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LeBron James: Nets were not playing hard for Avery Johnson

On the surface, it would appear that firing Avery Johnson was exactly what the Brooklyn Nets needed. The former coach was let go at the end of December, and the team has gone 13-4 since interim head coach PJ Carlesimo took over. However, LeBron James feels that the improvement has more to do with effort than it does coaching style.

“They’re playing like they want to play for their coach,” LeBron said on Wednesday before the Miami Heat beat the Nets in Brooklyn, via the NY Post. “It sucks that Avery [Johnson] had to take the hit of them not wanting to play at a high level, but that’s how it looks to me. They haven’t changed their offense, they haven’t changed their defense. They’ve just picked up the intensity level, and you can tell they like to play for P.J. [Carlesimo].”

That may be so. Deron Williams averaged nearly two more assists and two more points in the month of January, after previously admitting that he was struggling to learn Johnson’s offense. LeBron openly questioned Johnson’s firing when it happened, pointing to the fact that the Nets went 11-4 during the month of November. Brooklyn was off to a 3-10 start in December at the time of Johnson was canned.

Such is life in professional sports. Sometimes a coach wears out his welcome and can’t get the best effort from his players. Other times the head coach becomes of a victim of circumstance when his team is just incredibly inconsistent. If the Nets end up having a terrible month of February, we’ll have a better idea of why Johnson was run out of town.

Avery Johnson reportedly lost many players in Nets locker room

Avery Johnson was fired by the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday just 28 games into the season. The team was 14-14 and had gone 3-10 in its last 13 games. Blowout losses in recent games appeared to play a role in the firing, and so did Johnson’s perceived inability to reach his players.

GM Billy King said at his press conference announcing the firing that Johnson wasn’t reaching the team’s players.

“I have a pretty good pulse of players,” King said. “Not just Deron, but all our guys. I just got a sense that, as I told Avery this morning, that for some reason, he just wasn’t reaching them anymore.”

Howard Beck of The New York Times adds more context to King’s comments.

According to Beck, Johnson had “lost several members of the locker room” by the time he was fired. Beck says there was some suspicion about why Deron Williams missed Wednesday’s game with a wrist injury he had managed to play through the entire season. There was additional suspicion about Kris Humphries going on the inactive list with a previously undisclosed abdominal injury. Both players are said to be available for Friday’s game.

Plus, there’s this from Beck:

Although there were no other overt actions, the locker-room discontent was fairly widespread. Several players were unhappy with their playing time, the offense or both.

That could probably be said of the locker room of any team that has gone 3-10, but it’s still noteworthy. Williams was the only one who really complained about Johnson publicly, though it’s quite possible many others felt similarly.

For what it’s worth, a friend of Johnson told Beck that Williams “totally quit on Avery.”

Was Avery Johnson the problem with the Nets, or are they just not very good? I think they’re better than what they’ve shown lately, but I don’t think they’re as good as ownership thinks they are.

LeBron James, Avery Johnson’s son question firing

Avery Johnson was fired as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, one month after he was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for October and November, and two weeks after Deron Williams complained about the team’s offensive system.

Brooklyn entered the season with high expectations after acquiring Joe Johnson in the offseason and re-signing Gerald Wallace. They started off 11-4 and won five games to end November, but they’ve slid since then and are now 14-14.

News of Johnson’s firing came as a surprise to many people, including LeBron James, who questioned the move:

Avery Johnson’s son, Avery Jr., was much more blunt:

[Read more...]

Avery Johnson is sick of Kevin Garnett knowing all the Nets’ plays

Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett has seen it all. After 17 seasons and counting in the NBA, there’s very little you can throw at the future Hall-of-Famer on the court that would catch him off guard. His attention to detail has made him one of the best defensive players in the league for years and has frustrated people like Brooklyn Nets coach Avery Johnson along the way.

“The funny thing is, I wish he would be quiet on the floor and not call out your plays,” Johnson said Thursday before his team hosted the Celtics, via ESPNNewYork.com. “He’s seen so much. We’ll call a play and he’ll say, ‘Joe (Johnson) is going over here and Deron (Williams) is going here.’ It’s not funny anymore, OK?

“As much as (Rajon) Rondo quarterbacks their offense, (Garnett) quarterbacks their defense. … I like every now and then when we’ll surprise him with something, and then maybe he’ll look at the bench and curse the other coaches out, not me.”

