Tag: Avery Johnson

Boston Celtics v Chicago Bulls

Nets’ coach Johnson says Garnett keeps calling out their plays


Most NBA teams run variations of some standard sets — “floppy,” “horns,” and so on — and players pick them up quickly.

Or, know how to break them up quickly.

Kevin Garnett is a student of the game and Nets coach Avery Johnson said before his Nets went out and beat the Celtics that Garnett keeps calling out their plays. And it’s frustrating for a coach. From ESPNNewYork.com.

“He’s seen so much. We’ll call a play and he’ll say, ‘Joe is going over here and Deron is going here.’ It’s not funny anymore, OK?

“As much as (Rajon) Rondo quarterbacks their offense, (KG) 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.”

Garnett is a defensive force.

The reason teams run those plays, by the way, is they work. It’s about execution, plus these are NBA players and most will score consistently on decent looks or even covered one-on-one.

But the trend — really started by Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix but now used by a lot of teams — to have a system where traditional plays are not called (at least early in the clock) is a reaction to that KG-like knowledge and scouting. The idea is to allow players to freelance and create in transition and early in the clock, something the defense can’t prepare for and be set for the same way.

Nets are talking championship. And they mean this year.

Kris Humphries

It’s not just owner Mikhail Prokhorov and GM Billy King talking grandiose plans of he Nets winning a title this year — their coach and players are as well.

The Nets may well not be the best team in in New York City, but moving into a new building in a new market with some new (and now healthy) players has the Nets talking big. As big as it gets.

Here are some quotes from media day, via John Schuhmann at NBA.com.

“Where we are now, the goal is to win a championship,” head coach Avery Johnson said. “At the end of the day, that’s what we all play for. I couldn’t say that about the team the last two years, because we weren’t there on any level….

“We’re not a championship team today,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, we’ll be one as we move on in training camp and get on into the regular season, and as we move into the playoffs. But the goal is to win a championship this year.”

And how about you, Joe Johnson?

“I think we’ve got everything that you could possibly want on a championship-caliber team,” Joe said. “So now we just have to come together as one and just make it happen. The sky’s the limit for us, honestly.”

I get it, you want the Nets to say this. You don’t want them saying they just want to take a step forward, you want them to sell this and hopefully both the community and they will buy it.

But the Nets are not a championship team. Not with a roster filled with guys who are questionable on the defensive end (Brook Lopez is not your anchor in the paint, Joe Johnson does not lock down guys on the wing. Even if everything went their way this year they are probably the third or fourth best team in the East. Certainly not better than a Miami team that won the title last year then added Ray Allen and other parts.

We’re just trying to keep it real in Brooklyn.

NBA Season Preview: Brooklyn Nets

New Jersey Nets v Atlanta Hawks

Last Season: I want you to imagine the most you’ve ever vomited. Like, literally, the greatest single bout of nauseated vomiting you’ve ever gone through. I want you to think about what you ate, what it smelled like, that cold, hard porcelain  or unfeeling trash can that embraced you after the day-old shellfish or that bottle of Bullit whiskey you thought would be awesome to drink in bulk.

That, plus some turnovers, was the Nets last year.

Brook Lopez was hurt. Gerald Wallace was getting adjusted. The organization was clearing the decks for this summer, and Deron Williams, honestly, it seemed like, was not fully invested in throwing himself into the vomit-water over and over again. They weren’t the worst team in the league. But there were games they could have made a good effort for that title. They were not good, at the basketball, as the kids say.

Key Departures: Johan Petro.

Just kidding! Gerald Green also took off. The Nets didn’t really lose anyone in free agency of note, because it was hard to note anyone beneath all the vomit.

However, the trade for Joe Johnson did send Anthony Morrow and DeShawn Stevenson out.

Key Additions: Mikhail Prokhorov kind of made it rain. Barclays finished construction and the sky over Brooklyn opened up and started to rain down cash for sub-All-Stars.

They re-signed Deron Williams, after it was expected there would be a tense decision over Dallas vs. Brooklyn, instead, Mark Cuban didn’t even attend the Mavs’ meeting with Williams, and Williams re-upped for the max. How did Brooklyn sway the All-Star point guard to buy into their team after all the vomit?

They traded for what many consider to be the worst contract in the NBA. The Nets pulled off a stunner trade, as Danny Ferry kick-started a rebuilding process in Atlanta. Sending out a package of delete-able contracts for Johnson netted them a second All-Star to pair with Williams, showed their commitment, and drastically improved their team, regardless of what the salary hawks might say.

