All posts by otd94

Did Vinny Del Negro Deserve To Be Fired? – Omavi Darden

Wizards v/s Clippers 03/12/11
Wizards v/s Clippers 03/12/11 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This season Del Negro led this electrifying Clippers team to a franchise high 56 wins. The Clippers won their first ever division title and while doing so ended up with the 4th seed heading into the Playoffs.

This Los Angeles team was obviously better than its counter part (The Los Angeles Lakers ) for the year. Many people believed the Clippers would make some noise in the postseason.

They were scheduled to play Memphis, a team they had beaten in an exhausting 7 game series the previous postseason. A lot of NBA viewers gave the Clippers a slight edge in this match up.

Let’s point out the fact that Los Angeles had the best player and point guard heading into the series. Chris Paul was that guy, and along with the fact that the Clippers had such a good bench was also a reason for the slight edge. Heading into the playoffs Vinny was constantly put on the hot seat. His player rotations, coaching schemes, and late game deficiencies were always questionable.

Del Negro at times, seemed to put players on the court who didn’t seem to jell on the offensive side of the ball. His starting rotations were scrutinized.  Several times in the year a player coming of the bench would be outplaying the starter at that same position. Matt Barnes for much of the year outplayed Caron Butler, yet he still played in limited minutes behind the depreciating Butler. Also having Chauncey start at the shooting guard position didn’t make sense to many people as well.

Billups was injured most of this season, slower due to his age, and an inconsistent shooter for the most part. Willie Green was overall a better athlete, defender, and shot more consistently than the aging Billups. This Clippers team looked very stagnant on offense as well. Los Angeles abused the pick and roll to death, and became very predictable. Once teams started figuring out how to stop it, Chris was forced to go iso at the top of the key. Isolation basketball isn’t winning basketball, it takes a team to win, not one player.

Those were the Clippers two main ways of scoring, and a few down screens for shooters every now and then which didn’t work out to0 well in the long run. Del Negro seemed to want Paul to do everything on offense. He allowed Chris to dictate almost everything that was run on the court. As good as Chris Paul is, he isn’t a head coach in this league. He is a player, Del Negro is the coach.

Vinny should be the one in charge, he needs to put his players in positions to score. You can’t expect your star point guard to play his heart out on the court, and be a coach at the same time. It doesn’t work like that.  Everyone on the team has a task. The defense was just as bad.  Multiple teams lit up the Clippers from behind the arc during the season. It was as if they were running shooting drills on this disoriented Clippers squad. The Clips were constantly late on rotations, and close outs on shooters.

There was a report earlier in the season, that Vinny changed the defense up game by game. This tells me Del Negro doesn’t have a consistent reliable scheme at his disposal. If you are changing up the defense all the time, how do you expect players to be able to adjust in game situations. The players need to get a feel for the defense being run, and grow a custom to running it to perfection. The Clippers had  slow perimeter defenders, and frequently allowed penetration from opposing wing players. This defense appeared very discombobulated, too many times for a championship contender.

The Clippers late in games weren’t all that impressive either.  Vinny would allow Paul to handle the rock at the top of the key, let the shot clock wind down, and go one on five hoping to score. That doesnt even sound like offense in any way, shape, or form. He didn’t run many set plays late in games, this is probably the main reason the Clippers were so anticipatable in tight games. Del Negro seemed to only have faith in Paul on offense.  He hardly ever attempted to get any other players involved on offense in the fourth quarter of games.

Vinny had previously coached the Chicago Bulls from 2008-2010. He was very average at best, going a measly .500 both seasons with a record of 41-41 each year. He was shortly fired after his disappointing outing.  Once Del Negro left, the Bulls went an incredible 62 -20. Maybe Del Negro was the problem after all, who knows? So from there he became the Clippers coach in 2010. He wasn’t brought in to win a championship, but to be an average coach on a below average team.

Vinny was doing fine for the time being, until Chris Paul arrived in a blockbuster deal. Once Paul landed on the Clippers, expectations went up. Los Angeles was expected to compete for a title, year in and year out. Failure would not be tolerated. Once the losing started occurring, the spotlight was then shined on Del Negro.

He was an average coach, his weaknesses were being ridiculed. It wasn’t his fault and this wasn’t what he signed up for. In his first year over Paul, Del Negro’s team would go on to be swept in the second round of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs. Vinny was on the spot heading into this season. People wanted a championship, nothing less would be acceptable.

