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Winners and Losers as Brooklyn Nets Fire Avery Johnson

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistDecember 27, 2012

Winners and Losers as Brooklyn Nets Fire Avery Johnson

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    Arrivederci, Avery Johnson.

    Per Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Brooklyn Nets have fired their head coach.

    The Brooklyn Nets have fired coach Avery Johnson, league source tells Yahoo! Sports.

    — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 27, 2012

    If we're honest, we can't say we are completely taken aback by the change.

    Brooklyn began the season 11-4 and has since gone 3-10 over their last 13 games and are now sitting with the eighth best record in the Eastern Conference.

    Coming out of an offseason that saw Brooklyn compile a payroll that exceeds $88 million this season, nothing short of contention was acceptable. As such, an early season collapse simply wasn't supposed to be in the cards and Johnson was ultimately shown the door.

    Was this the right decision for the Nets? Did anyone outside of Johnson suffer from his sudden departure? Are any players bound to be particularly giddy about the move?

    Johnson may be gone, but there is still plenty to figure out in Brooklyn.

     

    *All stats in this article are accurate as of December 27, 2012.

Loser: Avery Johnson

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    Let's start with the obvious here.

    Avery Johnson spent two-plus season's with the Nets, coaching them to 60-116 record during that span.

    That said, it must be noted that Johnson wasn't afforded the luxury of a talented roster in either of his first two seasons. The Nets dealt for Deron Williams in the latter half of the 2010-11 campaign, but since then the team has been the victim of an underwhelming supporting cast and a slew of injuries.

    Until now.

    As the New Jersey based organization prepped for its move to Brooklyn, it went on a spending spree of epic proportions this summer, one that included committing some serious cash to Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez.

    With the added talent, Johnson was supposed to steer this team toward contention. After being named the NBA's coach of the month for October and November, it sure seemed like the team was headed in that direction.

    Then came December, a month that has seen the Nets lose 10-of-13 games, all 10 of which has come at the hands of potential playoff foes.

    Though Johnson has repeatedly reiterated his faith in this roster, he couldn't yield consistent results, a failure that cost him his job.

    And that's an obvious shame for him, as after two hard-fought losing seasons, he was supposed to reap the benefits of a potent roster.

    Instead, he finds himself on the unemployed with nothing to show for his two-plus years of service.

Winner: Deron Williams

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    Did Deron Williams strike again?

    Much was made of Jerry Sloan's departure from the Utah Jazz. The general consensus was Williams and himself did not get along, and that was the driving force behind his sudden resignation.

    Fast forward nearly two years later and another head coach of Williams' has become collateral damage, but not on his own accord.

    Somewhat ironically, Avery Johnson's firing comes on the heels of Williams expressing his distaste for the Nets' offensive system.

    Coincidence? I think not.

    While this doesn't mean Williams—who is currently nursing a wrist injury—is bound to turn his disappointing season around, it does give Brooklyn the option to go out and explore some coaching options that will tailor the offense to meet his needs.

    Will that prove to be the recipe for contention? Will a new face preaching different ideals help Williams return to dominance?

    Only time will tell, but you can bet Williams is excited to have the opportunity to find out. 

Loser: Brook Lopez

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    Don't laugh. I'm serious.

    Brook Lopez's 17.5 points per game on 50.2 percent shooting aren't career-highs but his 2.4 blocks are.

    Yes, Lopez's offensive numbers have diminished slightly, but he has become a more complete center under Avery Johnson's watchful eye. I mean, his 23.2 PER is currently the highest of his career. That counts for something.

    It's not just the impact Johnson had on Lopez either, but rather, the impact Lopez's evolution has had on the entire team. When he was on the court, Brooklyn's offense was better by 6.2 points per 100 possessions.

    Simply put, Lopez has taken his game to the next level under Johnson. While that didn't necessarily culminate in wins, Johnson helped make it so Brooklyn's big man realized his potential as force on both ends of the floor.

    With Coach Avery now out of the fold, it will be interesting to see whether Lopez can keep playing at an encouraging two-way pace.

Winner: Kris Humphries

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    Prior to suffering an abdominal strain, Kris Humphries was basically a non-factor in Brooklyn.

    How much so?

    To the point where he has found himself on the bench more than anyone would have ever imagined.

    While there are no guarantees that P.J. Carlesimo or whoever else takes over gives Humphries more burn, he finally gets a fresh start with a coach whom he won't have already fallen out of favor with.

    Which is huge.

    Humphries is averaging just 7.1 and 5.2 rebounds on 44.4 percent shooting from the floor per game, his lowest totals since the 2009-10 campaign. Toss in the fact that plenty of people doubted his ability to make a sizable impact on a playoff team before the start of this season, and a new face on the sidelines is just what Humphries needs.

