Deron Williams, it's time to man up.
And by "man up," I'm not encouraging you to seal the fate of yet another coach. You've already done that—twice.
The Brooklyn Nets have fired coach Avery Johnson, league source tells Yahoo! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 27, 2012
While the grounds for his firing remain unclear, I think we all know what the driving force behind his axing was. Or should I say who?
Yes, Brooklyn has lost 10 of its last 13 games and yes, its scoring just 94.5 points (22nd in the league) per game. That said, the Nets' struggles had little to do with this move. Not as much as it did with Williams anyway.
And the same Williams who had no qualms about publicly (via Howard Beck of the New York Times) criticizing Johnson and the offensive system he employs:
But as the Nets prepared to host the Jazz on Tuesday, Williams listed another factor: the playbook.
“That system was a great system for my style of play,” Williams said of the “flex” offense run by Utah Coach Jerry Sloan. “I’m a system player. I love Coach Sloan’s system. I loved the offense there.”
The comments were provocative on multiple levels.
Williams was widely blamed for Sloan’s sudden retirement in February 2011, just before the Jazz traded Williams to the Nets. And his openly pining for Sloan’s system could be viewed as subtle criticism of Coach Avery Johnson’s offense.
Williams did nothing to discourage that interpretation when he was asked to compare the offense used by the Nets with the one he ran in Utah. “Is it as good as there? No,” he said. “There’s just more one-on-one and isos” in Johnson’s offense.
I didn't think so. But what's done is done, and now more than ever, it has become clear that this is Williams' team.
Which means it's time he took responsibility for it.
No more deflecting blame. No more flying under the radar as the front office caters to your every demand. No more blaming the coach's systems for your struggles.
Is it Johnson's fault that you were caroming open shots off the rim? Is it his fault that you're shooting a career-worst 39.8 percent from the field? Is it his fault that you've been on and off the injured list since you arrived? Is it his fault you failed to live up to general expectations over the last two years?
Absolutely not, especially now that he's gone. The fate of this organization is now in your inconsistent hands; this team is now yours to save or ruin.
Williams is the one who continues flounder in his ability to attack the rim. He's the one who has struggled to a point where the Nets are scoring more points with him off the floor. He's the one who has put forth a defensive effort that allows the opposition to score 15.8 more points per 100 possessions with him in the game.
He's the one who must take control of miscues and now his team.
So yeah, it's time to "man up." It's time to serve as a leader, not a nuisance, to the team that you personally approved, a team that you chose over a slew of other suitors this past summer.
And it's time for you to regain the respect of some of your teammates. Do you think they haven't noticed your inability to effectively lead? Because they have. Andray Blatche has.
Thanx coach Avery for everything— andray blatche (@drayblatche) December 27, 2012
I'd be willing to bet that Blatche isn't the only one who has noticed either. More importantly, Williams isn't the only one who has taken exception to losing. Everyone's visibly upset.
But has such collective frustration culminated in numerous players calling for Johnson's job?
Not at all.
Instead, there is Gerald Wallace, who has chosen to blame those actually on the court (via Rod Boone of Newsday) for the team's transgressions:
"We are a way better team than what our record is, how we're playing," Gerald Wallace said. "It seems like guys are content with the situation that we are in and I'm [ticked] off about us losing, especially losing the way we are losing."
Williams should take note. Wallace's diagnosis is that of a true leader, one who is prepared to look within himself and his teammates, not disperse the blame to everyone else.
And yet, Williams is the one who should have uttered those words. He is the one who should have made this about the team, not himself and his supposed system-inflicted troubles.
He is the one who should have taken control of Brooklyn's essential free-fall, not perpetuated it.
That's neither here nor there anymore, though. Avery is kaput and Williams is free to smile. How much longer he is able to maintain that smirk depends on his willingness to put the Nets on his shoulders and make them his responsibility, for better or worse.
Is the fate of the Nets, for better or worse, now in Deron Williams' hands?
Otherwise, systematic struggles and revolving sideline-presences will be the least of his worries.
""I don't think it's fair to hang on Deron," Avery had said after being fired (via Rod Boone of Newsday).
Well, I disagree. I think it's perfectly fair. Two teams, two head coaches, $100 million and a slew of evasive maneuvers later, I think it's perfectly "fair to hang on Deron."
He's never had to answer for iniquities before, a proclivity that must change now.
Lest the Nets come to realize they gave up everything for a leader that never truly existed.
*All stats in this article are accurate as of December 27, 2012.