I believe Vinny was overwhelmed, the pressure really got to him. Del Negro was only an average coach at best to begin with, remember that. So the Clippers would go on to lose in 6, against the hungry for revenge Grizzlies team. Del Negro would later lose his job once this season ended. So do I think he deserved to be fired. I would say yes, only due to the circumstances he was put in. He wasn’t ready for all of this to begin with, and isn’t a championship caliber coach. So with all of that said, I believe the Clippers made the right decision to let him go

The Oklahoma City Thunder Were Favored Over Memphis Why? – Omavi Darden

Once Russell Westbrook was lost due to injury, many people still claimed that the Thunder could make it to the NBA Finals without him. I immediately disagreed with that claim.

For starters, the Thunder had a ferocious battle tested Grizzlies team to get by first. I already knew from the jump, that the Grizzlies would give the Thunder serious problems in the interior. The lethal combination of Zach and Marc scoring in the paint area and fighting for rebounds would obviously wear this undermanned Thunder team down over a 7 game series.

Their defensive schemes were just as good. The Grizzlies do a good job of forcing opposing teams top offensive players into spots on the court where there is help defense (greatly reducing the % of attempted shots and good for disrupting an efficient offense).

Next people seem to forget how good Mike Conley is. He is a top 10 point guard in my opinion. He is a good floor general, can stretch the floor with his shooting touch, and isn’t afraid to take big shots down the stretch of tight games. He is so agile and fast, he gives defenders fits trying to stay in front of him and guard him.

People also forgot that Memphis had a Tony Allen and a Tayshaun Prince. These two players are superb one on one defenders, and great team defenders as well. Tony is a quicker more physical defender who can get up in you, and pressure you into tough spots on the court. Prince is a tall/longer/finesse defender who uses his body to maneuver himself into advantageous positions on the court over offensive players (to the point where he can literally dictate the shot that the offensive player takes), and still contests it with his outstretched arms, resulting in a lower % shot. That’s exactly what Memphis wants you to do.

Marc is also the leader of this tantalizing defense. He doesn’t necessarily block a lot of shots or make the most exciting defensive plays, but its his paint presence alone that allows this Memphis team to function so well defensively. His help defense and rotations on defense are crisp as can be. He alters a lot of shots attempted in the paint area, causing them to miss severely. This Memphis team really believes in one another, and the trust factor is the reason they operate so well as a unit. Players know where teammates want the ball on offense, and also know where the help side defense is going to be at.

Memphis doesn’t necessarily have a designated star player on their team that they rely on to get them buckets at the end of close games. However, they don’t need one because they are such a good team. At the end of the day I understand Kevin Durant is a star in this league, and he can drop 40 on any given night. But at the end of the day, one man can not expect to take on a whole team and be victorious. Memphis ended up winning this series 4-1 I’m not too surprised.

Omavi Darden

Memphis Grizzlies vs Oklahoma City Thunder

As we all know, these two teams with title aspirations are going at it head on today in the Western Conference Semi Finals. Of course the first typical question always arises, who will win this series ??? I will not make a pick on who will win, but I will inform you on each teams advantages over one another and let you make your own educated basketball decision on who will prevail and move on to the next round.

First we begin with the Memphis Grizzlies

1 Physicality- Memphis is a very physical team and they will bully/push a team around if they allow it to happen. Memphis usually dominates the boards and hurts teams in the paint area. They have possibly the best Big man duo at the 4 and 5 position in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Both these players have range, post moves, and can rebound. Zach will kill you in the paint area, he lacks athleticism but he makes up for it with his offensive awareness around the hoop he will find a way to impose his will and score in the paint and hits the offensive glass hard. Marc is more of a finesse player who can shoot like a guard and pass like the point guard, his defense is also good he anchors the Grizzlies interior and usually makes the right plays down the stretch.

2 A Floor General- Mike Conley is an excellent pg he has quickness, range, passing ability, and can hit the dagger. He is very underrated and  some times overlooked due to playing along side Marc and Zach as well. He doesn’t really get as much credit as he should for what he does on the court. Against the flashy Clippers, he averaged 17 and 8 and constantly put pressure on Chris Paul the best pg in the game to play defense on him wearing Cp3 out over the stretch. Mike scores well in transition. His quickness allows him to accelerate at high speeds to the rim and his finishing abilities allow him to make circus shots in traffic over other bigs in the paint area. He is also good at setting up the bigs for scoring opportunities and knows how to get the team in a scoring rhythm.