From there… more money! Gerald Wallace was re-signed at either a drastic overpay or a semi-bargain depending on which side of the fence you’re on, at four-years, $40 million. They brought back Kris Humphries on a pretty massive deal considering what he brings to the table. They upgraded their bench considerably, adding Reggie Evans to club people, C.J. Watson for back-up point guard, brought over Mirza Teletovic, and added bargain veterans in Andray Blatch and Josh Childress.

Oh, and they gave Brook Lopez a huge four-year deal. They needed a quality starting center and were capped out, so they had to put the money in on Lopez. It’s a big investment in Lopez considering his issues and injury, but if you look at his production before his health problems, very much worth it.

Three Keys to the Nets’ Season:

1. Avery Johnson gets the defense to work: Avery Johnson’s track record with the Nets has been very poor, but so has the talent. He’s got the talent, now he’s got to make it work. Brook Lopez is an offensive-focused center, and can have issues defensively. He’s also got the injury history, but the foot condition is not supposed to  be a recurring problem and the other issue was mono, so you can’t really think he’s going to have problems. That said, he’s not a rim protector. Kris Humphries brings a lot of effort and can defend in space, but he’s also not a dominant defensive presence.

Johnson has to figure out how to put all the pieces together for a team that has no real time together, and has to do it immediately. He’s going to need a lot from Gerald Wallace, almost asking Wallace to do what Andre Iguodala did for the Sixers the last few years. It’s building a strong defense in a defensive-centric conference from non-defensive-focused players who haven’t spent any time together. But if he can make it work, the Nets have the offensive firepower to shoot their way to a high seed in the East.

2. Joe Johnson must learn to live without the ball: For years, Johnson has operated in an ISO-heavy offense in Atlanta where he was allowed to go one-on-one (or one-on-three) at any moment. Now he has to work off-ball because Deron Williams will be the maestro most of the time. He needs to set good screens for the wing pick-and-pop and take advantage of the defense not being prepared for his cuts and catch-and-shoot opportunities. This isn’t to say that Johnson won’t isolate, he will, and Johnson will provide him with those opportunities. But the Nets will be at their best when they employ the tactics that have made the other “super teams” effective, by using their talent to create constant dilemmas for the defense on who to guard, and then creating open looks for star players. Johnson could have the best season of his career if he adjusts to that.

3. Brook Lopez has got to do his thing: Lopez was among the players on the annual “(X Player) got how much money?!” list, but the truth is that he’s a top offensive center in this league (when healthy). He has terrific range, footwork, touch, court awareness and finishing ability (when healthy). Lopez has true size at the position, and if defenses are sagging off of him to guard the Nets’ perimeter weapons with help defense, Lopez is absolutely going to feast (if he’s healthy). You seeing a pattern, yet?

He’s going to get a ton of opportunities, and he’ll be the third best offensive weapon on the team. But more importantly, the Nets desperately need him to improve his rebounding. There are a lot of reasons listed why Lopez’ rebounding fell off the map. The mono and injuries are a good one. But his issues with Avery Johnson should also be noted. He’s got to show a re-commitment to the glass because the Nets are going to need it, even with Humphries on the floor. Lopez has to become an all-around center this year and there is absolutely zero time for him to develop into it any more.

What one thing should scare Nets fans? That these players are not considered elite outside of Williams, and yet the Nets spent a fortune on them. Johnson is a perennial All-Star, but he’s not considered in the top three of shooting guards, when shooting guards is the weakest position in the league at the moment. Lopez comes with a host of concerns. Humphries brings production and effort but has always thrived on losing teams, which can be a worrisome sign. (But would you rather he have struggled on a poor team?).  And Wallace is a one-time All-Star who is dependent on his athleticism and is starting to creep up the age ladder at 30. This is not a superstar team on the level of Boston, Miami, L.A., but they’re paying Brewster’s millions towards the club not just this year but for the next four years, really. If the combination of players isn’t right, it could be a disaster they can’t pull out of, and could make for an ugly situation.

Alternative option: If the past two years of Deron Williams’ play has not been an aberration but a legitimate slide in effectiveness.

