Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul doesn’t want you to be mad at him.
Why would you be? Well, if you for some reason liked former Clippers’ coach Vinny Del Negro, you might be.
If you follow the Clippers, you know that Del Negro was let go as the Clippers coach. I am a Lakers fan myself, but the story in today’s LA Times caught my eye — http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-clippers-chris-paul-20130531,0,3427555.story
When it was announced a few weeks ago that the Clippers would not be extending Del Negro’s contract, a flurry of articles appeared that all but said it was because Paul wanted him out. Some stories also added Blake Griffin as a co-conspirator.
To some, and apparently Paul, it gives the NBA superstar a harsh image. Nobody wants to look like a guy who gets another guy fired. The same situation happened with Dwight Howard when he was with the Orlando Magic and didn’t particularly care for coach Stan Van Gundy (why do fired coaches all have three names?) Howard denied he demanded that Van Gundy be fired, but he was fired anyway. To keep Howard happy, they the Magic obliged and fired Van Gundy. It didn’t do them much good because Howard left Orlando for the Lakers anyway.
I am a PR marketing pro, not a professional athlete. But there has to be something about stepping into an arena in front of 19,000 fans all of them knowing or thinking that you care more about your career than other’s. Even contracts valued upwards of $20 million a year, as Paul can get when he re-signs, doesn’t mean high profile athletes don’t care about their image.
So the Clippers front office made it clear to The Times that it was a “team” decision to let Del Negro go, and not Paul’s.
Interesting timing. In about a month the Clippers hope to re-sign Paul and keep him with the Clippers for five more years. Not that I have first hand knowledge, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a few calls were made before The Times’ article appeared. It probably went like this:
Paul to his agent: “I am tired of taking the image hit for Del Negro.”
Agent to Times reporter: “Hi, just want to clarify that we fired Del Negro, not Chris Paul.”
Times reporter in article: “Clippers said they fired Del Negro, not Paul. Just want to make that clear.”