    Why exactly?

    Such a change stands to give him one last crack at salvaging what's left of his reputation.

Loser: Joe Johnson

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    The honeymoon is over Joe Johnson.

    Much like we have with Deron Williams, we have chalked Johnson's early struggles up to playing in a new system alongside a slew of new faces. Now, however, with Avery Johnson out of the picture, he has run out of excuses.

    Currently, the shooting guard is averaging just 16.9 points per game on 42.1 percent shooting, his lowest totals in nearly a decade. His 13.6 PER isn't doing him any favors either.

    Most have allowed Johnson to borderline coast because of the environment. Not only was it a change of scenery and supporting cast, but the offensive system wasn't tailored to meet his needs, not unlike the case of Williams.

    But that doesn't matter now.

    Brooklyn is bound to go out and search for a coach that can balance a free-flowing offense for Williams with a pinch of isolation-sets for Johnson. And if he cannot find his niche within yet another system, he doesn't have the star-power Williams does to carry him any further.

    In other words, Avery Johnson was ushered out first, if Joe Johnson doesn't amp up his production, the Nets may try and move him next.

Winner: Phil Jackson

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    Whether he admits it or not, Phil Jackson's ego took a hit when the Los Angeles Lakers spurned him in favor of Mike D'Antoni.

    Per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, though, his morale is about to receive another massive boost as the Nets have made it clear they intend to reach out to the 11-time coaching champion.

    According to NBA coaching source, Nets launching broad search that will include call to Phil Jackson to gauge Phil's interest in Brooklyn

    — Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 27, 2012

    This, in no way, shape or form implies that Jackson is bound to accept the position, because he probably won't.

    Jackson declined a head coaching position with the New York Knicks this past summer, citing their "clumsy" nature as the driving force behind his decision. Well, if he thought the Knicks were in disarray, then he'll obviously believe that the Nets are in utter chaos.

    Not only has Brooklyn lost 10 of its last 13 games, but the roster, by no means, contains the personnel necessary to implement the Triangle Offense.

    So why is this a win for Phil?

    There's the ego boost, for one, but it also gives him the opportunity and inevitable satisfaction of toiling with the Lakers once more. Mitch Kupchak and company will undoubtedly not rest as easy if Jackson expresses any interest in returning to the sidelines for another team.

    Jackson doesn't even have to accept the position, he just has to appear intrigued.

    And who is he to pass up the chance to proverbially stick it to the team that stuck it to him not too long ago?

Loser: Andray Blatche

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    After toiling with obscuring during his time with the Washington Wizards, Andray Blatche has resurrected his career under Avery Johnson.

    When Brooklyn picked him up over the offseason, he was but an afterthought. Now? He's turned into a valuable rotation player.

    Blatche is currently averaging 11.4 points and six rebounds on a career-best 49.2 percent shooting from the field. He's also posting a ridiculous 23.35 PER.

    I'm not one to dismiss coincidence's, but this is no coincidence. Blatche himself doesn't even think so.

    Thanx coach Avery for everything

    — andray blatche (@drayblatche) December 27, 2012

    Truth be told, Johnson's isolation-heavy offense looked great on the power forward. He was afforded the luxury of post-ups, scoring more as a result. His increased production on offense also led to a heightened level of commitment on defense, something Blatche has lacked his entire career.

    What happen's to Blatche's minutes and subsequent devotion for efficiency now that Johnson has hit the road?

    Honestly, we don't know.

    And that's the problem.

To Be Determined: Mikhail Prokhorov and Brooklyn Nets

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    Mikhail Prokhorov is clearly invested in the Nets, both financially and emotionally. 

    Since taking over the franchise, he has backed a series of moves, including this one.

    While not unforeseen given the Nets' struggles, firing Johnson caught some in the organization off guard. Clearly a Prokhorov decision.

    — Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) December 27, 2012

    While this coaching change could inject some life into a listless Nets team—much like the way it did with the Knicks last season—it could also backfire.

    What if Brooklyn falls even further? What if he handpicks the wrong coach? What if the state of the Nets actually worsens from hereon out?

    Undoubtedly, Prokhorov has the best interests in the team at heart, but that doesn't guarantee success. Essentially choosing Deron Williams over Avery Johnson now puts him on the hot seat. 

    Why?

    Because he has no one else to blame. Billy King has essentially done Prokhorov's bidding and the team was constructed at his behest and subsequent approval.

    Luckily for Prokhorov, he can't be fired. But his investment could take a hit—both financially and emotionally.

    Not to mention he and the Nets could also become the biggest of Jay-Z's 99 problems.

     

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