When listening to Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Avery Johnson’s ousting did not come overnight. The decision to let Johnson go stemmed from several factors that went beyond a 3-10 December.
December certainly did not help Johnson’s cause, though.
Johnson craved an extension with the Nets, and in the end said “it would help if you do have a contract that the players respect.”
But according to Prokhorov, Johnson simply was not a fit.
“I respect Avery and really, I wish him well,” Prokhorov said. “But sometimes chemistry just isn’t right. It happens.”
Shifting to assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo in the interim will likely not change much, though. Carlesimo said as much.
But the on-court product produced a discernible difference in the two games played under Carlesimo as compared to Johnson, however. In the short term, a coaching change is always good for that. The players are now on notice.
The Nets now know that Prokhorov means business.
“I don’t know much about the coaching change or anything like that,” Brook Lopez said. “But as a team, we really tried to unite and really regain our focus, come together as one and play for each other.”
Johnson emerged as the easiest scapegoat for Prokhorov’s $83.5 million roster, the third highest in the NBA. It’s far easier to let go of the coach than to get rid of all the players, especially with some of the contracts on this roster.
“I know here they spent a lot of money in the offseason,” Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott said. “We kept hearing from their owner this is a championship-type team and those expectations are real lofty. Again, I’m not here every day. I’ve got my own problems.”
The Nets had the luxury of playing two of the league’s worst teams following Carlesimo’s takeover, which came as no coincidence. They played like a team that realized it’s poor play cost the head coach his job.
“We came out with more energy,” Deron Williams said following Carlesimo’s first game as coach “We had to. Our backs are against the wall.”
Johnson gladly would have taken that attitude from Williams and the rest of the Nets before he lost his job.
Such is the nature of changing generals.
The Nets are 2-0 since Carlesimo took the reins. The wins came against the Bobcats and Cavaliers, but they lost a number of games they theoretically should have won in December.
The three wins under Avery Johnson also came against teams under .500, but they came in much more laborious fashion. They needed double overtime to beat the Detroit Pistons and the wins against the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers came by a combined nine points.
Carlesimo will get a better chance to see where his team stands during the upcoming week. The Nets will play road games against the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, teams with a combined record of 46-14.