Here is how one NBA executive described Avery Johnson’s job security this morning: “The watch is on.”
As in death watch. And it didn’t last long.
“A flammable situation,” was how one Nets player, speaking on condition of anonymity, described it to SheridanHoops.com. “Jerry Sloan all over again.”
If you surveyed the landscape in Brooklyn today, you couldn”t help but come to one conclusion: Avery Johnson was likely headed down the same path the Dodgers went down in 1957.
Confirmation came later in the day when the Nets made it official: Johnson is out.
“The Nets ownership would like to express thanks to Avery for his efforts and to wish him every success in the future,” principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov said in a news release.
On Thursday morning, all the signs were there – including the neon one.
Johnson’s temporary replacement, assistant P.J. Carlesimo, has a winnable game against the Bobcats to get the team back over .500 after its demoralizing loss in Milwaukee on Wednesday night. Even better, the Cavaliers come into Brooklyn the next night. Like the ‘Cats, they’ve got just 7 wins.
And the rule of thumb when changing coaches? Give the new guy an opportunity to open with a W.
The Bobcats and Cavaliers offer that opportunity. The following two opponents, San Antonio and Oklahoma City, do not.
Let’s take stock of where things stood prior to the announcement:
- Brooklyn has lost 10 of its last 13 to drop to .500 (14-14) after an 11-4 start. The last victory over a team with a winning record was Nov. 28.
- Team CEO Brett Yormark sent out this message to Nets fans on Twitter after the Christmas afternoon loss to Boston:
Nets fans deserved better today. The entire organization needs to work harder to find the solution. We will get there.
— Brett Yormark (@brettyormark) December 25, 2012
- Gerald Wallace ripped the team Wednesday night, saying personal agendas have overtaken the team concept that fueled the Nets’ strong start. “Instead of team, it’s more of ‘I.’ ” Wallace said, throwing the term “mind-boggling” into the mix.
- Billy King went mum. Not even the dreaded vote of confidence. It ultimately was his call on Johnson, and if a call is placed to Russia …
- Power forward Kris Humphries sat out Wednesday with an abdominal strain, which many around the team took as a silent protest against his demotion from the starting lineup in favor of Wallace in a new small-ball alignment.
- Deron Williams, after venting his frustrations with the offense when his old team, the Jazz, came to town last week, is now sitting out with a sore right wrist.
- Against the backdrop of all this negativity, the Nets put out a video promising fans more information soon on playoff tickets.
- Expectations were set ridiculously high – somewhat by Prokhorov, who targeted the conference finals – and only got bigger after the first 15 games. Meanwhile, Johnson abandoned the bruising, size-oriented style that fueled Brooklyn’s strong start.
Put it all together, and as I wrote above, I would have been surprised if Johnson made it to tipoff against the ‘Cats, who bring a 16-game losing streak into the Barclays Center on Friday night.
Johnson was named coach of the Nets on June 15, 2010. In two-plus seasons, he was 60-116. In an ironic twist, he was the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for November.
On the positive side – at least for the business end of the equation in the Nets home office – is that it will still cost you a pretty penny to watch that game. It’s a whole different situation in New Orleans, as you can see from the ESPN screenshot after the jump …