- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Toward the end of a 44-minute news conference Tuesday, Nets GM Billy King was asked whether he’s patted himself on the back yet for a job well done.
“Why?” King responded. “I haven’t done anything. I brought players in, but we haven’t played a game yet. I did what I was supposed to with my staff in terms of putting together a team, and now (coach) it’s (up to) Avery (Johnson) and the coaches. They play the games and we get to evaluate and see if there’s any tinkering that needs to be done.”
During the offseason, King did everything -- except deliver Dwight Howard. Still, the roster he put together for Johnson is a deep and talented one. Or, as King said, a playoff team on paper.
So now it’s up to Johnson to make sure the players gel with one another, and, more importantly, buy into his system. During his first two seasons at the helm, Johnson was given a patchwork roster from which to work with.
But now he’s got a bunch of puzzle pieces that appear like they should fit together. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson have both been All-Stars. If healthy, Brook Lopez could be one, too. Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries are solid fourth and fifth options. And then there’s the revamped bench led by MarShon Brooks.
Now, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to disperse minutes, defining roles and getting his team to defend.
Johnson came to the Nets with the best regular-season winning percentage of any coach in NBA history. Two years later, he no longer holds the top spot.
Johnson is heading into the season in the final year of his contract.
I think he deserves an extension given that he was coaching a team in transition.
But right now, it is what it is, and the pressure is on.
7dMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo