The Brooklyn Nets have fired Avery Johnson after the team has sputtered to a 14-14 start. That kind of record might have been OK in East Rutherford, N.J., but not for the new-look Nets in Brooklyn. The team has namd P.J. Carlesimo the interim coach.
Brooklyn got out to an 11-4 start, but have gone 3-10 since — including two losses to those cross-borough rivals from Manhattan and an embarrassing 93-76 loss at home to Boston on Christmas Day.
The Nets are not the same Nets they were at the beginning of the season. Not the same team that made a splash with all the glitz and glamor of a new name, a new look and a new arena. Mikhail Prokhorov wanted the move to mean a whole bunch of new things for this franchise. It was supposed to be splash and an arrival into the top half of the Eastern Conference — and the prelude to a championship run.
The Nets' now false start though was not what they had in mind.
Neither maybe was the vast amount of salary now committed to Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries. The three players have had to battle various injuries and consistency issues. The Nets offense has been pretty anemic too, relying on a lot of isolation plays — the team is 23rd in the league in assists.
Avery Johnson though was known as a defensive coach in his time in Dallas and the Nets have struggled on that end. That is more likely than anything why the team has struggled so much lately. Brooklyn is 19th in the league in defensive rating according to Basketball-Reference. That is not championship stuff.
And so Johnson, while coaching a brand new roster pretty much and getting a team into Playoff contention at the quarter point of the season, became a victim of Brooklyn's outlandish expectation for itself. It might have been asking a bit much to say the Nets were going to win the East or crack that top-4 in one year, even with this improved roster.
Still, the Nets have shown they can play better. Johnson's struggles to get the team back on the right track after that hot start will be the direct reason for his downfall.
It seems doubtful that P.J. Carlesimo will be able to do much better, although a less grating and less overtly demanding coach may help give Deron Williams control of the team again. Williams' role and what he wants for what is clearly his team now for the long term is an entirely different story.
The splash and the marquee appears to be what the Nets care about more than winning and establishing a championship franchise. It will be interesting to see where Brooklyn goes from here.