Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — Actions speak louder than words and on Wednesday night in a 100-86 loss to the New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets looked like a team that quit.
But afterward, no player would point to the gameplan or lack of preparation for the dispirited second half effort, they blamed themselves.
Still, the fight and resolve a team shows ultimately falls on a team’s head coach. And as the Nets find themselves at 13-12—merely one game above .500—the whispers about Avery Johnson and his status have grown into murmurs.
Trailing by just four at halftime, the Nets seemed to open up the third quarter looking to seize some of the game’s momentum. Deron Williams scored nine points in the first six minutes of the second half and the Nets led 61-57.
At that point, however, coach Mike Woodson called a timeout and reinserted one of the game’s standout performers— J.R. Smith. Smith ended with 19 points and five rebounds on 7-for-11 shooting. With Smith, the Knicks ended the quarter on a 19-6 run.
The Knicks defense tightened up and the Nets shot just 3-for-11 to close the quarter. Trailing 75-67 after three, the Nets would never seriously threaten the Knicks again, falling behind by as many as 18 points and eventually losing, 100-86.
The Nets are now 2-8 in December and just two weeks after being named the NBA’s Coach of the Month for the month of November, Johnson’s job security has become a topic of discussion.
Even in Brooklyn, things change in a New York minute, but that’s the reality when you’re given a team of capable weapons, proclaim yourself to be a challenger in the Eastern conference and then tease the league and your fan base with the best November in franchise history.
Here’s the truth: as a coach in the final year of his contract, Johnson is battling for a new deal. Sometimes, it seems as though the team has tuned him out and Deron William’s recent comments about the offensive system won’t help much.
But in all fairness, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez have each missed seven games. And the Nets have only had their regular starting unit for nine games. They’re 6-3.
And though Lopez has returned, he’s still being worked back into the rotation, playing just 29 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Knicks. The Nets looked dispirited in the game’s final 18 minutes, but that may have every bit as much to do with the 19-6 Knicks being a good team as it does with the fact that Wednesday night’s game was the seventh in 11 days for the Nets.
Unless you’re the Los Angeles Lakers, it’s too early in the NBA season to be considering a coaching change, particularly when the topic of discussion happens to be a coach who was named the NBA’s Coach of the Month just a few weeks ago.
Privately, I’ve been told that coach Johnson still has the ears of his ball club and that nobody in the locker room has quit on him. Understandably, Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks are the most disgruntled players of the bunch—both have seen inconsistent playing time.
Joe Johnson has been visibly frustrated after games and so has Williams, but losing does that. If NBA teams fired coaches each time there was a losing streak or a star player voiced frustration, every coach in the league except for Scotty Brooks, Gregg Popovich and Mike Woodson would have been fired three times over.
Recall that through 17 games, the 2011-12 Miami Heat were just 9-8 and that this season, the star-studded Los Angeles Lakers were 8-9.
But it’s not time for pitchforks and torches. At the very least, Johnson deserves 41 games to see what he can get out of his club. By the time the all-star break rolls around, the Nets will have played 53 games. That’s a much more reasonable sample upon which to base a decision.
From what I’m told, Williams, coach Johnson, and general manager Billy King have a good working relationship and that was a part of Williams’ calculation when he decided to re-sign with the Nets this past summer for five years and about $100 million. It’s difficult to imagine Williams privately pining for the coach’s removal just 25 games into the season.
That’s especially true when you consider that Williams was a free agent this past summer and could have submitted a laundry list of demands to King.
But from what I hear, the only mandates were “build this team” and “turn us into a winner.”
Obviously, we’re all still waiting on that. But the questions surrounding Avery Johnson’s status and whether or not he has lost his locker room are still a bit premature.
With three days off before battling the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, the Nets have some kinks and some issues to work out.
Yes, the clock is ticking on Avery Johnson.
But not even a New York minute has expired yet.
There’s still sand left in the hourglass.