New Jersey Nets: Avery Johnson

Nets Brooklyn bound: Will things change?

April, 23, 2012
4/23/12
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For 86 years, the Red Sox had “The Curse of the Bambino.”

Since 1945, the Cubs have been -- as the legend goes -- cursed by a Billy Goat.

On July 1, 2010, the Nets put up a billboard that said “The Blueprint for Greatness,” featuring owners Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z.

It’s only been two years -- so it’s far from curse-worthy -- but nothing has gone their way ever since.

In the summer of 2010, the Nets were favored to win the lottery and get the No. 1 pick. They lost and got the No. 3 pick.

That same summer, the Nets tried to sign coveted free-agents LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer. They ended up with Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow and Johan Petro.

During the season, the Nets tried and tried again to execute a blockbuster trade for Carmelo Anthony. But Melo wanted no part of New Jersey. So he was dealt to the Knicks, and GM Billy King countered by landing Deron Williams out of nowhere.

The Nets finally had their superstar -- with one huge caveat. Williams could opt out of his contract after the 2011-12 season and become a free agent. King knew this, so, following a 24-58 finish to the 2010-11 campaign, he decided to try and reel in a big man to pair with D-Will.

It didn’t work out. Top target Tyson Chandler went to the Knicks, and Nene elected to re-sign with the Nuggets, leaving New Jersey with a team short on talent once again.

Williams announced his intentions to opt out before the 2011-12 season started, and it only got worse from there.

The Nets failed to jell in training camp. And since then, they’ve been decimated by injuries. Brook Lopez, Damion James, Keith Bogans (waived), Jordan Farmar, Mehmet Okur (since traded) and Shawne Williams (since traded) were all lost to season-ending injuries, leaving D-Will without much help.

Coming into Monday night’s home-finale, the Nets had lost 238 manpower games due to injury, illness or personal reasons, an average of 3.7 players per game, and started 24 different lineups. They went just 9-24 at home this season, and struggled on defense and in first quarters. Several D-Leaguers have been called up. Only Gerald Green has been a pleasant surprise.

They thought they were going to land Dwight Howard, but it became one big “Dwightmare,” and D-12 opted to stay in Orlando because of “loyalty.”

King got Gerald Wallace from Portland -- a great all-around hustle player -- but had to sacrifice the team’s top-3 protected 2012 first-round draft pick to do so. The move was highly criticized, viewed as a risk for a franchise that has taken many and gotten burned just as many times. Now, the Nets (22-43) are tied for the sixth-worst record, meaning they only have a 6.3 percent chance of winning the lottery and getting the No. 1 overall pick.

After 35 years in New Jersey, the Nets are moving to Brooklyn and the $1 billion Barclays Center in 2012-13. Their slogan has been “Jersey Strong. Brooklyn Ready.”

Right now, the only guarantees for the franchise are a new building and that MarShon Brooks, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro and Jordan Williams are under contract.

Otherwise, the only certainty is a lot of uncertainty. Eleven of the 15 players on the Nets’ roster are eligible to be free agents in some capacity. Coach Avery Johnson mentioned several -- D-Will, Wallace, Kris Humphries, Lopez and Green -- by name when asked why New Jersey fans should follow the team to Brooklyn, but who knows if they will.

“After the season, guys are going to sit down with their families and decide what’s best for them realistically,” Brooks said after the Nets wrapped up their 35-year tenure in the Garden State with a 105-87 loss to the Sixers. “It’s a business. Whatever team we go to Brooklyn with, we’re going to have to be ready to play.”

The borough of Brooklyn hasn’t had a professional sports franchise since 1957, so there’s going to be a buzz around the Nets. But for how long?

A new building and new uniforms are all well and good, but the Nets must be competitive. And to be competitive, they have to re-sign Williams. He has said he intends to stay -- assuming the Nets put the right pieces around him. They haven’t yet. And even if they do, everything else has to fall into place.

If recent history is any indication, it won’t happen. In 3 1/2 decades, the New Jersey Nets went 1,186-1,635 (.420). And aside from the Jason Kidd era, they didn’t win anything.

Now, they’ll turn the page. Maybe, to avoid a future curse, they should’ve changed their name, too.

Wallace to start against Knicks

April, 18, 2012
4/18/12
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Gerald Wallace will start against the Knicks, Avery Johnson announced Tuesday night before the game.

“We’ll give it a go and see how he feels,” Johnson said.

Wallace has missed four games after injuring his hamstring in a win over Cleveland on April 8. The Nets will be playing their last game against the Knicks at The Rock before they make the move to Brooklyn next season.

Johnson said the team plans to be cautious with the 6-7 forward, saying “we’re going to be monitoring him very closely because I’m not a big fan of hamstring situations.”

The Knicks meanwhile, will be without starting point guard Baron Davis, who is suffering from a stomach virus. Mike Bibby will start for New York.

The Nets coach said that he has never seen a player so anxious to get back on the floor and that Wallace stayed in his ear about being allowed to play, which meant a lot given that the Nets (22-40) are out of the playoff race.

