The New Jersey Nets are fighting through a slew of injuries this season [Brook Lopez, Marshon Brooks, Damion James, Mehmet Okur], yet are finding ways to compete each and every night. The Nets win over the Sixers on the road last week was valid proof of this fact. Avery Johnson is proud of what his team has fought through this season and he understands it is baby steps with this team. As for his star player Deron Williams? The Nets head coach believes Williams is buying into the program and excited about the future of this team. Avery Johnson joined WFAN in New York with Mike Francesca to discuss the New Jersey Nets fighting through injuries this season, the New Jersey Nets playing hard despite injuries, demanding a lot out of his players, coaching a star player in Deron Williams and being in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.
How is it with your walking wounded this season?
“We are still walking and wounded. Hopefully we’ll be running a little bit tonight, but we’ve had to survive a rash of injuries. Brook Lopez breaks his foot in the last preseason game at Madison Square Garden. Marshon Brooks has a fractured toe. He’s out for awhile. Damion James our starting small forward re-fractures his foot and Mehmet Okur has a bad back. Again we have been able to survive and it’s a testimony to and a testament to the young guys that we have and Deron Williams leadership with our young team.”
The team has played hard for you day in and day out:
“Yeah and we play well on the road. That win last week in Philadelphia was a big win. [Mike Francesa: They have been creaming people at home] They swept us last year. We didn’t have any success against the Sixers. For also to go back and beat a Cleveland team that beat us early in the year. [Mike Francesa: They just beat the Celtics] Yeah they just beat the Celtics. Again for us like I told you before when I first interviewed with you last year when I first took the job: It’s baby steps. We gotta take some baby steps. Hopefully we’ll get healthy at some point and hopefully we’ll get Brook Lopez back where we can get a chance to see what our team is going to look like as we move on into Brooklyn.”
Your style is demanding and you ask a lot of your players:
“Yeah, but the key is the relationship that I have with ownership, our general manager, Billy King. We don’t have the circus atmosphere around us right now. We’re not trying to trade any of our players. We’ve been going through a lot of that stuff with the Carmelo[Anthony] stuff last year. The Dwight Howard stuff this year. I think for us we have been able to focus on the players that we have that are healthy enough to play when we have a chance to practice, which is rare with this crazy schedule. We’re focused and our guys – guys like Sheldon Williams and Jordan Farmar, guys who don’t really get a lot of press play hard. Like I said Deron Williams, he’s doing a great job with leadership and it makes it easier for our coaching staff.”
How do you deal with your star player? Does it make it tough on you with all the speculation surrounding Deron Williams?
“Not really because our star player has been really consistent. He’s a very a good player and plays very hard. He’s been really consistent with his approach. He basically told us he loves what we are doing and he loves the vision. He’s excited about playing in the Barclays Center [in Brooklyn] and that’s all we can do. We’ve shown him exactly the blue print of what we are trying to do, what we are trying to build. We drafted Marshon Brooks, which was a really good draft pick. We think Brook Lopez when he is healthy is one of the top three to five centers in the NBA. We have three pointing shooting. We couldn’t make a three point shot last year. We make a lot of them this year, so again this year we’ll have another good draft pick, whatever the number is, we have plenty of money to spend in free agency. We have the blueprint. We just gotta keep adding to it and with Deron, we get along really well and I think he is excited about where we are going.”
You are in the mix for Dwight Howard, but with the way that is going you know he is going somewhere soon. The face of league is going to change in the next couple of weeks:
“It’ll be interesting when it does. I think right now everybody is waiting to get past All-Star [Game] and then you’ll probably see a lot of movement in the league in March.”