It’s amazing how much a month and coaching change can turn around a situation for a professional team. On December 27th the National Basketball Association was set ablaze when it was announced that the Brooklyn Nets had fired Avery Johnson. Looking back on that move the team has made some strides back in the right direction, but a number of circumstances can be attributed to their improvement.
To say that Johnson’s firing was a surprise is quite the understatement. In October and November he was named the Eastern Conference coach of the month and the organization was off to an 11-4 start. All of that quickly changed in the month of December as the Nets fell to a 14-14 record when he was let go. Experts and fans alike sounded off on the move, calling it premature and unfair. The Nets were dealing with key injuries and some under-performing stars, but it was still enough for the management to send Johnson on his way. Since then, the team seems to have responded to the move.
Since December 27th the Nets are on an 8-1 tear which includes their current 6 game winning streak. Over that time the group has played much better from the top to the bottom. For starters, the team is scoring 101.8 points per game while holding their opponents to just 93.1. It’s key to point out that during this run they’ve only defeated two teams with winning records: the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers. The only other winning team they have faced were the San Antonio Spurs who defeated them by 31 points.
With the announcement of Johnson’s firing, much of the discussion that occurred was around the play of Deron Williams, who was not living up to the elite point guard status he had obtained. This year his numbers are down across the board, but they were at their lowest point during the months of November and December. To close out 2012, Williams was averaging just 16.9 points and 6.4 assists per game while shooting 40.8 percent from the floor which includes 32.9 from three point range.
However, the New Year has treated Deron Williams well. In January he’s averaging 19.5 points and 8.3 assists per game. To go along with these stats, he’s shooting an improved 46.8 from the floor with 48.3 from beyond the arc.
Brook Lopez’s return to injury has also been a shoot that the team has needed. During this run he’s averaging 18.5 points and 7 rebounds per game which were missed during the extended amount of time he spent on the bench in December. Johnson often pointed to his injury as one of the reasons that the team suffered through December and it’s clear to see that the Nets are an improved team with the Stanford alumni on the floor.
At 22-15 the Brooklyn Nets are currently the fourth best team in the East. Removing Avery Johnson from his coaching position may be considered the catalyst to this surge, but looking deeper shows that a number of factors contributed to their improved play.