“He’s a guy that will run through a wall for you,” Johnson said. “He’s just a good ‘ol country boy. There’s no frills with him. There’s no fluff. So we’ll be happy to have him on the floor but we’ll protect him also.”

You can follow Christopher Hunt on Twitter.

Nets can't catch a break

April, 4, 2012
4/04/12
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Kobe Bryant laughed.

How else could he react after hitting that shot?

The Nets defended the inbounds before that shot about as well as you can defend an inbounds.

Didn’t matter.

With the Lakers about to get called for a five-second violation, Bryant flared out five feet behind the 3-point arc unguarded at the top of the key. Just 2.3 seconds remained on the shot clock.

So Bryant caught the pass and quickly let one fly.

The ball hit the back rim, then hit the front rim, bounced, hit the front rim and hit the back rim -- twice.

According to The Heat Index’s Brian Windhorst, the whole process took about 1.9 seconds.

Bryant took the shot with 10.1 seconds left. Somehow, someway -- after making its first carom off the rim at 8.7 seconds -- the ball finally fell through the netting with 6.8 seconds remaining.

Lakers 91, Nets 87.

That’s how it ended. The most agonizing of bounces going the other way.

The Nets’ three-game winning streak is over. The fact they came back from a 17-point deficit to put themselves in a position to get a win over the Lakers in Los Angeles? Impressive nonetheless.

Coach Avery Johnson said his team was going to play out the season trying to win every game the rest of the way. On Tuesday night, they almost did.

An 18-6 Nets’ run -- capped by a cold-blooded deep 3-pointer from Deron Williams with 1:29 left -- erased an 80-68 Lakers’ lead in the fourth quarter.

Bryant hit a pull-up jumper from the left wing over Williams’ outstretched arm 10 seconds later to make it 88-86 Los Angeles.

Gerald Wallace, the Nets’ heart and soul these days, got fouled on the other end, but split a pair of free throws.

Ramon Sessions missed a 3 on the ensuing Lakers’ possession, but Pau Gasol grabbed the offensive rebound. That’s when the Nets turned up their defensive intensity, forcing the Lakers to inbound the ball under their basket with less than three seconds remaining on the shot clock and 10.8 seconds left on the gameclock.

That’s when one of the greatest players to ever play the game got a little lucky.

Talk about a lethal combination.

In the end, the Nets (19-36, 12-17 road) can take solace in the fact that they appear to be coming together as a team. In the short term, Wallace has provided everything they’ve been missing: defense, versatility, hustle and leadership.

Unfortunately, it’s come too late.

The Nets have been decimated by injuries. They’ve been woeful at home. And pre-Wallace, they were on pace -- by one advanced metric -- to be the worst defensive team in 20 years.

The Nets had their chance to make a playoff push. They failed. Losses to New Orleans, Cleveland and Washington put them in the predicament they’re in right now: playing out a lost season with an uncertain future starring them in the face.

Williams, the most-coveted-prize-on-the-free-agent-market-to-be, who had 10 of his 20 points in the fourth, gave ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande basically the same answers he gave Yahoo! Sports a day earlier before the game. The same answers he’s basically been giving since he announced his intentions to opt out and become a free agent before the lockout-shortened season began.

He’s not ruling out the Nets. Brooklyn is enticing. He loves living in New York.

At the same time, Williams is going to keep his options open. And why shouldn’t he?

For the first time in his career, he holds all the cards, has all the control.

The Nets knew this when they pulled off the blockbuster trade to get him.

But they took a risk, a risk the Knicks would’ve been willing to take had they know Williams was available the deadline last season.

Hard to blame them. This is, after all, a superstar’s league. And the only way to get one is either getting lucky in the draft lottery, signing one via free agency or making a deal.

The caveat was that Williams wasn’t locked up. The Nets have done everything in their power to ink Williams to a max extension. They’ve treated him like a King, allowing him to have a say in who he plays with.

They wanted to pair him with Brook Lopez, but Lopez has been plagued by injuries and has only played five games in 2011-12.

They wanted to pair him with Dwight Howard and thought they had a deal done, but Howard changed his mind 8,000 times in the course of two days and ultimately ended up staying in Orlando.

Wallace has been far-and-away the best player Williams has played with during his time in New Jersey -- and he came at the expense of a top-3 protected first-rounder.

And now, now that they’ve finally got some sort of positive momentum building and are starting to come together as a cohesive unit, it may be too late.

All the Nets have asked for is a break or a bounce to go their way.

But that hasn’t happened all season -- so it certainly wasn’t going to happen on Tuesday night.

Nets stink up the joint again

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
11:39
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Their superstar? Ejected. Their coach? Ejected.

Their losing streak? Four.

Their playoff hopes? Ha! Good one.

Deron Williams and Avery Johnson were kicked out of Wednesday night’s 108-89 loss to the Wizards during the third quarter.

They were the lucky ones. Everyone else had to gut it out.

By the time the final buzzer sounded, chants of "Jay-Z! Jay-Z!" and the standard boos resonated from a clearly frustrated crowd of 10,097 at Prudential Center.

