When the New Jersey Nets hired Avery Johnson earlier this week, it came with quite a few backhanded compliments. “Great regular season coach.” “Lot of potential.” “Fiery guy.”
All of these purposefully ignore the elephant in the room to make it seem bigger than it is. Johnson’s teams had terrible playoff results. The discussion of the inordinate amount of things that had to go wrong for Johnson’s teams to succumb in the post-season is a topic for another day. The fact is that Johnson had tremendous success, has the respect of the players, and comes very highly recommended.
How recommended? Ask four time NBA champion head coach Gregg Popovich, who knew long ago that Johnson was destined for the clipboard when his playing days were done.
In an in-depth piece with the New Jersey Star Ledger’s Dave D’Allessandro
, Popovich relates his relationship with “The Little General” dating back to 1991. He talks about Johnson joining the Warriors after Pop recommended him to head coach Don Nelson, and most telling, the progression of Johnson, even as a player, towards the bench. It is stunning, not only for the fact that Gregg Popovich, the Gregg Popovich, actually speaks more than a dozen words about a subject, but also because of how glowing he is in his review. The meat of it? From the Ledger:
“He’s got a special mind — you’re going to see it in New Jersey,
even if they’re going to be young,” Popovich said of Johnson. “He taught
himself what it takes to be successful in the league, and since then
he’s taught others. He’ll get a defensive mentality established with the
group. He’ll get Devin (Harris) in attack mode. He’ll adjust regardless
of what personnel they get there.
“You know I hate
superlatives, and how people exaggerate. I mean, the only ‘geniuses’ I
know are people who do medical research. So I don’t want to overstate
this, but Avery has a brilliant basketball mind. I knew it way back
when, and I know it now.”
So that’s nice to have on your resume. “Hall of Fame coach thinks I’m awesome.”
There are sure to be questions about Johnson, and he faces an uphill climb. The Nets weren’t nearly as bad roster-wise as their record indicated last season, and they have a high amount of potential to jump right back into things, depending on how the draft and free agency goes, but it was still a wretched team. But then, Johnson has seen his fair share of challenges throughout his career and has managed to turn in brilliant performances consistently.
Just ask Popovich.
The Boston Celtics are on a roll, the likes of which not even the faithful fans at the TD Garden would have predicted.
After dropping their first two games of the season — and losing Gordon Hayward for the season due to a gruesome leg injury — the Celtics have ripped off 15 straight victories. They sit at 15-2 on the year, including signature wins over the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors, and defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Boston’s effort has been lauded as the combination of a quick meshing of the roster in the absence of Hayward (and Isaiah Thomas) as well as the drafting skill of Danny Ainge and the coaching prowess of Brad Stevens.
Indeed, Stevens is an early frontrunner heading into the beginning of the holiday season for Coach of the Year.
Meanwhile, Boston has a few highlights to their name. Lucky for us, the NBA has put some of the best video clips together during their fall run.
Watch the full video above.
Blake Griffin almost got away with it.
During Friday’s matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Griffin gave Cavs forward Jae Crowder an unhelpful knee to the groin during a post isolation.
Griffin wasn’t whistled for anything on the play, and in fact Crowder was assessed a foul after Griffin made his move to the basket.
Now, the NBA has given Griffin a Flagrant 1 for unnecessary contact.
Video of the incident can be viewed above the article here, but it’s pretty egregious and indeed the Cavaliers announcers even suggested at the time that it might warrant a flagrant.
Looks like the NBA agreed.
Cleveland beat LA, 118-113, in OT.
LeBron James totally dissed New York Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina. Or maybe he was just complimenting Dennis Smith Jr., and Enes Kanter likes to get in the middle of things? Or perhaps it was a barely-veiled shot at former Knicks president Phil Jackson?
No matter which way you view this little NBA drama, there’s some kind of silver lining to take away for New York after LeBron got a little too close for comfort with Ntilikina during a recent matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
According to Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek, that silver lining is how well Ntilikina, Kanter, and the rest of the squad did when standing up to James.
Via the NY Post:
“I thought it was great,’’ he said on the newest edition of “The Jeff Hornacek Experience” that debuts Friday night on MSG Networks after the Knicks face the Raptors. “When we played back in the day, there was a lot of that. So you don’t see as much now in today’s game.
“But, you know, whether the comments from LeBron were aimed at Frank or the Knicks or Phil [Jackson] or whatever it was, I was happy that Frank gave him a little shove and then when LeBron stood in front of him and Enes jumped in there. That’s kind of the chemistry that gets developed when guys are playing for each other. You saw Enes jump right in the middle of this and said, ‘Nah you’re not gonna do this to my young guy.’ So that’s a great sign to see the togetherness of our guys.”
So to recap:
1. LeBron was taking a shot at Phil.
2. Enes Kanter didn’t like that.
3. Jeff Hornacek likes that.
Clear? Ok, good.
Joel Embiid has a reputation around the league already, and for good reason.
The man who continuously lobbied Rihanna to give him a chance for a date has other NBA players hoping they beat the Philadelphia 76ers just to avoid Embiid’s trash talking.
Indeed, the Golden State Warriors beat Philly on Saturday night, 124-116, thanks in part to a huge rally in the second half. A 22-point deficit had to be overcome for Golden State, and not just to add to their win column.
The team also wanted to sidestep Embiid’s silver tongue:
Both Draymond Green and Kevin Durant said they wanted to keep Embiid at bay. Durant’s comment was particularly funny, and can be seen in the video at the top of the article (fair warning, Durant used some NSFW language).
The Process is now The Reputation.