The way the Chicago Bulls are routinely able to depress competition of any quality -- with Derrick Rose, without Derrick Rose, whatever -- it's easy to forget just how short-lived the team's seemingly unbreakable grasp on the Eastern Conference has been. Just two seasons ago, this was a franchise led by head coach Vinny Del Negro, one constantly fighting for its playoff life, one that seemed inherently directionless. Tom Thibodeau changed all of that, and Chicago is a happier place for it. But when you look across the NBA landscape and see what is happening in Los Angeles with the supremely talented Clippers, it sinks in just how fortunate the Bulls are to be out from the under the watch of Del Negro. The bulging eyes of coach Thibs are so much more nurturing.
Last night, ESPN's resident "Sports" "Guy", whatever that means, Bill Simmons tweeted that Del Negro was on "super-thin, could-go-any-day ice" with the Clippers, the NBA team he is now in charge of. This afternoon, Chris Broussard dropped a co-sign on it. After the jump, a trip down memory lane for some criticisms of Del Negro that will ring very familiar for Bulls fans.
LA's knocks against Del Negro are as follows:
[The Clippers' players] cite the uncertainty of Del Negro's rotation as a major problem.
For instance, in one four-game stretch this month, Bledsoe played 6 minutes one game, 16 the next, then 4 minutes, then 17. And while starting at shooting guard, Randy Foye has played 35 minutes on some nights and 14 or 16 on others.
The four people alive who continue to be apologists for Tyrus Thomas' Bulls career can relate. Guilty.
2. X's and O's
...players have complained that Del Negro's offensive and defensive schemes are too basic and predictable and they say he plays favorites when handing out criticism, according to the sources.
This is the primary reason it was so earth-shaking to see Del Negro immediately get another NBA head coaching job after his Bulls tenure came to an end: anyone who watched those Chicago teams play could tell their offensive sets were about as complex as a high school team's. Maybe less complex?
Yes, the Bulls added some big pieces between the end of Del Negro's tenure and the start of Thibodeau's (Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver), but even so, it's remarkable just how improved the team's defense became once Thibodeau grabbed the reigns. Rose went from a poor defender to an above-average one. Luol Deng went from a defender who didn't leave much of an impression to someone vying for a spot on the NBA's All-Defensive Team. Joakim Noah's D improved approximately 50 percent.
Say what you will about VDN, but this much is true: he was 'hands off' to a rather extreme degree. Speaking of that...
3. Preferential treatment:
"That's a big problem," one player said. "The best coaches jump on whoever deserves it, no matter who it is."
There was a very brief point during Rose's rookie season in which Del Negro did not play him in crunch-time. This was quickly amended, and afterwards, you never really heard the members of a very young and mostly gracious Bulls squad say anything publicly to go against their coach.
Here again is where the 'hands off' aspect comes into play: Del Negro, for all of his warts, didn't screw up Rose. He could have...I don't know....told him to slow down, or not shoot as much, or, if he did indeed known how to diagram a play, run isolations for John Salmons in crunch-time. Whatever. He didn't do this.
But here's the thing: those Bulls squads were unquestionably A-to-B type teams -- with B serving as the post-season and C meaning real title contention. The Bulls, in their heart of hearts, knew their ceiling was only so high. That's why Del Negro, for a period, was, gah, OK.
But these Clippers: man. Blake Griffin and CP3 deserve better. Del Negro simply isn't capable of giving it to them.
So when you read the headline today that says "Sources: Tension high among Clips, Del Negro", it's easy to understand. We've been there. Thankfully, those days now seem like they were so long ago.