"Well, again, we're disappointed, but we're not an elite team yet, OK?" Johnson said after his team plummeted to 15-33, the fourth-worst record in the NBA.

AP Photo/Julio CortezAvery Johnson made an early exit, so P.J. Carlesimo had to take over.


"We don't have much margin for error. So we can't say, 'Well, we played against New Orleans, Charlotte or Washington, you guys should come out there and beat those teams by 20 points.' That’s not [possible]. We gotta play great basketball. We don't have much margin for error."

Johnson normally tries to look on the bright side of things. But even he had trouble putting on his rose-colored glasses after this particular debacle, a debacle in which the Nets gave up 14 offensive rebounds and made 16 of their 38 field goals inside the paint.

"[The effort] could've been better. It could've been better," Johnson said. "And you know I'm always one that tries to be really, really positive, at times with our team, but it could've been better."

Before his second ejection as a Net -- and first since Feb. 2, 2011, against Philadelphia -- Johnson was already upset that the officials missed a pair of eight-second violations that were clear as day. So it was only a matter of time before he blew a gasket.

With 5:23 left in the third period and the Nets trailing 70-64, Williams drove inside, hoisted up a shot and thought he was fouled, but no call was made. John Wall hit a 19-footer on the other end to put Washington up by eight.

The Nets called timeout at the 5:18 mark, and Williams was talking with referee Josh Tiven. It didn't appear to be a heated conversation, but things quickly escalated. Tiven hit Williams with one T, then another, and just like that the 27-year-old All-Star had been tossed for the second time in his career -- both coming this season.

Jordan Crawford connected on the ensuing free throws before Johnson got the gate for giving Tiven an earful. Crawford hit those two freebees as well. Just like that, it was 76-64, and the Nets never recovered.

"It was just a difference of opinion," Johnson said. "We'll leave it at that."

Williams wasn't in the locker room to explain what happened. He now has three technicals in his last two games, and hasn’t addressed the media in either of them.

"You know those guys, they care," Kris Humphries said. "Coach cares, Deron cares, so you get frustrated and it happens from time to time."

Newcomer Gerald Wallace wasn't particularly happy with how the game was officiated.

"Washington got the benefit of the doubt on everything," he said, without getting into specifics because he didn't want to be fined. "You guys watched the game. I'm not saying we're the Lakers or the San Antonio Spurs or somebody, but we played just as hard as the Wizards played and it just felt like they were just more favored than us."

Before the game, Williams said the last 19 games wouldn't have any effect on his decision to stay with the Nets or leave at the end of the season. Phew.

Consider: During the team's four-game skid, it has blown a 12-point fourth-quarter lead to the 10-34 Hornets; failed to finish down the stretch against the 16-26 Cavaliers; and been massacred by the 10-34 Wizards -- all at home.

The Nets, who have lost six of their last seven, are 5-18 at home, by the way. And they can’t use not having Brook Lopez as an excuse. New Orleans, Cleveland and Washington are bad. Just not as bad as the Nets have been, though.

“You know, we’re just not clicking. It’s just tough basketball right now,” Humphries said. “We've just gotta stay after it, it's been tough. You feel like you're beating yourself at times and it's not fun to play like that.”

Are the Nets trying to tank so they can get their top-3 protected first-rounder back? Or are they just this bad? Either way, it isn’t pretty.

Remember when the Nets were on the verge of getting Dwight Howard and the Knicks were stinking up the joint? Those were the days, huh?

Rapid Reaction: Wizards 108, Nets 89

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
9:50
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Recap | Box score | Photos

WHAT IT MEANS: The Nets lost their fourth straight game on Wednesday night -- but Deron Williams and Avery Johnson weren't around long enough to see the end. The point guard and coach were ejected during the third quarter of the Nets' 108-89 setback to the Wizards at Prudential Center. Wonder what Jay-Z thought. He was sitting next to the bench, after all. And the crowd chanted his name once the game was far out of reach.

The Nets are now 15-33 overall and 5-18 at home. Williams had all 17 of his points in the first half for the Nets. He added four assists and three rebounds, and shot 6-for-15 from the field. The Nets trailed by as many as 19, shot 36.9 percent from the floor and scored 36 points in the second half.

TURNING POINT: A 12-0 third-quarter run -- which included the ejections of both Williams and Johnson after Williams was upset about not getting a foul call on a drive to the basket -- gave the Wizards a commanding 78-64 lead.

HUMP DAY: Kris Humphries finished with his 21st double-double of the season, scoring 13 points while grabbing 16 rebounds.

G-EEZ: In his third game as a Net, Gerald Wallace scored 13 points and grabbed three rebounds, but opened up missing six of his first seven shots from the field and wound up connecting on just five of his 17 attempts.

NICE DEBUT: Nene, who was coveted by the Nets in free agent but ended up re-signing with the Nuggets before being traded to Washington at the deadline, had 22 points and 10 rebounds in his debut with the Wizards.

BOLD PLAY OF THE GAME: D-Will split a pick-and-roll, faked a behind-the-back pass and finished a layup to tie the game at 48 in the second quarter.

STAT OF THE NIGHT: MarShon Brooks shot 2-for-9 from the field on Wednesday night. In his last six games, the rookie shooting guard is 17-for-58 from the field.

UP NEXT: Nets at Hawks, Friday night

Williams, Johnson ejected Wednesday night

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
9:25
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NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams and coach Avery Johnson were both ejected in the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Washington Wizards.

It is unclear why, but it appeared that Williams was upset after not getting a foul call on a drive to the basket in the period. He began yapping with the officials with 5:18 left. He picked up one technical, walked back to the bench, turned around and picked up another. Johnson became engaged after that, and was also shown the gate.

The Nets (15-32) were trailing 72-64 at the time of Williams’ ejection. Jordan Crawford hit the ensuing free throws to push the Wizards’ lead to 10, and Johnson got thrown out after that.

It’s Williams’ second career ejection -- both have come this season. For Johnson, it’s his second ejection since he became coach of the Nets. His other one came on Feb. 2, 2011 against Philadelphia

Johnson surprised by D'Antoni news

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
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Nets coach Avery Johnson said he was taken by surprise over the news that Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni had resigned Wednesday.

“I thought he worked his butt off after coming to New York from Phoenix,” Johnson said. “Obviously he had two years where he took over a pretty decimated situation and got it back on track last year. And of course they had some ups and downs this year, that’s part of it. But I didn’t expect that to happen. He’s a good man, and any time somebody from the coaching fraternity resigns or gets fired, it affects all of us.”

D’Antoni was never able to incorporate superstar Carmelo Anthony into his pick-and-roll offense. In fact, the Knicks coach never even wanted Anthony. But owner James Dolan did.

“The key is being consistent and for ownership to have your back,” Johnson said when asked what the key is to dealing with superstars.

• In case you weren’t aware, the NBA trade deadline is Thursday.

A reporter asked Johnson about some guy named Dwight Howard. The Nets coach laughed and said he couldn’t talk about another team’s player. The league won’t allow it.

Nets point guard Deron Williams, who will miss his third straight game with a strained right calf, was asked about the deadline. He also wouldn’t comment, but did say he loves New York.

Johnson was asked if he speaks with GM Billy King about trades and such. He laughed for a while, then said this: “I’m kinda the guy where you get on the 10-yard line or the 5-yard line then call me. Let’s put it like that.” More laughter.

• Johnson said small forward Gerald Green could move into the starting lineup if he keeps up his production.

“That’s something we may want to do,” Johnson said.

Green is averaging 9.1 points and 3.1 rebounds. The Nets must make a decision if they’re going to keep him for the rest of the season or let him go by March 18.

“I’m expecting him to get 12 points [Wednesday],” Johnson said.

The depleted Nets worked Green out before signing him on Feb. 27.

“I told him if I’m going to give up an hour or two of my All-Star weekend to come out and work you out and interview you, you better be the real deal,” Johnson joked.

Johnson said Green has matured as a player and spoke with good friend Doc Rivers before signing him.

Rookie MarShon Brooks and Green spend a lot of time together off the court -- and have had good chemistry with one another.

“I don’t know if that’s good,” Johnson joked.

• Johnson said the Nets will play the same starting five. With D-Will out of the lineup, he continues to harp about how Jordan Farmar and Sundiata Gaines need to step it up defensively.

He wants them to be more aggressive, and plans on mixing up the defense with traps, zones and different pick-and-roll coverages.

• According to NBA.com, Orlando has given D-12 a deadline to submit his “opt-in” paperwork. Otherwise, they’re going to deal him.

Humphries' career night goes to waste

March, 12, 2012
3/12/12
11:16
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Kris Humphries can never be accused of failing to give maximum effort on the court.

"After games, he's totally exhausted," Nets coach Avery Johnson said after his 27-year-old power forward scored a career-high 31 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked three shots over 42 minutes in Monday night's 105-99 loss to the Bucks.

"He leaves it all out there on the floor. He's a great example of just playing until your dead tired."

AP Photo/Mel EvansKris Humphries


In 40 games with the Nets this season, Humphries has logged 1,394 minutes and 44 seconds, and ranks second on the team to point guard Deron Williams in minutes per contest (34:52).

"It wasn't tough [Monday night]," said Humphries, who became just the fifth Net since 1985-86 to go for 31 and 18 in a single game. "But on back-to-backs it's pretty tough."

Sure is. But you wouldn't know it watching Humphries.

On Monday night, he was a beast on the interior. Humphries, who shot 11-for-15 from the field and 9-for-12 from the free throw line, recorded 13 points and six rebounds in the first quarter, and by the end of the first half he had amassed his 18th double-double of the season: 21 points and 10 boards.

"He got off to a good start and was real focused," Johnson said. "Guys started going to him early and he made some really incredible blocks. He's playing on both ends of the floor."

On Feb. 19, Humphries was outplayed by Milwaukee hybrid forward Ersan Ilyasova, who scored 29 points and grabbed an NBA season-high-tying 25 rebounds. Humphries was determined not to let "Turkish Thunder" go "Ersane" again.

"He played great last time," Humphries said. "I wanted to make sure he didn't come out and get momentum and have that kind of night."

Ilyasova didn't, scoring just four points and snagging three boards in 24 minutes.

The Nets (14-29, 4-15 home) went right at him from the opening possession, getting Humphries a look in the post, and he got a 5-foot hook to go. That set the tone for what should've been a different outcome had the Nets not turned the ball over nine times in the third quarter and allowed Milwaukee (18-24) to go on a 17-2 run spanning the end of the third to the early part of the fourth, which turned a nine-point lead into a six-point deficit.

Humphries' highlight of the evening was his steal and slam that gave the Nets a 48-36 edge in the second quarter. He scooped up a loose ball and went coast-to-coast, taking it himself on a 2-on-1 fast break and finishing with a rim-rocking, one-handed jam.

"I got it, I just pushed it out, and then I was looking for someone and I realized, there's only one guy back. And it got to the point where he [wasn't] gonna take the charge, so I just said, 'Let me try and dunk this,'" Humphries said. "It worked out."

Humphries signed a one-year, $8 million contract in the offseason, so he could be a candidate to be dealt by Thursday's NBA trading deadline. But he has veto power because he'd have to give up his Bird Rights in order to be moved.

Using a bridge analogy after Monday's morning shootaround, Humphries (13.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg) essentially said he'd be willing to waive his no-trade clause if the situation was right. And there's plenty of contenders who would love to have a player of his ilk.

But for now, he’s a Net, and Johnson and Humphries' teammates aren't going to complain about that.

Farmar's 3 snaps Nets' home skid at seven

March, 8, 2012
3/08/12
12:40
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From the moment the ball left his right hand, Jordan Farmar had no doubt. It was going in.

"I would've felt hurt if it went out," the Nets' backup point guard said.

The Nets had already blown an 18-point lead to the Clippers on Wednesday and were in danger of losing their eighth straight game at home. So when Farmar caught an "on-time, on-target" bounce pass from Deron Williams and let a wide-open 3-pointer fly from the right wing with less than a second remaining and the Nets down two, almost everyone in the sellout crowd at Prudential Center -- from the players to the coaches to the fans -- desperately needed it to fall.

With 0.2 ticks left, it did. And the building erupted.

Just like that, a 30-point drubbing in Miami the previous evening had been forgotten.

Brick City had upset Lob City.

AP Photo/Mel EvansAnthony Morrow and MarShon Brooks celebrate with Jordan Farmar after his game-winning 3-pointer.


"Jordan made probably one of the biggest shots on the court for us this year," Nets coach Avery Johnson said after his team prevailed 101-100 over the Clippers and improved to 4-13 at home -- their first victory at The Rock since Feb. 1.

"In this situation at home in front of a great crowd -- we had a big lead at one point -- but the way this win happened was perfect."

Imagine what he would've said if it hadn't.

A little over eight seconds earlier, Shelden Williams inexplicably fouled Chris Paul (22 points, 10 assists, six rebounds) 30 feet from the basket, and the Clippers point guard drilled a pair of free throws to put Los Angeles in front.

"Chris Paul is just dynamite, man," Johnson said. "He basically got me fired in Dallas, if you remember that playoff series, so I had some bad flashbacks."

But "Why Shelden? Why?!" quickly turned into "Thank goodness for Jordan!"

On the ensuing Nets possession, Johnson ran an isolation play for D-Will, but he was trapped and the ball was kicked out of bounds. The Nets got the ball back to their All-Star point guard again and he was thinking about driving, but saw Paul cheating over to help.

Farmar was open. So D-Will fed him the ball -- and Farmar did the rest.

"That was a huge shot from deep," said Williams, who finished with 21 points, 10 assists and six rebounds and improved to 13-4 vs. Paul in his career. "He had ice in his veins."

"I had just passed one up," Farmar said. "I told myself if I get another shot, I'm gonna make sure I shoot it."

He did. He made it, too.

"They were cheating a bit and taking [Deron's] space away. He had to bounce it, and he put it in the perfect spot," Farmar said. "I was a little deep, but I just wanted to keep an eye on the rim and stay with my follow-through."

The Nets held an 80-71 lead entering the fourth quarter, but it quickly evaporated because they couldn't buy a bucket. In all, they went 3-for-16 in the final period after shooting a scintillating 58.3 percent in the first half, but made 14 of 18 free throws to stay in it.

And when it was all said and done, they finally gave their fans something to cheer about.

"The Clippers drew a big crowd. It was a home-court environment. It felt like a big game. It was fun to play in." Farmar said. "When it's dead in here and there's not that many people in the crowd, it gets tough at times -- especially when we don't play well, it's hard to keep that energy to get back in the game. But it was a full crowd, the game was going back and forth, and it was fun to be a part of."

"This is the best our fans have been in a long time, and they're definitely part of the win," D-Will added.

Jay-Z and his over-the-top gold chain, Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, right tackle Kareem McKenzie and kicker Lawrence Tynes, and Ravens running back and Rutgers product Ray Rice were all sitting courtside.

And they were treated to a dandy.

The third quarter alone featured 11 straight points by D-Will, three dunks by Blake Griffin (28 points, 17 rebounds) -- including a two-handed alley-oop flush and a baseline reverse throwdown -- and one ridiculous rejection by Kris Humphries to prevent another Griffin oop.

"I needed that," said Humphries, who played physical inside with Griffin all night and both were assessed technicals with 9:08 left in the third. "He snuck one by me at the rim earlier [on the reverse]. It felt good. I think we fed off that and just kept it going."

The Nets are 13-27, but they've beaten Philadelphia in Philadelphia, New York in New York, Chicago in Chicago, Dallas in Dallas and now the Clippers in New Jersey and trail the Knicks by 5½ games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 26 contests remaining. They may be decimated by injuries, but it didn't matter on Wednesday night.

Shelden Williams -- inserted into the starting lineup after Brook Lopez sprained his ankle, causing him to miss at least three weeks -- gave them 15 points, 10 rebounds and a 9-for-11 performance from the free throw stripe. MarShon Brooks -- despite foolishly fouling Randy Foye on a three-point play that knotted the game at 98 -- poured in 19 points. Humphries added 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Farmar contributed 16 of the team’s 34 bench points -- and the biggest shot of the game, if not the season.

"I've been on the bench. I haven't been in game-winning situations too much," Farmar said. "I'm just happy I got the opportunity and it went through for me."

Johnson: D-Will quote 'twisted' around

February, 29, 2012
2/29/12
11:22
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Nets coach Avery Johnson was upset and felt his words were "twisted" after he told the media he considered the Mavericks "a threat" to sign All-Star point guard Deron Williams in the offseason.

Johnson said the media focused only on that part of the comments he made Monday, not the other part in which he said he expects D-Will to re-sign.

"Anybody that's under the cap would be a threat to get a guy that's an unbelievable point guard," Johnson told reporters in Dallas on Tuesday night before the Nets beat the Mavericks 93-92.

"But I said I believe he has every intention to re-sign with us because he's involved with what we're doing at the Barclays Center. He spends a lot of time with us behind the scenes. I can go on and on. His brother's going to be going to prep school in our area. So I think because of that I said he has every intention to re-sign with us.

"Somebody kind of got it twisted where the focus was more on the 'threat' and saying that I said that I think he's going to Dallas. Which I never said. Never said that."

On Monday, in response to a question about his former boss, Mavs owner Mark Cuban, being a potential suitor for Williams, Johnson said:

"He's a threat, OK? I know the guy. I think because of the success he's had -- and I know he got criticized a lot for quote-unquote having all those years where he didn't win a championship -- but he's had some great success here that rivals any situation. So that's a threat."

Of course, Johnson wasn’t saying anything wrong by calling the Mavericks a "threat." Even GM Billy King admitted as much during an interview on ESPN 1050 New York on Tuesday afternoon.

Still, King said he wasn’t concerned.

"It's not a fear, it's a reality," King said. "The Mavs will have cap space along with other teams and [Williams is] from Dallas. I don't think it's any secret, but I'm not fearful of them."

Williams has said he is open to staying with the Nets once they move to Brooklyn next season as long as they put the right pieces around him and he feels like he has a legitimate opportunity to win a championship there.

"I'm not concerned," King said. "I'm looking forward to having Deron in a Brooklyn Nets uniform next year."

Avery: Mavs a major threat to sign D-Will

February, 28, 2012
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DALLAS -- All-Star point guard Deron Williams doesn't want to address the subject of possibly playing in his hometown on a permanent basis during this trip to Dallas, but his coach acknowledged that the Mavericks are a major threat to sign the free agent-to-be.

New Jersey Nets coach Avery Johnson believes that because of the respect he has for his former boss, billionaire Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who has teamed with Dallas president basketball of operations Donnie Nelson to give the Mavs the financial flexibility this summer to attempt to sign Williams and/or Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.

"He's a threat, OK?" Johnson said of Cuban after the Nets' practice Monday night at SMU. "I know the guy. I think because of the success he's had -- and I know he got criticized a lot for quote-unquote having all those years where he didn't win a championship -- but he's had some great success here that rivals any situation. So that's a threat."

Williams, whose team plays the Mavericks on Tuesday night, pretended to not be aware that the Mavericks would have enough salary-cap space to be major players in free agency this offseason. He made it clear that he had no intention of discussing the possibility of joining Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas next season.

"I'm just going to play out this season and look at my options after this season," Williams said, repeating several variations of that statement during a five-minute session with the media.

But Williams, a native of Dallas suburb The Colony who attended several Mavs playoff games during last year's championship run, acknowledged that he enjoys playing in the American Airlines Center.

"I've always liked playing here," Williams said. "This is one of my favorite arenas to play in, probably my favorite arena to play in. I just enjoy playing in it. I enjoy playing in front of my friends and family. It's always good for them to get the chance to see me play."

