Avery Johnson thought very little of MarShon Brooks' defense.
Brooks, the Brooklyn Nets’ second-year swingman, desperately wanted to prove his coach wrong, but ever since training camp when he battled injuries, it seemed Brooks was in Johnson’s doghouse.
Many nights, Brooks, just 23 and a tantalizing talent with a ton of potential, found himself out of the rotation and stapled to the bench, his playing time sporadic at best. And when he did get on the court, it only took one turnover or defensive miscue for Johnson to pull him.
“It was frustrating, especially early when I started getting DNPs,” Brooks said. “It was frustrating, but we were winning ... and I haven’t been part of a winning team since my sophomore year in college (at Providence), and going back to high school. But obviously, I wanted a larger role. Then we started losing and I wasn’t playing, and that’s when it really started bothering me.”
On Thursday, Brooks woke up at noon to text messages and tweets that surprised him.
Johnson, the same coach who ripped him in practices and games for not playing enough defense, had been fired following the team’s 14-14 start.
“It’s exciting in a way, to have the opportunity to start over,” Brooks said after scoring nine points in 20 minutes in the Nets’ 97-81 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night, making a winner out of interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo in his debut.
“For whatever reason, me and Avery didn’t really mesh too well. He wasn’t playing me that much, but he taught me a lot, and I’m just going to take (what I learned) to P.J.”
Before Friday night’s game, Carlesimo brought Brooks, who averaged 12.6 points in 29.4 minutes in 56 games in 2011-12, to the side and told him he wanted him to be “a little bit more active on the defensive end and just be aggressive on the offensive end.”
Brooks did just that, also finishing with three rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal.
Still, he was rusty -- finishing 3-for-8 from the field, 3-for-6 from the free-throw stripe -- and, as he made abundantly clear, he isn’t in gameshape yet.
“Hell no!” Brooks replied. “I haven’t played basketball in a month. Everything’s faster, and that’s not my game. I like to play at my own pace.”
As for his role going forward, Brooks said, “I’m not even sure, honestly. When I get my opportunity, I’m just going to try and play well.
“If it was up to me, I’d play all 48 (minutes).”