2:52pm: Here are a few more updates out of Chicago:
11:44am: It took us multiple posts yesterday to round up all the tidbits trickling out of Chicago, where the NBA is holding its draft combine this week. We'll see if today is as busy, but in the meantime, here are the latest updates on the 2013 draft:
Clippers owner Donald Sterling will meet with incumbent head coach Vinny Del Negro this weekend to discuss the coach's fate with the organization, reports Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. According to Haynes, a decision is anticipated shortly after the meeting.
Del Negro's Clippers went up 2-0 in the first round of the Western Conference Quarterfinals before being defeated four straight times by the Grizzlies, who eliminated L.A. from the playoffs. The disappointing end to the season, along with Chris Paul's impending free agency, led many observers to conclude that a new hire was coming. As recently as ten days ago, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that Del Negro's dismissal appeared "inevitable" and named a few potential candidates for the position.
However, a report earlier this week from Stein and Ramona Shelburne indicated that there's still a "level of interest within the organization" in giving Del Negro an extension. Sterling is believed to be one of Del Negro's biggest supporters, perhaps in part due to his inexpensive price tag. But reports have suggested that the decision will be an organizational one, with Paul and Blake Griffin receiving some input as well.
2:47pm: More afternoon combine updates from Chicago:
1:35pm: We covered the Thursday morning updates from Chicago's predraft camp earlier today, but with so many tidbits surfacing throughout the day, we're starting an afternoon post to round up the latest notes:
10:58am: Although the decision on Del Negro will be an organizational one, Paul and Blake Griffin will be consulted, a source tells Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com, who stresses that the decision won't be made "blindly" (Twitter link).
8:16am: While it has been widely assumed that the Clippers will seek a new head coach following their first-round exit, the team hasn't ruled out the possibiity of bringing back Vinny Del Negro, according to Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN.com. The ESPN duo reports that there's a "level of interest within the organization" in giving Del Negro a contract extension rather than pursuing a replacement.
The final call on Del Negro's future will be made by owner Donald Sterling, who is considered the coach's biggest supporter in the organization, according to Stein and Shelburne. For now, team officials continue the weigh their options, with no decision reached yet. Del Negro, for his part, has reportedly drawn interest from one other team for a head coaching opening, but has only explored a return to the Clippers so far.
According to ESPN.com, resolution on Del Negro's future was expected to happen within a week of the Clippers' elimination, but it has dragged beyond that because Sterling likes to take his time with major decisions. Stein and Shelburne hear from sources that the longer it takes the club to announce a decision, the likelier it is that Del Negro will be back.
The Clippers' decision on Del Negro is a significant one, since it could have an effect on another decision this summer: Chris Paul's free agency. As Stein and Shelburne note, in recent years, Sterling has leaned toward hiring coaches and front office execs willing to sign short-term, inexpensive contracts, but I wonder if continuing along that path would be sending the wrong signals to CP3.
All eyes will be on Clippers guard Chris Paul this summer and while the All-Star has been treated like royalty in L.A. and arguably has been given more pull than any other player in the league when it comes to personnel decisions, it's possible that CP3 will head elsewhere as he looks to win his first NBA title. Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld ran down the Clippers' biggest competition and identified the Mavericks, Hawks, Rockets, and Nuggets as the top threats to pull him away from La La Land. Here's tonight's look around the Association as the Clippers gear up for a very interesting summer..
Metta World Peace hasn't offered any public hints about whether he plans to exercise his early-termination option for next season, but Salary Cap FAQ author Larry Coon hears he intends to play out his contract with the Lakers. World Peace is due $7,727,280 in the final season of his five-year deal, and Coon would be "shocked" if he turned that down.
The news isn't unexpected, since World Peace might have trouble making half as much next season if he were to hit the open market. He could probably wrangle more guaranteed money as part of a long-term deal, but at 33 years old, few teams would be willing to give him a contract that stretched out for too long.
World Peace has shown durability and, this year, a remarkable capacity to recover from a late-season knee injury, but his on-court efficiency hasn't been the same since he signed with the Lakers four years ago. His career PER had been 16.5 during his first 10 seasons in the league, but his PER with L.A. is just 11.8. His number this year was slightly higher, at 12.5, as World Peace was tasked with more minutes and shots amid an injury-hit season for his Lakers teammates.
In his blog post, Coon counts World Peace among the Lakers' commitments for next season and ponders whether the team could sign both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, as Grantland's Bill Simmons suggested. Such a move would require the team to amnesty Kobe Bryant and trade Pau Gasol to the Rockets, and there's no reasonable scenario that would allow the Lakers to offer max contracts to both Howard and Paul, as Coon deduces.
Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News doesn't hide his distaste for advanced metrics in his latest dispatch, and he thinks the Nets should wait to hire a new coach until the Grizzlies make their decision on Lionel Hollins official. If Memphis management determines Hollins, whose contract is up at season's end, doesn't fit with the team's new emphasis on statistics, the Nets should pounce on the coaching free agent, Lawrence writes. Given that Hollins said yesterday that the Grizzlies want him back, however, I'd be surprised if he's changing addresses this summer. Here's more from Lawrence on the Grizzlies and the rest of the NBA:
According to Grantland's Bill Simmons, who finishes off his three-part trade value column, there's "increasing buzz" that the Lakers would amnesty Kobe Bryant if they were guaranteed to sign both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. That appears a longshot on multiple counts, since the Clippers seem all but assured of re-signing Paul, while the Lakers have insisted they're not considering the amnesty move on Kobe. Even if the Lakers take Kobe's $30MM+ salary for next season off their books, it would still be difficult for the team to fit a max contract for Paul under the cap. Regardless, the offseason figures to be full of intrigue in L.A., as always. Here's the latest from the City of Angels and other Western Conference locales:
Free Agents / Cap Holds
Like the Nets a year ago, the Clippers head into the offseason with their future hinging on a decision from their franchise point guard. Unlike the Nets, who still needed to make a flurry of moves to fill out their starting lineup even after Deron Williams agreed to re-sign for the five-year max, the Clips have a solid core already in place, including a franchise player (Blake Griffin) whose own five-year extension kicks in this summer.
