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Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Avery Johnson: "Not just another game"

By Jeff Caplan

DALLAS -- Avery Johnson makes his first return to the American Airlines Center Thursday as the coach of another team Thursday when his young New Jersey Nets try to snap his former team's 10-game win streak.

"The coaches that have told you that it doesn't mean anything and it's just another game, that's a complete lie, OK? I'm calling them all out," Johnson said. "This is not just another game, especially when you have so many great memories. I'm going to probably have 25 or 30 people here. We have a special little dinner here tonight with a few close friends and family. So, it's going to be wonderful.

"It's just going to be weird. I've sat on the other side as a player, but I've never sat on those seats over there as a coach. It's going to be fun."

On Wednesday, the first-year Nets coach worked his team out on the AAC floor where he oversaw the Dallas Mavericks for three-plus memorable seasons that included incredible highs and gut-wrenching lows. He took over a mostly veteran team from Don Nelson at the end of the 2004-05 season, but in New Jersey he's leading one of the youngest squads in the NBA. One of the team's veterans is 27-year-old point guard and former Mav Devin Harris, who is averaging 17.2 points and 6.8 assists.

The Nets are 6-16, the worst record in the Eastern Conference. They've lost five in a row and are 2-10 on the road. But, Harris said Johnson's emotions going into this one will carry over to the team.

"It will," Harris said. "I can sense it."