Of course, Johnson is giving Garnett the highest form of compliment by basically admitting that he gets in his head during games. Nets center Brook Lopez echoed Johnson’s kind words, calling K.G. “one of the best players of all time” and admitting that he tries to emulate a lot of what The Big Ticket does.

Garnett may be 36 and past his prime, but there’s a reason Rajon Rondo made these comments about him just a few days ago. The body always starts to go, but that doesn’t stop the mind from staying sharp.

Avery Johnson on Nets: ‘We’re not a championship team’

It has been five years since the Nets made the playoffs, but they are in a position to vastly improve heading into the 2012-2013 season. In addition to playing in an exciting new environment in Brooklyn, the Nets managed to bring back their important pieces from last year in Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries. They also acquired Joe Johnson in a blockbuster deal with the Hawks.

While almost everyone would be shocked if the Nets can’t improve upon their .333 winning percentage from last season, head coach Avery Johnson did his best to curb expectations earlier this week.

“Deron was a big key to the whole puzzle,” Johnson said according to the Dallas Morning News. “To be able to acquire some other talent through free agency or trades or re-signing some of our own guys, it’s pretty exciting for us. We’re not there yet. We’re not a championship team. We got a lot of work to do. But at the same time, we have a much better talent pool than we’ve had the last two years.

“We’re much more versatile than we’ve ever been. Right now, we look good on paper. Now we got to take it from looking good on paper and apply the work to go (forward).”

Joe Johnson doesn’t instantly take you from bottom-dweller to championship contender. Adding Dwight Howard in addition to the former Hawks star would have helped, but the Nets were unable to pull that off. Personally, I like what Avery’s doing here. We blast coaches for setting expectations too high and calling their teams championship ready, so we can’t fault him for this. Between a new city and a new venue that Mikhail Prokhorov says he will make a surprise appearance at, the Nets don’t need their head coach building any additional anticipation for the upcoming season.

Chest bump to Ball Don’t Lie

Avery Johnson Doesn’t Know Why Kris Humphries is Being Booed

Soon enough, fans will grow tired of booing Kris Humphries. To his credit, Humphries responded in the best way possible when Wizards fans booed him every time he touched the ball on Monday night and put together a tremendous game.  The Nets’ new forward dropped 21 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to help get New Jersey off to a solid start in 2011.  While Humphries described the boos as a “walk in the park” compared to what he heard at Madison Square Garden during the preseason, Nets coach Avery Johnson acted confused by them.

“I don’t know why,” Nets coachAvery Johnson said when asked about the boos according to the NY Post. “I’m trying to figure out, what did he do? I’m serious. Maybe because I don’t follow reality TV, I don’t know all the ins and outs of it but it’s pretty hilarious to me. I don’t know if they even know why they’re booing him.”

Come on, Avery — you know. Humphries knew exactly what he was getting himself into when he got involved with Kim Kardashian.  He may not have known it would resulted in him becoming a more hated player than LeBron James, but he was aware of the risk.  If it was attention Humphries was after when he got involved with the Kardashian family, he’s certainly accomplished his goal.

However, I can’t say I blame Johnson for playing dumb.  If Humphries can perform every night like he did in the first game of the season, Nets fans will be hoping every arena gives him the same treatment the Knicks and Wizards fans dished out.

H/T to SLAM Online and Sports by Brooks Live for the story.

Avery Johnson Happy Nets Did Not Trade for Carmelo Anthony

Before ultimately being traded to the New York Knicks last month, media reports had Carmelo Anthony traded to New Jersey about a half dozen times. We had a report of a trade in September, January, and February, but Melo wound up with the Knicks, not the Nets.

Now, a month after missing out on the forward, Nets coach Avery Johnson says the team is better off not having pulled the trigger on the trade.

Speaking at New Jersey’s practice Wednesday, Johnson reflected on the status his team. “Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make,” Johnson said. “And that prospective trade that was reported where we were going to supposedly lose basically eight players, man that would have really gutted our team. So we’re glad that that didn’t happen.”

Of course he’s happy! The Nets had won five in a row when he made the comment, so he feels like they’ve improved. And by acquiring Deron Williams, maybe they did get a deal that improves their team more than the Melo trade would have. But I have two reasons Avery should be cautious. One, New Jersey only beat one good team during their streak (Boston), so it’s not like they’re gods. Two, I still bet Deron Williams leaves them in 2012 — they just don’t have enough on the team to keep him around.

Still, Avery may be right — the team could very well be better off with the Williams trade than they would have with Melo.