|ESPN.com: NBA||[Print without images]|
Point guard Chris Paul is a free agent after this season as well and the Clippers are expected to offer him a five-year, $108 million extension this summer. There had been some speculation that the Clippers would have to advance to at least the Western Conference finals after getting swept out of the second round of the playoffs last year for Del Negro to keep his job. Del Negro doesn't believe that is the case.
"The expectations, sometimes, people get a little delusional in terms of how you're going to get there and what you're going to do," Del Negro said. "People get sick of the word 'process' but that's what it is. It's a long NBA season. You got to handle the injuries. You got to handle a lot of things. I feel we're in a pretty good position right now."
While the expectations for the Clippers certainly changed as soon as Paul joined the team before last season, it's hard to argue with the success Del Negro has had coaching the team. After Del Negro led the Clippers to their highest winning percentage in franchise history last season, Los Angeles is on the verge of its first 50-win season and division title this season and could accomplish both by the end of the week.
"At the beginning of the season, we set some goals for the team. [One was] obviously to win the division," Del Negro said. "It's all about improving throughout the season. I expect a lot from this team but more importantly they expect a lot from themselves. We just want to play as consistently as possible, count them up at the end and hopefully be healthy going into the playoffs. Everyone is vying for position and we're no different."
Del Negro said coaching without any guarantee beyond this season hasn't affected him or the team and he didn't think it would entering the playoffs.
"I enjoy the pressure," Del Negro said. "That's what it's about. I love the competition. Could things be a little better in certain areas? Of course. All those things get answered by the end of the year. Our focus is on tonight's game and on this season and all those things will get answered at the end, one way or another."