- Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Los Angeles Clippers general manager Gary Sacks wasn't in a mood to say much about any of the major decisions hanging over the franchise this summer in the first few moments after the Memphis Grizzlies knocked the Clippers out of the playoffs with a 118-105 win in Game 6 Friday night.
"We just lost the game. We're going to let the dust settle a little bit and then evaluate everything," a clearly disappointed Sacks told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "Our coaches and players did a good job this year. But right after the game, I can't really comment on it."
"It" would be the future of head coach Vinny Del Negro, whose contract expires at the end of June. According to a source, the Clippers had preliminary discussions with Del Negro about an extension to his contract before the season, but tabled them indefinitely, effectively putting Del Negro in a make-good situation.
"That's what it was last year, too," Del Negro said after the game. The Clippers had a team option on him after last season as well.
"So I just go about my business. I think my staff has done a fantastic job. I give them a ton of credit. Players. You've got to deal with a lot of things when you're in this position, but I enjoy it.
"It's something that I want to do, not something I have to do. I enjoy it, I enjoy the competition, I enjoy seeing guys develop and come together as a team. A lot of things are thrown at you, that's for sure, but I love the challenge of it."
Clippers sources insist no decision has been made on Del Negro yet and that this early playoff exit won't be the only basis upon which he's judged. The team won a franchise-record 56 games this season and Del Negro has always had a good relationship with the team's ownership.
The team is expected to take "about a week" to evaluate the season before making a decision on Del Negro, according to one source. Officially Del Negro's contract runs a few more months, and the Clippers have been known to take their time with such matters -- interim coach Kim Hughes famously worked several months after he was dismissed as interim head coach -- but "that's not going to happen this time," the source said.
"At the end of the day we got beat," another source said. "So you have to look at it in the light of day and figure out why, and how we can get better."
One name that has already come up in popular speculation, with Del Negro's future still unsettled, is Phil Jackson, who has expressed a desire to return to basketball in some capacity next season.
That's unlikely, according to one source with knowledge of the team's thinking, because of his relationship with Lakers executive Jeanie Buss. "It would just be too creepy," the source said, while insisting the team hadn't made a decision about Del Negro yet.
While Del Negro's future is the first question the franchise has to settle, the status of All-Star point guard Chris Paul is far and away the most important piece of business for the Clippers this summer.
Paul becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, and while one source said the franchise is "as confident as we can be under the circumstances," until he actually signs there are sure to be some nervous moments.
"I got a lot of time to think about that," Paul said after Friday's game. "As I do with any decision I make, I consult with my wife, my parents, my brother, my family. I might even let little Chris chime in on this. We'll see what happens."
Paul is eligible to sign a five-year, $108 million extension after July 1. He turned down a three-year, $60 million extension last summer. But that's mostly because the Clippers could only offer him a three-year extension at that point, under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement.
"I think he knows what we can do here," Clippers forward Blake Griffin said of Paul. "He knows how we've done things, especially the last two years. I think he knows it's a great place to play.
"But this is a decision he has to make. It has to be right for him and his family. Obviously we'd love to have him back, I'd love to have him back. But this is something he has to do and decide upon. Ultimately it's his decision, we have to respect that."
The Clippers currently have $45 million committed to players next season, not counting what they'd owe Paul.
The Clippers would like to bring back several of those players, but so much of their offseason business revolves around what Paul chooses to do, no decisions are expected to be made soon.
Point guard Eric Bledsoe will be eligible to sign an extension this summer, as well. Bledsoe would become a restricted free agent after next season if the Clippers are unable to sign him to an extension.
His future is somewhat tied to Paul's decision. If Paul re-signs, both sides recognize Bledsoe has outgrown his role as Paul's backup, according to sources.
5dEthan Sherwood Strauss
6dMatt Walks, ESPN.com