3 Defense- Memphis has a lot of speed and length on the perimeter and the DPOY in Marc Gasol monitoring the paint area waiting to make a play on the ball. Mike at the pg has speed and quickness and can stay in front of other top point guards in the league. Tony Allen is one of the top defensive players in the league.  He is usually assigned to guard the opposing teams best offensive player,  has speed and is very physical and can disrupt an offensive player and throw his rhythm off at any key time in the game. Tayshaun Prince at the 3 has height at 6’9 and long lanky arms he can contest shots from the perimeter with relative ease  and has sufficient speed to hold his assignment in check. Zach is slightly below average on defense due to his lack of speed, however he has Marc behind him to help back him up on defense.

Now Oklahoma City Thunder

1 Kevin Durant- This man right here at 6’10, can shoot from anywhere on the court. He makes scoring look so easy, he scores in bunches, he can have only 15 after 3 quarters then end up with 40 for the game. Kd has height,length,quickness,handles, and range he can shoot far behind the three point line like its nothing.  Shooting the basketball to him, is like shooting a layup. He is virtually unguardable by even the top tier defenders in this league. Guard him tight, he will hit you with a nasty crossover and blow by you and then dunk on the whole defense with his long frame. Sag off him, he will shoot on you from the perimeter and pile up points on you in a heart beat. He is also automatic from the the free throw line, so fouling him won’t help. He has also improved on his passing and hitting the open man behind the arc for the 3 pointer. Kevin Durant is deadly at the end of games, he is the last person you want with the ball with 2 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter of a tight game. He will take that shot and he will make that shot.

2 Serge Ibaka- At 6 ’10 Serge is so athletic, he is a game changer at the defensive side of the court. He can make shots attempted in the paint miss just by his pure presence alone. I’m sure when guards attack the rim, he strikes some type of fear in their eyes and they know he is going for the high light reel block. He has also extended his range and is a reliable jump shooter from the outside. His post moves have slightly improved as well. Since the Thunder don’t have Russell Westbrook he will have to step up and be more aggressive on the offensive end of the court.

3 Experience- This team has been through painful losses in previous post season stints and has been to the finals. They know how to play under pressure and know what to expect when the going gets tough. These players have Derek Fisher a proven veteran/warrior has won multiple championships with the Lakers and knows what it is like to be in this position. He is a clutch player as well as Durant and can drain big shots with the game on the line.Image

The Collapse Of The Mighty Los Angeles Clippers – Omavi Darden

I’m a Clippers fan, well really just Chris Paul fan, but recently I have been forced to come to terms with the true nature of the Clippers. They just aren’t that good. They lost in the First Round to Memphis in horrible fashion. As constructed, the Clippers are not a contending team and I will list the reasons why.

1. Half Court Offense- The Clippers rely too much on CP3 to either facilitate or score the basketball. He has to work too hard just to make the right play. The Clippers love to run the pick and roll, but this can be ineffective and counterproductive when teams decide to trap Chris on the roll, forcing the ball out of his hands to a shooter for a contested 3 pointer. The Clippers lack a go to scorer. Blake is limited and doesn’t impose his will on offense. The starting center, Deandre Jordan has been playing like trash and has huge weaknesses in his game. He lacks post moves, an offensive basketball IQ, loses the ball attempting to post, can’t shoot outside of the paint and doesn’t rebound as well as he should for a big man. After that, we get to the starting sg Chauncey Billups. He was once very good, but is now a shell of himself. He is less agile, can’t get to the rim or create his own shot. Most of the time he has to resort to 3 point shots, which he doesn’t shoot as well as he did back in his Detroit days. When he does shoot, they are mostly contested with a hand in his face and the % drops dramatically from there. Next we get to Caron Butler.  He has trouble creating his own shot, can’t get to the rim, is slow for his position, and at times tends to live and die by the jumper. After that we get to Vinny Del Negro. He doesn’t really run good set plays to put his team in position to score, his system is basic and easy to stop, he puts all the pressure on Chris Paul’s shoulders to go isolation and create a offense for everyone else. Even though Chris Paul is a great player, he can’t do everything on his own. Other people need to contribute to be a successful team in this league.