Williams, who has averaged 22.3 points on 50.3 shooting in 10 career games at the American Airlines Center, said he likes the shooting background in the arena. He also appreciates the atmosphere.

"It's always good when an arena has a lot of energy," Williams said. "Ours doesn't have too much energy."

The Nets hope that changes when they move into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season. They also hope that Williams will be the face of the franchise when that happens.

"For us, we don't make any assumptions until we get Deron signed on the dotted line," said Johnson, who played 55 games for the Mavs late in his career and was the head coach in Dallas from 2005-08. "The main thing is we keep doing what we're doing. Deron's been a major part of what we're doing behind the scenes. He's been a major part of what we're doing with the new Barclays Center, so we're saying he's doing all of that with the intent that he's going to remain with us in the future."

However, Johnson is also saying that he's aware that Cuban’s Mavs will be serious competition for Williams' services this summer.

Nets' midseason report card

February, 24, 2012
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Call it a "process." Call it a "Dwightmare." Call it "the end of an error." Call it whatever you want. The point is, the Nets' final season in New Jersey has been an utter disaster.

Decimated by injuries, a lack of continuity and a flawed roster, the Nets have struggled mightily in the first half of the season, and enter the All-Star break with a 10-25 record -- third-worst in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn is the Nets' destination next season, but the future remains uncertain. Will Deron Williams stay? Will Dwight Howard end up with the Nets via trade or free agency?

For now, coach Avery Johnson isn't concerned. Most nights he doesn't even know who he's going to start. Consider: The Nets have used 17 different starting lineups this season -- more than any other team in the NBA. Also consider: The Nets have been plagued by poor starts all season, and are 4-19 when trailing after the first quarter. Oh, and they've struggled to a 3-13 record at the Prudential Center.

Now on to the grades. Check them out here.

Johnson on Lin: 'Give the kid credit'

February, 20, 2012
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The Knicks have been the definition of futility for the last decade.

But the franchise has enjoyed a rebirth with the emergence of "Linsanity."

"When you haven't won a playoff series in 10 years, they've been starving for this," Nets coach Avery Johnson said when asked about Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.

"Linsanity" was born on Feb. 4 against Johnson's Nets. An unknown then, Lin came off the bench, exploited the Nets in the pick-and-roll and went for 25 points and seven assists. He has started every game since, leading the Knicks to a 7-1 mark as a starter.

Don't compare Lin to Steve Nash -- another Mike D'Antoni point guard -- just yet, though.

"I've heard a lot of different stories. I even got a question from my daughter whether Lin was in Nash's category. We don't wanna go there. It’s only been nine games," Johnson said. "Give the kid a chance. It's a great global story and he's inspiring a lot of kids, but let's give the kid a chance to play a whole season, maybe even a playoff series before we put him in the Nash category."

The Nets are the first team to see Lin a second time. So is that an advantage?

"Last game [against Dallas] on ball screens they went big on him quite a bit with [Shawn] Marion, and that didn't slow him down that much," Johnson said. "So again, he's obviously seen switches, you've seen teams play him one-on-one and forcing him to score. So he's seen quite a few defenses. But hopefully it's an advantage for us since we've seen him so we know what we're dealing with."

And playing well in D'Antoni's system?

"Systems sometimes can be overrated. Let's give the kid credit," Johnson said. "Mike's had a pretty good system ever since he was in Phoenix, but your system works a lot better when he's playing the way he's playing. So let's give the kid some credit, but also let's give guys like [GM Donnie] Walsh credit who survived and turned this thing around bringing in Melo and Amare."

• As expected, center Brook Lopez is inactive. He seemed upset about it before the game, but Johnson said there was no chance he could talk his way into the lineup. The 23-year-old will play on Wednesday against Orlando. Shelden Williams will start in his place.

Don't blame Johnson for Nets' woes

February, 17, 2012
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The Nets are 8-23 right now. They have become irrelevant, and baring a miracle of “Linsane” proportion, they aren’t making the playoffs.

But don’t blame that on their coach.

Blame it on the lockout. Blame it on the injuries -- specifically the one to Brook Lopez before the season started. Blame it on the lack of talent on the roster.

Don’t blame Avery Johnson. Red Auerbach couldn’t win with this team.

Johnson goes into each game without a legit post presence. Most nights, he doesn’t even know who’s going to be available to start until an hour or so before tip-off. Think about that.

Deron Williams is far and away the Nets’ best player. But even he -- for all his offensive prowess -- is prone to streaky shooting, turnovers because the ball is in his hands so much and lapses on defense.

Kris Humphries would be a great player on a great team, but his weaknesses -- shooting and finishing -- get exposed. Shelden Williams is starting and giving it his all, but he’s a role player who has trouble catching post-entry passes. Jordan Farmar and Anthony Morrow are lethal shooters who can fill it up, but they’re lousy defenders. Rookie MarShon Brooks may end up being as prolific a scorer as Kobe Bryant, but he isn’t that player now, and has a long way to go before he gets anywhere close.

