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Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 at 3:03 pm  |  45 responses

Avery Johnson Says Brooklyn Nets ‘Aren’t a Championship Team’


Maybe Avery Johnson genuinely believes it, or maybe he just wants to temper the media storm in New York. Either way, despite the additions of Joe Johnson and re-signings of Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries, the Nets head coach isn’t ready to label his team as a title contender. Bold, yet fitting words for the business-like and methodical Johnson. Via the Forth Worth Star-Telegram: “The slew of moves should help the Nets improve on the 24-58 and 22-44 records they compiled during Johnson’s first two seasons. ‘We’re not there yet, we’re not a championship team,’ Johnson said. ‘We’ve got a lot of work to do, but at the same time we have a much better talent pool than we’ve had in the last two years.’ Whether that talent upgrade is enough to get the Nets into the Eastern Conference championship race alongside the world-champion Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics remains to be seen. ‘We’re ready to just get in training camp,’ Johnson said. ‘But I will say we’re much more versatile than we’ve ever been, we have more experience. Right now we look good on paper. Now we’ve got to try to take it from looking good on paper and getting in and apply the work to go with it.’”

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  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    way to get jump on the fast track to unemployment. i wonder if you said that to the Mavs in 06 and 07?

  • Rasheed

    He’s right. Get rid of Avery Johnson, then they might just be a championship team.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gametimeweezy Wayne Lee

    Avery Johnson is an awesome coach, you guys are nuts.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    nobody said he was a bad coach. this is just a stupid thing to say. especially with Mikhail Prokhorov as the owner. just kill the confidence of your team before the season even starts? what the f*ck does that accomplish? you already had a Nets player say he thought they could compete for a title not even 2 weeks ago. You just contradicted him. And he so happens to be your starting Center. Just think deeply, about whether or not it is a good decision to disagree with one of your own players about how good the team is? especially if you are the coach, talking about how they aren’t as good as some of the other players think they are.

  • datkid

    exactly. plus he’s wrong. right now you could make an argument that the nets, along with maybe the celtics are best equipped to take on the heat. it is possible though that he’s trying to fire up his team w/ reverse psychology phil jackson style.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    it’s too early for this to be a psychological tool. the guys have to fester on these words for the next month. they aren’t all veterans, not all of them will take that as motivation.

  • Caboose

    Maybe he thinks the personnel on his roster will respond better to a harsh challenge. Or maybe he’s just a grumpy dude. Either way.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Avery Johnson Telling WFAN on July 11, “Now it’s our time, on paper, we’re one of top three or four teams in Eastern Conference. Thats a big big jump for us. We feel we’ve catapulted ourselves … We’re at least in the conversation, we have not been in the conversation the last few years.”

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    LOL what don’t people like about this comment? – like Dallas didn’t absolutely crumble both years he was actually favored to win? or is it that you think Mikhail Porkhorov is ok with not competing for a title?

  • Dutch Rich

    This is ridiculous. When Brook said they could compete for a championship most people here felt he was smoking crack. Prokorov made a 5 year prediction and I believe we are in yr 3. The immediate challenge is to become the best team in NY. The Nets have potential and tremendous depth but a starting center with a history of injuries and no viable back up. If Brook goes down we’ll be fighting for the 7th or 8th spot. If he’s healthy and has improved on reading the floor we could aim for spot 2 through 5 guaranteed.
    I’m looking forward to seeing the intense little general again instead of the passive and patient guy of the past 2 years. Let the players go out and show character and prove their coach to be too pessimistic. I totally agree with Avery’s latest assessment.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    nobody is saying Avery is wrong. it’s just that he shouldn’t have said this publicly. i realize he didn’t just outright state they won’t win, but he is still saying he doesn’t believe his guys are good enough to beat the best teams when it matters. what happens when they play Miami in the playoffs? is he supposed to tell them they can win? even though they know he doesn’t believe it? or is he supposed to just admit defeat and tell them to have fun like a bunch of kids who aren’t paid millions of dollars to win?

    He shouldn’t have said this. Period.

  • clydesays

    Meh. The Little General knows what’s up. They SHOULD be in the mix just based on the talent, but we’ll see…

  • clydesays

    In the mix for the playoffs, I meant. Not the Finals or even ECF.

  • roscoe

    Coach A. is attempting to put the focus/responsibility on his shoulders and not the players bc not only will the NY media be hyped, but the whole nation’s media bc of the move to BKLYN. He wants the players focused on ballin not hype.
    Coach A. is a wise man.

  • roscoe

    He is shifting the focus away from the players

  • roscoe

    Idk how many coaches could ever suceed w/ Q-bano in the huddle

  • Dagger

    Let’s be honest: Brooklyn’s best player would be the third-best player on the Lakers or the Heat. Their second-best player might not even be included in the big three of Oklahoma, Miami or LA. It remains to be seen how much depth they have and their starting center – arguably also their third-best guy – can’t rebound, can’t defend, and can’t stay healthy. The Nets need a LOT of things to go exactly right to be an elite team, and even then they’ll contend for playoff seeds with the likes of the Knicks, Pacers or 76ers rather than contending for a title. If only Brooklyn got Howard . . . .

