Avery Johnson bringing a little of his native New Orleans to New Jersey. No, not the gumbo part.

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Thumbnail image for Ajohnson.jpgNew Jersey Nets fans did not show up with bags over their heads last season. Mostly, they just didn’t show up.

But the Nets were embarrassed by a 12-win season. New coach Avery Johnson knows about that — he grew up in New Orleans a Saints fan. Where fans wearing bags over their heads was as common as beignets.

Johnson likes that Nets/Saints parallel — because the Saints have turned it around and are the defending Super Bowl champions. He talked about it at a media lunch, with quotes via the Nets official site.

“I’m cautious, but I’m optimistic. That’s where we are. Unlike the Saints, this franchise has been to the Finals two times. But the last few years have really been some tough years for us. I just feel it’s a brand new day for Nets basketball. It’s a new era and we’ll get that started on Saturday.

“More than anything, we’re going to work,” he continued. “We’re going to work hard and we’re going to help these players to get better individually. Hopefully, collectively we can be a good team. There are not going to be many nights when we’re going to be the most talented team out there, or the most experienced team out there. But we can make up for that with the way we work hard and pay attention to detail and (have) discipline and with guys just making plays.”

The Nets should be better this season. Maybe even dangling their feet in the playoff race better (although our PBT preview has them at 34 wins).

But the attitude is a good one, the Saints a good model. It took them four years to reach the summit under a new coach. Start building, work hard and things will start to turn around. It may take a few seasons, and that may be longer than owner Mikhail Prokhorov wants to wait, but teams are not rebuilt overnight. (Except in Miami and Boston.)

Al Horford shows he still has hops dunking on Solomon Hill (VIDEO)

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That’s just nasty.

Atlanta’s Al Horford gets the ball out high, but within his range, so when he pump fakes Indiana’s Lavoy Allen goes flying by. That opens up the lane and Horford attacks it, Solomon Hill tries to cut him off, but Horford just finishes threw him.

Pacers and Hawks played an entertaining, close game Friday night.

Dwyane Wade shows he still has hops with dunk on Hornets (VIDEO)

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Dwyane Wade still has some springs.

In what may be his best dunk in recent memory, he shoulders Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to create space in transition, then gets up and throws it down before Nicolas Batum can get there for the block.

Not sure even Wade saw that one coming.

Reigning dunk champ LaVine: ‘I’ve got tricks up my sleeve’

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine is heading back to All-Star weekend to defend his slam dunk title. And he says he has “a few tricks up my sleeve” after dominating the event last year.

LaVine will compete against Detroit center Andre Drummond, Denver swingman Will Barton and Orlando forward Aaron Gordon in Toronto next weekend.

LaVine was one of the breakout stars of All-Star weekend last year with his electric performance in the dunk contest. He says he debated about coming back and made his decision after strong encouragement from his fans.

If LaVine wins, he will become the fourth player in the 31-year history of the event to repeat as champion. Michael Jordan, Jason Richardson and Nate Robinson are the others.

Report: Blake Griffin has second procedure on hand, timeline remains unchanged

Blake Griffin
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Blake Griffin will still return to the Clippers some time in March (barring any setbacks).

That said, he had a second procedure this week to repair the boxer’s fracture in his right hand, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Clippers forward Blake Griffin underwent a second procedure this week on his broke right hand, sources told ESPN. The procedure was a part of the original surgery last week, so sources said the 4-6 week timeframe for his return remains unchanged.

This might help explain why Griffin’s hand looked so swollen and scarred this week. But to be clear, this was a planned second procedure, not a setback.

Griffin suffered the fracture punching a Clippers’ equipment manager while everyone was out to dinner in Toronto recently, while Griffin was still sidelined with a quadricep injury. The Clippers have moved on, but it is likely the league will tack on a couple of game suspension for Griffin upon his return to health.

And no, the Clippers are not looking to trade Griffin in spite of this. So stop asking.