As ESPN’s John Hollinger points out, the Nets have the worst small forward tandem in the NBA. Lately, Johnson has been starting veteran DeShawn Stevenson, who was a valuable contributor on the Mavericks championship team last season. Now, he’s a 25 percent shooter who is gutting it out every night on balky knees.

Johan Petro? Sundiata Gaines? The 2011-12 version of Shawne Williams? The argument could easily be made that none of these players even belong in the NBA -- certainly not on the end of the bench of a bad team.

Put this collection of players together, and what you see is what you get: A plethora of jump shots. Long offensive droughts. Bad defense. No rebounding. Bad basketball.

Already, the Nets have started 15 different lineups. More than any team. Already, they’ve started 13 different players. More than any team. Shelden Williams is the only Net to appear in each of the team’s first 31 games.

Throughout it all, Johnson has maintained a positive attitude -- at least publicly. After each game, he sits down and gives the same answers, mostly about how hard his team fought; how they showed “winning spirit;” how they’ve been decimated by injuries, but how that shouldn’t be an excuse.

Johnson knew what he was getting himself into when he took this job. He wasn’t going to keep his spot at the top of the NBA’s all-time winning percentage list. He was taking over a 12-70 team in transition. It was going to be “a process,” and it has been.

GM Billy King has put the franchise in a great position to become a contender with an up-and-coming nucleus. And if he can somehow land Dwight Howard without having to give anything up, he’ll look like of the greatest executives of all-time.

But nothing is set in stone, and as Steinbeck put it, “The best laid plans often go awry.”

There’s a possibility the Nets could go to Brooklyn in 2012-13 in worse shape than just about every team but the Bobcats, trying to sell a product that isn’t worthy consuming.

In year one, that works. It did at Citi Field. But then the allure wears off. Then what?

None of that is Johnson’s fault. He’s doing the best with what he has.

Don’t forget: Doc Rivers was nearly run out of town in Boston after winning 59 games from 2005-07. Then Danny Ainge went out and got him Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and Rivers won it all. Now, he’s one of the most well-respected coaches in the league.

Remember that on Saturday night, when it’s very likely the Nets will lose their ninth game in a row to the Bulls.

At that point, 34 games will be all that’s left for the franchise in New Jersey. It’s unfortunate it’s going to end this way, but it is what it is.

Remember that when you’re about to snap and blame Johnson. Wait until he has a real team first.

And if it doesn’t work out, that’s when you can fire him.

Nets, Spurs notice 'Linsanity,' too

February, 12, 2012
2/12/12
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All the recent "Linsanity" over Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin? Blame it on the Big Apple, ex-Net Richard Jefferson says.

"It's New York, it's New York. It's New York City. You do it in the Garden, in New York City against the Lakers, you're doing it for the Knicks," the Spurs small forward said prior to his team's 103-89 victory over the Nets on Saturday night at Prudential Center.

"He'd be getting a lot of attention if he was doing it any place, but doing it in the Garden, doing it for the Knicks makes it that much more special."

Lin went off again on Saturday night in Minnesota, as the Knicks extended their winning streak to five. He needed 24 shots to score 20 points, but drained the go-ahead free throw late. The legend of Lin continues.

Nets coach Avery Johnson has been impressed with what the undrafted Harvard grad has accomplished -- seemingly out of nowhere.

"I think it's great," Johnson said. "I think it's great for the NBA, any time a guy is an underdog and basically is about to get cut, again, and makes it."

Spurs coach Greg Popovich feels the same way.

"It seems strange, it seems out of the blue where all of the sudden this guy's kicking everybody's butt and no one can stop him," Popovich said. "He's helping a team to win with some of its stars that are out, and it just seems improbable, and that's why the story is so great and everyone is in enjoying it."

Povovich claims he isn't surprised. He's probably the only one. Could you really have seen this one coming? Lin has been living on his brother's couch, after all.

"No. In today's world, are you serious?" Popovich said to a reporter, laughing. "There's gazillions of your type everywhere, just waiting for a story. And when something like that happens, its upbeat, it's a win-win for everybody. Everybody's jumping on it. It's an international story. … It's great."

Jefferson is happy for Lin. The two became friendly after they met during pregame chapel sessions.

"It couldn't happen to a better person," Jefferson said. "He's a firm believer that god puts you where you need to be when you need to be there. Like I said, he's a good kid and I'm happy for him."

Johnson thinks Lin is the perfect role model for everyone -- including his son, Avery Jr., who is currently a sophomore in high school.

"For me it's a good argument because I've been trying to encourage my son to go play basketball at an Ivy League school," Johnson said. "My daughter attends an Ivy League school, but he thought you can't go to the NBA from an Ivy League school."

Yes, Jeremy Lin is the American Dream. Most Americans dream of graduating Harvard. But starring in the NBA, too? C’mon now! That's Linsanity!

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Brook Lopez
PTS AST STL MIN
20.7 0.9 0.5 31.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsK. Garnett 6.6
AssistsD. Williams 6.1
StealsD. Williams 1.5
BlocksB. Lopez 1.8