  • Dagger

    Avery had a good message for his team. How many newly constructed teams have declared themselves contenders before a single game is played? Plenty. How much of that boasting ever bears fruit? Very little. Instead, I suspect it leads to a sense of entitlement that makes it harder for a coach to help his players realize how much work is required for a newly rebuilt team to become elite in its first season. Where Avery failed in this story is the same place he failed in Dallas: in his (insecure) haste to assert his leadership over the team and check his guys, he produced a really counterproductive soundbite (“we’re not a championship team”) that will be used against him in the media and foster resentment within the team. Avery is a really great assistant coach, but he’s a bad leader as a head coach.

  • omphalos

    He’s saying that they need to work hard, that they won’t be contenders right away. He’s telling his team not to take it for granted, I have no problems with anything he said.

  • omphalos

    Did you actually read his comments? He just said they aren’t there yet, that they had a deep talent pool and needed to work hard. He’s shifting focus away from the players and taking responsibility for getting them there on the court. Nothing wrong with anything he said, and it’s establishing that he isn’t going to take anything for granted after two years of mediocrity.

  • omphalos

    Classic SLAM Online reporting, the title of the original article is “Deron Williams’ return has Avery Johnson, Nets upbeat” and SLAM changes it to this ^ ^ ^. Huge grab for page views, it’s getting real old, I barely come to SLAM Online for real basketball talk anymore, it’s like a tabloid for basketball these days, always taking things out of context trying to promote controversy.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Yes I did. And I realize what he’s trying to do, but it isn’t a risk worth taking. If anything he’s drawing attention to the team by saying this anyway. I am not questioning his ability as a coach or his basketball opinion, I’m just saying he shouldn’t have said that or anything that devalues the skill of his players. As a leader you should not risk hurting your teams confidence for the sake of attention. Even if it is to “relieve them of pressure” – confidence is always the most important factor

  • omphalos

    I disagree, saying this before a game is a bad idea, but they needed to hear this before entering training camp. He’s trying to change the Nets culture by getting them to work hard. He has plenty of time to build their confidence up over the course of the season, right now he needs to humble them. I’ve been coaching basketball for five years now, and as soon as you tell a team they can beat any team in the league, they stop working hard in practice. Without fail, if they think they are already good enough, they just aren’t motivated to work.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    These aren’t 14 year old kids he is coaching. These are grown ass men who are paid millions of dollars to play basketball for a living. He shouldn’t have to motivate them to work harder….especially by devaluing his teams talent and a whole month before training camp even starts. If that accomplishes it’s purpose even a little I don’t see the reason to give the media any ammo to use later on. Again, they aren’t kids you can trick into working harder.

  • omphalos

    That’s a pretty weak argument, players always need motivation, especially on championship teams. Phil Jackson was such an amazing coach because first and foremost he understood how to motivate his team, in the NBA keeping your guys working is the hardest part of the job, because they are all very ego-driven, used to star treatment and a lot of players stop working once they get to the NBA or sign their first big contract. Did Joe Johnson’s mammoth contract make him work any harder? How about Andray Blatche getting a new contract and then struggling with conditioning? Eddy Curry? Zach Randolph? Lamar Odom? History tells us that being paid large sums of money is no guarantee of hard work, especially not the elite level of hard work required to be a title contender in the NBA. No, he shouldn’t have to motivate them to work harder, but the reality is that money isn’t enough. Not every player is a Derrick Rose, a Kobe, an MJ or a Bird who will push himself to the limit for love of the game, many players need their coaches to push them, and that is what Johnson is trying to do. He’s telling them it won’t be easy, but they can get there with hard work.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    None of those coaches motivated by telling their team they weren’t good enough. And nowhere did he say they can get to a championship level. So no, that’s not what he’s telling his team. He’s saying they are good, but not championship good. He’s basically saying, They still need to learn to play together and add more pieces before they can have the beat anybody conversation. And he’s doing it in the off-season. There is no using what he said as a motivation tool, there is just a month to sit and reflect on what he said. Like I’ve been saying all along, whether this does or doesn’t accomplish what is intended, it’s not a risk worth taking, especially at this point of the year.

  • JOSHUASYMONS

    DAMN STRAIGHT!!

  • Nope

    @disqus_rOeXXBD2qs:disqus well you aren’t reading well enough. he never said they needed to add additional pieces. he never said they weren’t championship good. he said they weren’t currently a championship team and that they had a lot of work to do. they haven’t played a game together yet, so it’s OBVIOUS they aren’t a championship team. they need time and hard work to compete with miami. they know this. you wanna talk about grown ass men but can’t imagine they’d acknowledge a better team than them exists? each player on that team played against miami last year. each one of those players were tooled by bron and co. this is not a slip up by the coach — this is just him making a remark, which every coach aside from spo should say, and that is ‘you aren’t the best yet. keep on working”. it’s a fact. larry ob’s shiny little head will attest to that.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Like I said, I know he’s not wrong, but he’s contradicting what one of his players said what a week ago? That’s atleast one person whose confidence he openly doesn’t believe in. He just flat shouldn’t have said it, right or wrong that’s my opinion. I value confidence over pressure. If they need a dose of reality they can get it when they lose, that’s motivation.

