Vinny Del Negro is still the Chicago Bulls’ coach, which rates as something of a surprise.
There was a feeling Del Negro would be the third coach to be fired by the Bulls on Christmas Eve in this decade, joining Tim Floyd and Scott Skiles. Then there were rampant reports in the early part of this week that Del Negro was about to get the ax.
However, Del Negro is still the coach, even if Bulls general manager Gar Forman is stopping short of giving him a vote of confidence. The Bulls are 12-17.
“Vinny is our coach,” Forman said. “Our goal is to get better each and every day. As a management team, we’re exploring all our options in order to get better. We expect our coaches to work each and every day to get better. I feel we shouldn’t talk about evaluations with any personnel we do internally. We are all being evaluated at all times. That goes from me to our management to our coaching staff to our players and those are things we keep internally.”
Del Negro has stayed consistent in his answers about his job security in recent weeks, insisting that he does not dwell on it.
“It’s funny to me,” Del Negro said of the reports he will be fired. “There is nothing to say. You have all these people who have rumors, and they all have their sources but it is just not accurate. I don't have time to deal with rumors. I talk to Gar and Pax (vice president John Paxson) every day. My focus is getting the team ready. It is a little frustrating because I know how hard the staff works. You are judged on wins and losses and I am not pleased where we are at.”
Though the Bulls are five games under .500 more than one-third of the way into the season, Forman said he is not ready to give up and start looking to 2010-11. Amazingly, Chicago would make the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference if the season ended today.
“There’s a lot of season left,” Forman said. “We're still optimistic. We like our young core. We like our players. That doesn't mean we're not exploring options to get better as far as our team is concerned because we do each and every day.”
Robinson Fined for Agent's Trade Request
Knicks guard Nate Robinson was quite surprised to be informed he had been fined $25,000 by the NBA for publicly requesting a trade.
Robinson’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, said on Dec. 19 that he had asked the Knicks to deal his client because coach Mike D’Antoni had a personal vendetta in removing him from the rotation. However, Robinson came back the next day and said he did not desire a trade and that his agent had spoken without consulting him.
Nevertheless, Robinson is being docked $25,000. It was the first time in league history that a player was fined for remarks by his agent. The National Basketball Players Association is appealing the fine.
“It is not merited or justified by the circumstances,” union president Billy Hunter said.
Minnesota Changes Course, Deals for Tucker
The Minnesota Timberwolves traded rarely used point guard Jason Hart and his non-guaranteed contract to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday for forward Alando Tucker’s $1-million contract, a second-round draft pick in 2010and enough cash to pay Tucker’s expiring contract.
However, it was quite obvious that the Timberwolves almost traded Hart to the New Orleans Hornets for guard Devin Brown before making the deal with the Suns. In fact, a press release announcing the purported trade appeared on the Timberwolves’ website briefly Tuesday morning before being taken down.
The release included Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn saying, “It was a rare opportunity to add a proven player with three-point shooting capabilities that will help our offense. Devin should be a nice addition to our team defensively, as well. He has a reputation as a tough kid and hard-nosed defender.”
Perhaps that’s why the Hornets kept him.
McGrady, Rockets Go Separate Ways
The Houston Rockets have decided to cut all ties with guard Tracy McGrady, who has been upset with his limited playing time off the bench since returning from microfracture knee surgery earlier this month. The seven-time All-Star will remain on their roster but will not dress for games or take part in practices while the Rockets look to trade him.
“He's coming back from major surgery and rehabilitating, and who knows when he's going to get there?” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. “Right now, he wasn't there. The explosiveness definitely wasn't there. That's to be expected. The thing people want to write about is who he was two years ago. He isn't that right now. We have a whole team. It's not just about what he wants or what he was going to want. It was about what can he do to help us win?”
D’Antoni admitted the Knicks have interest in trading for McGrady.
“I think you always have to be intrigued with someone of the stature of Tracy McGrady,” D’Antoni said.
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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