Brooklyn Nets ‘not clicking,’ so Avery Johnson shown the door

Jeff Zelevansky

You can spin it anyway you desire, and Nets general manager Billy King told his side of the story during a Thursday afternoon press conference, but Avery Johnson's second stint as a head coach is over thanks to a 3-10 December that followed up an 11-4 November.

Go ahead and blame the owner, the Russian Bear who spent zillions, billions and trillions on a shiny new building, and a revamped NBA basketball team with a hip and fresh logo and black-and-white scheme. You can certainly reason that a ticked-off Mikhail Prokhorov felt ripped off, so he made the call to eighty-six his head coach.

Why not blame the superstar? Deron Williams complained about the offensive scheme and despite his best efforts to clarify his statements, it was clear he was unhappy with certain coaching decisions. And when there's a power struggle between star and coach, it's the coach that burns out and fades away.

Or maybe the firing of Brooklyn Nets head coach Avery Johnson was justified. At the end of November, Johnson was Eastern Conference Coach of the Month and the Nets were poised to wage war with the mighty New York Knicks for the basketball heartbeat of the Big Apple.

Then, just like that, Johnson's isolation-heavy offense became boring. Ball movement and fluidity had turned into a game of watching one player do all the work. And when you're the general -- or in Johnson's case the Little General -- of a team that at one point blew six leads of at least 13 points -- there's reason to suspect the message was falling on deaf ears.

You can spin it anyway you desire, and general manager Billy King told his side of the story during a Thursday afternoon press conference, but Johnson's second stint as a head coach is over thanks to a 3-10 December that followed up an 11-4 November. Basketball is a game where if you make your baskets the coach is a genius and if they're missed, he's a fool. Johnson could have used more time to figure out how to make more adjustments and work to fuse together a collection of new parts, a process that could have taken until the All-Star break.

But when one player, Williams, enduring the worst season of his All-Star career, calls out the system and a second, Gerald Wallace, who plays as hard as anyone in the game, lashes out at the team's heart and effort, King could only come to one conclusion. Something is wrong. Seriously wrong.

''We don't have the same fire now than we did when we were 11-4,'' King said. ''I tried to talk to Avery about it and we just can't figure it out. The same pattern kept on happening.''

Following a discussion with ownership, the call was made by Prokhorov and his cabinet. And whether it's fair or not, the 14-14 Nets have resembled jesters in their first season in Kings County. They're far behind the Knicks, a team they boldly challenged last summer for city supremacy, in the Eastern Conference. The final two games of the Avery Era were an embarrassing loss to the Boston Celtics on national television Christmas Day and Wednesday night's 15-point drubbing to the Milwaukee Bucks.

"For whatever reason we're just not clicking,'' King said.''With the direction we were going we felt we had to make a change."

After King built the team by convincing Williams to stay with the franchise in lieu of going home to Dallas and acquiring Joe Johnson in a six-player trade with the Atlanta Hawks, Prokhorov was expecting, at minimum, a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Instead, the Nets saw a livid Wallace, who also re-signed as a free agent, unleash his frustrations in a postgame tirade on Wednesday night.

"We're a way better team than what our record is," Wallace said. "I'm [bleeping ticked] off about us losing, and especially the way we're losing.

"It's mind-boggling that we're in the situation we're in. As good of a team as we are, as good as started off ... you saw the potential we had as a team, and the talent we have as a team. And yet, still, instead of team, it's more of ‘I.'

"Right now, I just think we are playing selfish, selfish basketball. It's not about the team. It's about individual players and we've got to get back to playing within the team system. Trusting each other as coach says and doing the extra things for your teammate."

The beginning of the end for Johnson came more than a week ago Williams said he felt uncomfortable in Johnson's isolation-heavy offense. Williams' griping led to Jerry Sloan's retirement in Utah, and now Johnson has paid the price for underachievement in Brooklyn. It's now on interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, and if/when a new full-time coach is hired, to clean up the mess, one which Johnson exonerated Williams from any blame.

"I don't think it's fair for anybody to hang this on Deron. He's one player," Johnson said. "Being a coach is not always fair. For the most part, in this business, the coach always gets the blame. That's just the way it is."

It is what it is, and right now the Brooklyn Nets are a collective mess where blame is shared by everyone from owner, to players to the ousted coach. Yeah, Johnson deserved more time to turn it around, especially after the lean Newark years, but like it or not, the Big Russian spent much of his cold hard cash to field a winner. And because the Nets have been losing, he felt it correct to bring out a side that's ruthless and cold-blooded. Step one was eliminating the easy target, the head coach.

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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