Avery Johnson Fired: Did Deron Williams Seal His Coach's Fate?

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2012

Dec. 1, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Brooklyn Nets head coach Avery Johnson (left) talks with point guard Deron Williams (right) during the second half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets are in a funk, and they've taken drastic action. Head coach Avery Johnson has been fired and replaced by assistant P.J. Carlesimo on an interim basis, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

Johnson led the Nets to an 11-4 start in their first season in Brooklyn, but the team stumbled and has gone 3-10 since then, losing five of its last six.

A number of factors can be blamed for Johnson's failure this season. Center Brook Lopez missing seven games with a foot injury certainly set the team back, and Deron Williams' shooting inconsistencies didn't help matters either.

But let's talk about Williams a bit more. A wrist injury has indeed hampered his shooting this year, as he has made just under 40 percent of his field goals and shot just 29.5 percent from long range.

However, earlier in the month, Williams told Howard Beck of the New York Times that between the system Avery Johnson used with the Nets and the one Jerry Sloan used when Williams played for the Utah Jazz, he preferred the latter.

"That system was a great system for my style of play," said Williams. "I’m a system player. I love Coach Sloan’s system. I loved the offense there."

Williams also provided some specifics, via Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

It’s just more 1-on-1 isos [in Avery Johnson's system]. I grew up ... in high school, my coach wasn’t one of those guys that just let us just throw out the balls and play. We were a system team. We had a staple of plays that we relied on for good execution.

In college [at Illinois], we ran a motion offense, a lot of cutting, a lot passing, a lot of screening and making the extra passes. I’m used to just movement. So I’m still trying to adjust. It’s been an adjustment for me. But it’s coming along.

That said, the question presents itself: Did Williams get Avery Johnson fired? We'll probably never know the true answer, but there is some validity to Williams' words.

Playing for Johnson, Williams has had his fair share of injuries. Wrist issues have hampered him ever since he became a Net, and he shot a career-worst 41 percent from the field last season, his first full one as a Net.

The fact that his shooting woes have carried over into this season could be coincidental, but it's hard to believe that his slow start this season has just been due to bad luck.

That said, put yourself in Williams' position Would you be happy playing in a system that saw you hurt a good amount of time and resulted in your numbers falling? I sure wouldn't.

Now, let's talk about Williams' final days with the Utah Jazz. In 2011, then-Jazz coach Jerry Sloan abruptly resigned, presumably due to his constantly clashing with Williams. Sloan was in his 23rd season as the team's coach and had just signed an extension that would have brought him back for a 24th. Still, he resigned.

Williams was traded to the Nets just days later, and the fact that he was traded following the resignation of a legendary coach amid rumors that the two feuded is oddly coincidental. Could it have been punishment?

Regardless of the Sloan situation, I'll say this much: Williams definitely had a hand in Johnson's firing.

Williams was a free agent over the summer, and the general consensus was that he would either re-sign with the Nets or play for his hometown Dallas Mavericks. Instead, Nets GM Billy King moved mountains to ensure that the star point guard remained with the team.

The night before NBA free agency was set to begin, King and owner Mikhail Prokhorov executed the now-famous trade that sent a bunch of Nets reserves to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for star scorer Joe Johnson. Sure enough, that alone was enough to make Williams re-sign with the team for $98 million over five years.

But the team continued to struggle despite its fast start, and Williams made it very clear that he preferred one style of play over another. Avery Johnson was essentially nailed to the cross, and with how the summer played out, the front office had given Williams the upper hand. They had committed so much money to him, and no team in its right mind would take on that kind of contract, particularly of a player with a "my way or the highway" personality.

Sure enough, team management did what it had to do in cutting Johnson loose and keeping its big-money talent happy.

Hopefully, the Nets' new coach will allow Williams to play in his preferred type of system but also let him know that he is not the boss on the court.