How it likely works out: Just fine. Look, Deron Williams, when initiated, is one of the top five point guards in the league and on any given night can look like a top-two point guard (at least). He’s a great defender, a good team leader, a versatile offensive player, and an all-around stud. Joe Johnson is, in all honesty, one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, something he almost never gets credit for. And while the dribble-dribble pull-up jumper act gets old, he can still have nights where he takes over. This is the most talent he’s played with since Phoenix (and those Hawks teams were no joke), and he’s got a real opportunity to take his name to the national stage, finally. Wallace is an all-around monster in terms of what he does end to end and Lopez is a fantastic weapon (when healthy). They still have MarShon Brooks they added versatile forwards, and Avery Johnson did coach a Finals team.

They have all the talent in the world. And talent matters in this league. The odds of this being an unmitigated disaster are minuscule. The worst case scenario for them is that they end up on the bottom of the Knicks-Nets-Sixers lump, or that someone gets injured and the thing falls apart. But there’s just too much talent to believe that will happen. This is a team with loads of talent and players that do understand how to play in a team concept, no real divas on this squad. It’s going to be a good team, a very good team, maybe even a borderline-great team.

It’s just not a title contender, and that’s OK.

Prediction: 47-35. That’s right, I’m copping out and putting them with the same record we slapped on New York and the Sixers. The margin of error here is honestly three wins, as any of those three teams could hit 50 win and any of them could wind up just two games over .500. We have to see how it works out. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Nets run up a huge regular season record, though, and land in the top three in the East should the Central division struggle. But coming in just a hair over .500 isn’t out of the question, just because it’s a lot of new faces trying to get on the same page without elite talent outside of Williams. So we land at 47 wins, and for a franchise as bad as the Nets have been (see: vomit) over the past few years, that’s a great start to a new era in Brooklyn.

Nets infrastructure could be in for a shake up

Mikhail Prokhorov Introductory Press Conference
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Nets owner Mikahil Prokhorov may draw Mark Cuban comparisons aplenty, but the two owners are apparently on very divergent paths. Though Cuban’s business ventures and widespread interests provide content fodder for his ever popular blog, the Mavericks seem to always come first. He not only invests oodles of money in the franchise, but also his time and efforts, as Cuban has gone to great lengths to stay very involved in every significant decision that the Mavs make.

Prokhorov, too, has been quite involved in the goings on in New Jersey, but it appears that he could soon have a rather substantial commitment splitting his attention. From Colin Stephenson of The Star-Ledger:


“I got a sense from him that he’s still just as committed to Nets basketball,’’ [Avery] Johnson said in a 30-minute sit-down. “At the same time, I think there was a window of opportunity for him to do what he’s doing now and get into the political realm and things he shared with me that he’s really (passionate) about, how he wants certain things changed about how things are done politically there.’’

Prokhorov is the leader of a political party — the Right Cause party — that is participating in the Dec. 4 parliamentary elections in Russia. If the party gets 7 percent of the general vote (in Russian elections, voters vote for the party, rather than individuals) then Prokhorov’s party would get some seats in the Russian Parliament.

“I don’t want to set off a fire alarm or anything, but I’m almost sure there will be a shifting the deeper he gets in this deal,’’ Johnson said. “But I think the way we’re set up as an organization, and all of the different moving parts that we have, and everybody understanding their role, I think we’ll be fine.’’

Make no mistake about it: this looks to be a pretty significant move for the Nets organization, no matter how Johnson tries to downplay things. When the man holding the purse strings of the organization doubles as an active management voice, it creates a unique dynamic. In such a scenario, the owner isn’t merely an enabler or a final threshold through which all deals must pass, but an active participant in the internal discussions that bring any possibility to final judgment. Neither managerial format is absolutely superior or inferior to the other, but the distinction between the two is certain. Should Prokhorov indeed shift his focus to the political sphere, the responsibilities of those working within the Nets organization will be shifted accordingly, and for the organization’s sake one can only hope that power is put in the right hands.

Lets maybe keep some of that authority away from whoever it was that was stumping for Travis Outlaw as Free Agent Savior, eh?

Nets coach Johnson heads to Russia for game with Prokhorov

Avery Johnson Portrait
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How much does the Little General have in the tank?

We’re about to find out… well, “we’re” only includes you if you live in Russia. New Jersey Nets coach Avery Johnson is heading to Russia to play in a charity exhibition game with team owner Mikhail Prokhorov, reports the Star-Ledger.

Money raised at the Set. 6 event will go to help families of people that perished when a tourist cruise ship capsized and sank on a Russian river last month.

After that, Johnson will run a day of clinics for youth and some coaching seminars in Russia.

When the boss calls, what is Johnson going to do, say no? Besides, what else has he got to do? It’s not like he doesn’t have plenty of time to get ready for training camp.