    - he should have said “we have championship talent, but we need to work hard to reach it” – that would have been the best thing to say if he had to say something.

  • Nope

    saying that they have the deepest talent pool they’ve had yet etc. is pretty much saying that. on paper they have a great team. or in his words “right now we look good on paper”. this is the truth. most players think that they can win a championship — either this year or soon to come. any team in the playoff hunt thinks they can win. if a player doesn’t think they can win, why play the game? it’s the coaches job to temper their expectations (and the expectations of the media) so that they don’t lose focus.

  • danpowers

    They could be, if the little man would give his guys a little more freedom on offense to do their thing, especially deron. coach johnson is like a dictator

  • Comment_System

    thats why he’s called the little general.

  • ALD

    on the bright side…… The players have to Play.

  • http://twitter.com/AjpDos Allen Powell

    Dagger, when the Heat played the Mavs in the Finals, 95 percent of the basketball world would have said that Dirk was not as good as Bron or Wade. So he would have been the third best player on the Heat’s team. And they still won that series. Just pointing that out.

  • danpowers

    true. i just dont get why he sticks to that, shouldnt he know better as a former point guard?

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/savagemuzicgroup T-Ray

    Darksaber disliked it

  • Dagger

    You’ve addressed half of my point. The other half – depth and toughness up front – the Mavs had in spades. Also, it’s hard to compare Dirk in his championship year to Deron or Joe right now. Dirk was an MVP candidate before he started destroying teams in the playoffs. Plenty of people thought he had a better season – and was playing better – than Wade. Finally: the Mavs were an exception to a long-standing rule: in a 7-game playoff series (especially in the Finals) the team with significantly better talent almost always prevails. The Mavs’ defense notwithstanding, Lebron had an inexplicable and historic meltdown. It just isn’t wise to make predictions based on historical exceptions.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    They were the Nets. Having the deepest talent pool yet for that team means they aren’t feces. And he’s not tempering expectations, he’s openly saying his players aren’t good enough to compete with the best teams in the league. You are talking to me about how they are grown ass men and should be able to acknowledge they aren’t the best team while also thinking they can win every game….you realize that right? smh.

  • Rainman

    This sh!ts annoying me now. The first comments are appearing on the bottom of the screen so i have to scroll up(not down, liek normal) as i read. Anyone know how i can fix that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/myselfunderkarma Fredd.

    -> Discussion … -> Oldest …

  • http://www.facebook.com/gametimeweezy Wayne Lee

    He was just being real. I guess NBK likes a more Rex Ryan approach, but I don’t. Talk is cheap, I think he was just moderating high expectations.

  • hugo

    what avery says to the media is not what he will say to his players anyways…unless he’s a dumbass…

  • http://twitter.com/AjpDos Allen Powell

    Dirk was not having an MVP season that year at least not when the playoffs started started. Dirk was hot early in the season then cooled off, which was similar to what Deron did out the gate when the Jazz were beating top teams and looking like a threat. The both came back to the same level eventually.
    . Also, besides LeBron’s meltdown, the Mavs were a deeper team and the talent gap was much smaller overall then people believed. The Heat were top heavy, but running a system that didn’t really play to their strengths. The Mavs were solid tpo to the bottom and knew exactly how to get their points. While people may have lined up the team’s talent and said “Oh, the Heat win” when you consider how talent works within the system, the Mavs were right there with the Heat. When LeBron collapsed it just made things much easier for them.

  • Dagger

    Sure, although remember that I also addressed the Nets’ depth in my original post. But turning to the talent disparity between the Mavs and Heat: I mentioned that the Mavs had a great deal of depth. All that said: sure, it’s important to consider how pieces work within a system, and having solid contributors at most positions in your starting lineup and on your bench is important. Nevertheless, I do think that star players have a disproportionate importance, and that has been the guiding philosophy behind most championship contenders over the years. There’s a reason that the Heat were contenders even when they faltered against the Mavs, while the Nuggets – a much, much deeper team – are not this year. There’s a reason that teams like the ’04 Pistons are exceptions to the rule. Ultimately, in the playoffs your top players will play more minutes, your bench will likely shorten, and you better hope that A) those top players know how to play together, but also B) those top players are as good as the star players they will face. Otherwise, statistically speaking, your odds of winning a series – let alone a championship – are slim.

  • http://twitter.com/AjpDos Allen Powell

    We agree. Top talent playing at its prime typically beats good talent playing at its prime. The Mavs played at their prime, the Heat, in total, did not.

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