That's not to say Chris Paul's decision doesn't represent a crucial moment for the franchise -- it does. But if Paul were to leave town in search of greener pastures, it wouldn't necessarily be back to the drawing board for the Clippers, who are coming off the first Pacific Division title in team history.
Fortunately for the Clips, all signs all season have pointed toward Paul re-signing in Los Angeles for five years and $107.34MM. Assuming the team remains confident it will have Paul back next season, that means it will be free to move down the offseason to-do list, addressing a number of additional issues that arise with CP3's return.
For one: Vinny Del Negro's days in L.A. appear numbered, and if Paul is going to be commiting to another five years with the team, you have to figure that means he'll have a voice in the search for a new head coach. Alvin Gentry, Michael Malone, and Byron Scott are among the names that have surfaced as potential Del Negro replacements, and according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Paul "is fond of" all three.
Once the club hires its coach, it can turn its attention to filling out the roster. If Paul re-signs for the max, the team would already be over the cap, having committed $62MM+ to just six players. Acquiring a player via sign-and-trade is a possibility, but the team will have limited space to pull off a sign-and-trade or use its full mid-level exception. Signing a player using that full MLE would ensure the team is hard-capped for all of next season, like the Bulls were this past year, making in-season moves and upgrades a little tricky.
A long-term deal for Paul would also raise questions about Eric Bledsoe's future in Los Angeles. The Clippers' back-up point guard is eligible for a rookie-scale extension this summer, and the promise he's shown in his first three seasons will ensure there are teams interested in paying big bucks to lock him up. It's hard to see the Clippers being one of those teams though, with Paul penciled in for most of the playing time at the point in L.A. Although the Clippers won't be forced to make a decision on Bledsoe this summer, the team's leverage in trade talks figures to decline as the 23-year-old's free agency approaches. The Clippers could decide to emulate the Thunder's approach with James Harden, moving Bledsoe well in advance of his free agency in order to maximize his trade value.
Whether the Clippers opt to make their major moves via trade or free agency, there are plenty of holes to fill on a roster that currently only has five players on guaranteed contracts for '13/14. While Jamal Crawford has exhibited an exceptional ability to score off the bench, the Clips could use a more defensive-minded starting two guard -- Tony Allen comes immediately to mind, though there will likely be plenty of contenders courting him this offseason.
The Clippers could also use an upgrade on Caron Butler on the wing, but their more pressing need may be in the frontcourt. DeAndre Jordan's offensive game is limited, and L.A. could benefit tremendously from another productive big man to take some pressure off of Blake Griffin. Lamar Odom, Ryan Hollins, Ronny Turiaf, and the rest of the Clips' options didn't exactly fill that hole this past season.
Kevin Garnett would be an ideal fit for the Clippers, and was frequently linked to L.A. in trade rumors at the deadline, though it's not clear if KG is interested in continuing his career anywhere except Boston. Even if he were willing to waive his no-trade clause, the price would be steep -- I'd imagine the C's would ask for both Jordan and Bledsoe. Paul Millsap's name also surfaced in deadline rumors in relation to the Clippers, but his path to L.A. isn't quite so clear now that he's a free agent. He'll receive more than the mid-level exception, so the Clippers would likely only have a shot at him through a sign-and-trade. Perhaps L.A. could put together a Bledsoe-centric package that would interest the Jazz, given Utah's need for a point guard.
If the Clippers can't land a player like Garnett or Millsap, they could turn their attention to a free agent market that includes a handful of lesser, albeit more obtainable, options. Still, after seeing the Clippers eliminated in the first round this spring, it's clear the team needs at least one more impact player to become a true threat to come out of the West. I'm not sure that impact player will be available for $5MM or less.
Nonetheless, Griffin and Paul have turned the Clippers into a perennial playoff team, and the appeal of Los Angeles will ensure that many free agents gravitate toward the club. It shouldn't be too difficult for the team to put together another solid bench made up of veterans willing to take slight discounts to play for a contender in L.A.
It was a disappointing end to the season in Los Angeles, but with Paul seemingly likely to return, a new head coach expected to take the reins, further development on the way from Griffin and Jordan, and a valuable trade asset (Bledsoe) in hand, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about the team's future.
We saw earlier today that J.B. Bickerstaff was on the Pistons' radar. On Wednesday, the Rockets assistant will interview for the team's head coaching vacancy, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, adding that Bickerstaff's stock as a head coaching candidate has risen rapidly of late in the eyes of NBA execs. Phil Jackson, who is serving as a consultant in the Pistons coaching search, quietly flew into Detroit on Monday and was scheduled to meet with team president Joe Dumars on Tuesday, reports Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News. Here are some other news and notes from around the Association: