LOS ANGELES -- After the Los Angeles Clippers’ 91-87 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, players and coaches held a closed-door meeting in the locker room for over an hour.
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro didn’t address the media until 30 minutes after the game was over. After he returned to the locker room, it was closed for another 30 minutes. NBA rules mandate that team dressing rooms must be opened to the media no later than 15 minutes after a game.
“We’re playing too much as individuals instead of as a team and you can’t win like that,” Del Negro said. “Our approach at times with the referees and letting one play effect another player. We compound our mistakes consistently and that makes it hard.”
The Clippers had a 17-point lead in the first half before losing to a Suns team playing without Steve Nash and Grant Hill. Several Clippers players and coaches called it the team’s worst loss of the season.
“It was how we lost, it looked like we almost tried to lose the game,” Clippers guard Chris Paul said. “When you’re at home and you are where we are in the standings, you can’t lose games like that. There’s no way we should have lost that game. We had that game won.”
Several players stood up in the meetings and voiced their concern about issues on the court, ranging from defensive assignment to communication.
“It was very productive,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. “It wasn’t a point the finger at somebody meeting, it was good. We got veterans in this locker room. I can’t say that it would have gone the same way last year. It wasn’t about guys getting their feelings hurt or guys trying to hurt people’s feelings. This is real. We got a good team and we got to do better.”
The next time the Clippers take the court Saturday against the Houston Rockets there will be a couple of new faces in the locker room. On Thursday the Clippers traded for guard Nick Young, who will likely be looked to as a replacement for Chauncey Billups, who was lost for the season last month because of a torn Achilles tendon. Billups returned to Los Angeles this week to continue his rehab with the team and is expected to be at Saturday’s game.
“We have two more games on Saturday and Sunday and three more games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,” Griffin said. “We have a chance to redeem ourselves and if I was a betting man I’d say we will.”