D is key for Clippers to win West

Thibodeau-designed defense, better outside shooting offers balance

Updated: October 29, 2013, 4:10 PM ET
By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN Insider

Paul-RiversSam Forencich/NBAE/Getty ImagesChris Paul and the Clips should play much better D under Doc Rivers.

If we use playoff appearances as a measuring stick, Vinny Del Negro has been a successful coach. His steady hand brought some legitimacy back to the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers organizations after both spent a near decade desperately trying to shed a losing culture. Both the Bulls and Clippers watched Del Negro harness the mind-bending athleticism of their teams' most recent No. 1 overall picks -- Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin -- and turn it into elite production, as both blossomed into All-Stars by the age of 21.

However, despite some decent player development and two consecutive postseason trips, Del Negro simply couldn't assemble a championship-caliber defense for either team. Consequently, he was let go.

Tom Thibodeau took the Bulls' head coaching reins from Del Negro after 2009-10 and proceeded to win a league-high 62 games the very next season, thanks to a top-ranked defense. In Los Angeles this season, the same could happen to the Clippers.

Indeed, things seem to have come full circle. Del Negro left a pair of underwhelming playoff appearances as his Clipperland legacy, with Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan in tow. In Del Negro's place comes Doc Rivers, who will bring along the same Thibodeau-constructed D that catapulted the Bulls from a playoff team into legitimate championship contenders.


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