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.