2 Lack Of A Go To Scorer- The Clippers, as of right now rely on the 6’0 pg Chris Paul to be that person. The Only problem is, that isn’t his role as a basketball player. His role is to create scoring opportunities for other players and to hit a clutch shot every now and then when the game is on the line. Usually a go to scorer has height and length to where he can create his own shot relatively easy and can give you 20 + on a night in night out basis. Chris is smaller, so that means he has to work that much harder just to get his shots up. He can do it but he is really a Floor General and Facilitator at heart.

If the Clippers shore these problems up they can truly be championship contenders.

The Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin Has Been Exposed – Omavi Darden

Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

The first problem I have, is with Blake Griffin.   In my opinion , he is the most over hyped player in the NBA today. He is making over 100 million dollars and is proclaimed by many a superstar. When you think superstar, you think big time; when you think big time, you think big numbers and results.

Blake has a limited post game, due to his short arms and can’t score consistently against taller/ longer forwards at the 4 position. His fundamentals aren’t that great either; he relies too much on his strength and athleticism to score. That’ll work sometimes, but against a smart defensive minded team, he will be shut down. He needs to learn more post moves to use, instead of throwing head fakes and off balance spin hook shots. Teams study his predictable moves, and defend to counter what he likes to do.

Next we discuss his jump shot.  It has improved but only so very slightly. Blake still hesitates when shooting the ball, his lack of confidence is the reason for him missing a majority of the time. He has a decent shooting form, he just needs to believe in himself. Blake only takes maybe 3 or 4 jumpers a night, the defense willingly gives him the open look; however if he isnt willing to take it then he becomes one dimensional. This makes him even more predictable and allows defenders to stay in the paint area and basically makes Blake a non scoring threat due to his lack of shooting touch. You can’t just practice shooting, and then when its game time shy away from it.

If Blake would actually take the jump shot when it is there, which it is most times and not hesitate, his % would go up. The lane would  then open up for him, to blow by his defender, attack the rim, and finish strong. Blake, at 6’10 should be grabbing more rebounds than he does now. In some of the games I have watched, he only has around 6 or 7 for the night which is unacceptable! With his height/athleticism/strength, he should control the glass on the offensive and defensive side. His defense is also very suspect as well. Blake gets lit up by other premier Forwards at his position in the NBA. Some names to throw out there Kevin Love, Lamarcus Aldridge, Zack Randolph etc.

While I understand they are all very good, as a so called superstar in this league, you should be able to limit some of the things they do on the offensive side. These players score with relative ease on Griffin. They always get the better of Griffin and yet he still gets more recognition than any of them. Blake at times, seems to only give effort on offense and not enough on defense. His help defense is below average and his rotations on shooters are slow as well. He has low defensive intangibles, maybe a veteran forward that is a good on ball/team defender could mentor him in the future, because his defense is lacking as of right now. With all that athleticism he should be contesting shots in the paint left and right like a Serge Ibaka and should be getting more blocks. He is also very quick for his position he should be closing out on shooters better than he does and his help defense should be more crisp. Blake should dominate the paint area on defense.

There is a reason why people call him one dimensional. He can only score off dunks,athleticism, and strength none of those take real skill. He is the poster boy of the NBA.  He draws crowds in with his ferocious dunks on fast-breaks. All of that is exciting, but does it all equate to winning games in the playoffs where it counts?

For the last two years, Blake has been shut down on the offensive side of the court, and scored on easily on the defensive end. He seems to shrink as games go on, late in 4th quarters of games Griffin appears timid and afraid to take shots. He basically becomes a non factor scoring wise, and allows defenders to stay back and have support in the paint area. He doesn’t exhibit being a superstar in any way on that basketball court. All excitement and fun, but no important accomplishments to show for it.

Blake is a weak free throw shooter as well. He has improved but is still shaky from the stripe.  He isn’t a go to scorer like a normal NBA superstar is (where you throw him the ball and tell him to go to work and score). He will dribble, get in a bad position and kick the ball out to a shooter for a contested 25 ft three pointer which will miss 9/10.

Blake is still young, but has a lot of things to work on if he ever wants to be regarded as a superstar in my book. I have nothing against Blake Griffin, I just don’t like the fact that he is over-hyped and called a superstar by people who don’t really watch the game of basketball.