The Nets packed up and took their talents to Brooklyn this offseason. On their way over, they committed to $330 million in salary, hoping to develop into a championship-caliber team. But after a 14-14 start and barely any wins against the NBA’s elite, the ax came down on third year head coach Avery Johnson.
The Nets gig was Johnson’s second career coaching job, as he had previously guided the Dallas Mavericks to the 2006 NBA finals. They eventually lost to the Miami Heat in six games, but had a 67 wins season the following year. In 2008, Johnson’s Mavericks had another good regular season, but failed to show success in the playoffs and therefore he was fired on the flight back home. In 2010, the New Jersey Nets came calling and offered the “Little General” a three year deal. Johnson accepted the New Jersey team’s offer knowing that a move to Brooklyn was coming and patience was needed.
Avery Johnson was clearly a journeyman in his playing days in the NBA, but a very knowledgeable one as well. He played on nine teams in a 14-year career, including three stints with the San Antonio Spurs where he hit the game-winning basket to win the NBA title in 1999. Johnson also served as an NBA analyst for ABC in between his two coaching jobs. He had his number 6 retired by the Spurs, won Coach of the Year in 2006, and even an NBA sportsmanship award. He finished his playing days with great respect from many around the league.
But the 2012-2013 season was supposed to be much different for Johnson and the Brooklyn Nets. After all, the team made significant strides in the offseason to compete with the NBA’s best, and it built the $1 billion dollar Barclays center for the team to play in. The Nets won on opening night, then lost two in a row, and then won five straight for a decent 6-2 record. They finished November with an 11-4 record, having won five games in a row twice as Johnson was named Coach of the Month by the NBA.
But when December came, things went really downhill in Brooklyn. The Nets began the month with five straight losses and panic started to set in. Brooklyn then rebounded with two straight wins by a combined six points against two of the NBA’s worst teams. The “mini” two game winning streak was followed by five losses in six games.
On Thursday, December 27, GM Billy King announced that Avery Johnson was relieved of his head coaching duties, and his assistant P.J. Carlisimo was named interim Head Coach. Just like that, a season with so much potential was replaced with many question marks. Johnson finished his Nets coaching career with a poor 60-116 record. Johnson said at his press conference following his firing that he “never saw this coming,” but he knew “expectations were really high entering the season.”
The Nets came home from Milwaukee to play against two mediocre teams at home, the Bobcats and the Cavaliers. On Friday night against Charlotte, the NBA’s worst team, the Nets out-rebounded the Bobcats 43-36 on their way to a 97-81 victory. The very next night, the Cavaliers were in town; the Nets brought the same intensity and squeaked out a 103-100 victory as PG Kyrie Irving missed a game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer. Center Brook Lopez had a season-high 35 points to go along with 11 rebounds. Lopez told the press after the game that he felt very comfortable under the basket in these past two games. Deron Williams, who led Brooklyn with seven assists, told me after the game how the defense has been picking up the offense as of late. The Nets now head west and try to build on their current winning streak as they play two of the NBA’s best teams, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.