Expectations Run High for the Los Angeles Clippers and Second-Year Coach Vinny Del Negro

December 14, 2011 – 9:00 am by Eric Schmoldt

Mo Williams didn’t waste any time putting big expectations on the Los Angeles Clippers this season. The Clippers guard, fresh off the lockout and now staring a shortened season in the face, quickly guaranteed that the Clippers will make the playoffs this year.

It surely seems feasible. Williams was a nice addition and obviously Blake Griffin is a superstar. The team also added Caron Butler and now Chauncey Billups, so the Clippers should be deep enough to make a run. Second-year coach Vinny Del Negro seems happy that his players are confident, but says now they’ve got to go out and make it happen.

Vinny Del Negro joined Fox Sports Radio with Petros and Money to discuss how close the team was to getting Chris Paul, having less than two weeks to prepare for the season, the fitness level of his players, handling player egos, adding Chauncey Billups, what it will be like playing this schedule and Mo Williams’ guarantee.

What’s your understanding as to how close you guys came to trading for Chris Paul?:

“There’s a lot of speculation out there. None of them are very accurate, to be honest with you. We’re always in talks with different teams, trying to improve our team like everyone else. Neil Olshey is on top of it and we discuss things and we look at things and if there’s an opportunity for us to improve our team, we’re going to do it. Our main goals were to resign DeAndre Jordan and go get a small forward and we did both of those with Caron Butler. We’re pleased with that. Then yesterday we picked up Chauncey Billups. … We’re just trying to get everybody working together.”

How big of a deal is it that you only have 12 days to get ready for your first game?:

“It is a big deal, but it’s also the same situation that everybody’s in. So you can’t sit back and worry about it. All you can do is prepare, be organized, don’t waste any time in practice. … Some teams are in worse situations than [us], trying to incorporate more players.”

Any concern with any of your guys in terms of showing up to camp unhealthy?:

“We’re pretty good right now, to be honest with you. There’s a couple guys that could lose a few pounds here or there, but with a couple weeks, that’s not going to be an issue.”

How do you handle player egos with guys who clearly know they were on the trading block?:

“I think it’s a little bit of everything. One, guys should be happy sometimes that their name’s involved in trades because it gives you more value because you know other teams want you. … It’s a tough business, but it is a business. If there’s things that Neil and myself feel can help make us a better team, then we have to look at them. … Managing personalities sometimes at this level is almost as important as the basketball part.”

Where is Chauncey going to fit in?:

“We’ll get him on the court and see how it all works out. All of those guys are going to play a ton of minutes, especially when we’ve got 16 back-to-backs and two sets of three games in a row and 66 games in 100-some nights. It’s going to be a difficult schedule and some good depth isn’t going to be anything that’s going to hurt us.”

What do you remember about this type of schedule having played in something similar?:

“It is tough, there’s no question. The regular season is hard enough in a regular year. This will be demanding. Obviously if one of your key guys has injuries or a setback or something, you might play 10 games in 14 nights and you can’t make ground up. It’s not easy.”

How high are your expectations for the season and how did you feel about Mo Williams guaranteeing the Clippers will make the playoffs?:

“It’s great. Our players have a lot of confidence. My mindset is let’s get better every day and all those things kind of take care of themselves. Expectations are great, but expectations without a plan is a wish. … We’ve got to go out and do it.”

Listen to Vinny Del Negro on Fox Sports Radio here

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