable contract offer in addition to the potential route of joining another team via sign-and-trade. Broussard won't rule out the Hawks as a possible landing spot, making note that Atlanta is in the position to offer max contracts to both Paul and Howard.