Well, if you ever needed an example of the NBA being a results-driven league, you have a new one on your hands. Avery Johnson’s Nets enjoyed an 11-4 start while the Little General received coach of the month honors for October and November.
Then December came and boy, did shit go bad.
Honestly, the Nets had a tough schedule this month. Yet commanding a new look franchise to a 3-10 run with 7 blown double digit leads puts anyone in the hot seat. The street always goes both ways as blown jumpers, open threes and put backs make winning games unnecessarily difficult. Also, fans will say Brook Lopez’s five game absence and Deron Williams’ hobbled play contributed to the team’s demise. There are no counter arguments for those claims.
At the same time Avery’s inflexible coaching shouldn’t go unchecked either. Walk with me through just a few of his gaffes.
Johnson regularly orchestrated plays for Gerald Wallace to shoot open threes who, might I add, shot under the league average from downtown. He’d also call Isos for Brook Lopez, a center lacking consistent jump shooting range, to take on his man 20 feet away from the basket. Needless Isos for a struggling Deron Williams and a reluctance to at least try a pick and roll offense led to too much stagnant, predictable basketball.
Meanwhile, other teams actually did their homework and caught up to Avery’s tired tricks pretty quickly. For example. seeing double teams on Joe Johnson after the half or even at the start of the game became commonplace while the coach and his staff made few worthwhile adjustments to score from the perimeter. Such cases often coincided with often times unchanged or worse game plans for the second half: making the Nets one of the worst third quarter teams in the league. Moreover, Avery constantly had the team’s bigs hedge hard on picks only for any point guard worth a damn to read them perfectly for easy dimes in the paint. Incorporating the same, tired offensive and defensive schemes and expecting different results falls in line with the definition of Insanity. Mavericks fans know what I’m talking about.
Avery Johnson was Coach Carter for Andray Blatche and the Nets beat good teams in the Clippers and Knicks a month and change ago. Also Deron’s terrible performances on both ends of the floor, constant moping and his talking sideways about his love for Jerry Sloan’s system haven’t helped Avery’s cause at all. Johnson’s reputation as a stand-up individual didn’t excuse him from becoming reluctant to making adjustments, not holding all players accountable and the team tuning him out. Coaches are always the first out when things don’t go right and you could see Avery getting his walking papers from a mile out. Now I can only hope Billy King finds a good long term replacement: especially with the roster being exposed as an awkwardly constructed bunch. P.J. Carlesimo’s interim position doesn’t inspire confidence.
One last thing. Avery would still have his job in all likelihood had the season unfolded similarly back in Jersey since, you know, failure became par for course back home. Part of me is bothered by this considering he used the same schemes with lesser players for TWO YEARS prior to the move. I guess the Nets mean business all of a sudden what with a billion plus dollars invested into the team. Whatever.