NBA PM: Clippers Nearing Decision on Del Negro?
Phil Jackson, Nate McMillan, Stan Van Gundy, Mike D’Antoni—there are no shortage of candidates to replace Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, but that discussion can’t take place until the team decides his future.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein have been told by sources that Del Negro’s fate will be disclosed sometime next week.
“Sources told ESPNLosAngeles.com that the decision rests largely with Clippers owner Donald Sterling, which could help Del Negro. The embattled coach has enjoyed a largely positive relationship with Sterling over the past two seasons, with Sterling issuing a public vote of confidence in Del Negro in March after an ESPN.com report that his job was in jeopardy.”
The Clippers won 14 of their final 19 regular season games and beat the fourth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.
Shelburne and Stein also reported that Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks and New Orleans’ Hornets coach Monty Williams would each be candidates as well, should Del Negro be fired. Brooks is seeking a contract extension with the Thunder, and those talks will likely continue after his team’s season is over.
Chris Paul’s affinity for Williams seems to be the seed that started the rumors that the Clippers were interested in him. Los Angeles would need permission from the Hornets to make an offer to Williams, so the chances he’s the next coach of the Clippers are slim.
Odds are that the Clippers keep Del Negro (not many teams are looking to pay for two head coaches at the same time) but he’ll definitely be under the microscope next season if he is retained.
Young center gets Foote in Nets’ door
As we discussed in Tuesday’s NBA PM, centers are hard to find and team’s like the Boston Celtics—who can conjure up a productive big man like Greg Stiemsma—have a leg up on the competition.
The Brooklyn Nets’ efforts to develop their own seven-footer have led them to former Cornell standout Jeff Foote, who spent most of the past season with the team’s D-League affiliate, the Springfield Armor.
But Foote’s pursuit of a guaranteed NBA contract isn’t quite typical. Unlike many D-Leaguers, who joined the league out of college, Foote was signed to a three-year deal by legendary Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Unfortunately, things never worked out for Foote in Tel Aviv. He was a star player on the greatest men’s team in Cornell history (the Big Red made it to the Sweet 16 in 2010, where they fell to the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats), but coach David Blatt never found a role for the two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year.
“Maccabi Tel Aviv is a big-name club,” Foote told HOOPSWORLD at the Nets’ free agent mini-camp. “It’s a lot of pressure. Right out of college, it’s kind of a different transition. There’s so much more pressure and much more responsibility.
“You don’t know anybody,” he continued. “I relied heavily on my teammates while I was there: Richard Hendrix, Doron Perkins, Jeremy Pargo. They kind of helped me through it and since then I’ve grown a lot physically and mentally.”
In November of 2010 Maccabi Tel Aviv loaned Foote to the Spanish Club Melilla Baloncesto and, following that, he opted out of his Maccabi contract and signed a one-year deal with Zastal Zielona Góra before the 2011-2012 season. However, Foote backed out when he got a tryout with the Portland Trail Blazers, and while he wasn’t able to make the team, he did sign with the D-League’s Springfield Armor. Foote even went on to ink a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Hornets, appearing briefly in four games.
Rather than return to Europe, though, Foote went right back to Springfield, where he had developed a good working relationship with Nets general manager of minor league operations Milton Lee.
“Being with the Springfield Armor, the Nets affiliate, I saw guys like Jerry Smith go up and Dennis Horner go up, so I’ve had a pretty close connection to the Nets,” said Foote, who has signed on to play for the Nets’ summer league team in Orlando this July. “I like their organization. Milton Lee has been tremendous for me. He’s been a great mentor and friend and really helped me.”
And, like Foote, Lee attended an Ivy League school (Penn), which prompted Foote to joke that Ivy Leaguers “have got to stick together.”
But Lee’s interest in Foote is more than just some affinity for an athletic conference. Foote has displayed significant progress with the Armor, both physically and on the court.
“At Cornell I finished up at about 250 (pounds),” said the seven-footer. “Right now I’m about 265. My goal for the end of the summer is to end up around 275, 280. But it’s got to be a good 275, 280. If I end up 265, that’s fine because right now I feel pretty comfortable with my body weight.”
Over 42 games with the Armor, Foote averaged 14.6 points, nine rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 54 percent from the field. He still struggles at the foul line (55.1 percent last year), but he now has the advantage of three years of college experience followed by a stint in Europe and 42 D-League games. In other words, he has the perfect pedigree for someone hoping to ascend to the NBA.
“To specifically gear yourself toward the NBA, it’s better,” Foote said of the D-League. “In Europe, it’s so much more of a power game. The absence of a defensive three-seconds (rule) congests the lane so it becomes more of a shooter’s game out there. The bigs over there are a lot more heavy. With Maccabi Tel Aviv I was with Sofoklis Schortsanitis, who is 400 pounds (his listed weight is 345). You know, you don’t have many of those guys in the NBA. Sadly, there’s a few of them over in Europe. It’s much more of a power game as opposed to the NBA where it’s speed and quickness as well as power.
“I feel like the D-League is a better prep for the NBA than Europe but there’s a lot of great leagues over there. I don’t want to discount anything like that.”
In fact, Foote said he’s received “a couple” of offers to return to Europe—deals that would assuredly be more lucrative than returning to the D-League. But money isn’t Foote’s biggest motivating factor. He’d prefer to go to an NBA team—and not just somewhere where he’d end up sitting on the bench. He’s hoping for a situation like the one former D-Leaguer Gerald Green found himself in this season when the Nets called him up and immediately started giving him regular minutes.
“I want to actually play in this league,” Foote said. “I don’t want to just be there on the bench.”
Foote is hoping that the Nets can be that team (“I’m very happy here”) and he thinks there’s a future for him in Brooklyn.
“If the cards fall into place and I get a training camp invite, Brooklyn is probably where I’ll be,” he said.
Catching Up With Darington Hobson
Darington Hobson was the 37th overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, but he missed his rookie season with the Milwaukee Bucks because of a hip injury. The team would later release the former New Mexico star and re-sign him before the start of the 2011-2012 season. Unfortunately, Hobson’s hip wasn’t totally healed and he became the victim of a numbers game when the Bucks needed depth in the post, so the swingman was waived again after just five brief appearances.
Long story short, Hobson went back home to Las Vegas to rehab and improve his game, and now—with his hip back at 100%—he feels ready to contribute to an NBA team.
“The hip is fine,” Hobson told HOOPSWORLD. “Fully recovered. I say like March this year is when I started to notice a big difference. I was supposed to be fully healed probably in April. So I was ahead of the game as far as how I was feeling.”
Most people might shrug when they hear that Hobson’s hip is fully recovered, but the fact is, this is the type of player you’d want on your bench.
Hobson is a 6-7 point forward with good athleticism and excellent court vision. He averaged 15.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game in his final collegiate season and he even sank 36.1 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Most importantly, Hobson is the type of player that can run an offense from three different positions, and that versatility can really help bring a second unit together.
“Yeah, that’s my game,” Hobson said of being a point forward. “I can initiate the offense for people. I can play 1, 2, 3; I can guard 1, 2, 3. Just looking for an opportunity to do that. The previous situation, I wasn’t in a position where I can do that on the team.”
Hobson will continue to work out for teams (he was at the Nets’ free agent mini-camp this week) and hopes to find a suitor in the near future. He could go to Europe, but it might be better for him to play in the D-League where he’d be closer to the NBA, both physically and professionally.
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