Deron Williams wants you to believe he is not culpable for the Brooklyn Nets giving Avery Johnson the pink slip. Now it’s time for you to play jury. Listen to him plead his case, examine the evidence, and decide for yourself. Was Williams responsible for Johnson’s departure?
If Williams was responsible, it would make him a repeat offender. In a most diva move, Williams was able to get Jerry Sloan, the longest tenured head coach in the NBA, to resign from coaching the Utah Jazz after 23 years. That’s almost a quarter-century, for the folks counting at home. Now, Williams and Sloan almost broke out into fisticuffs during a game, which was definitely not quite the boiling point he had reached with Johnson, if there even was one. But for a player to get one of the most storied coaches in history to pull the plug so abruptly, that takes a certain type of man.
So if anyone could pull it off again, it is Deron Williams. You can’t blame us if this situation reeks of his meddling, whether directly or indirectly. No one’s saying he went up to GM Billy King or Mikhail Prokhorov and asked for Johnson to leave the building, but due to the conspicuously sudden yanking of Johnson under fairly normal circumstances (every team hits a skid, right?), only one month removed from winning Coach of the Month no less, it makes you wonder. Perhaps like the rest of us, King and Prokhorov noticed Williams’ painfully apathetic play and decided better to fire Johnson before having the second coming of Jerry Sloan on their hands.
But Williams is not crying foul. Stephen A. Smith spoke to him today, and he assured Smith that he had nothing to with Johnson’s firing, for whatever that’s worth.
“It’s not my fault. But as soon as I heard the news, I knew what was coming. I knew folks would blame me, would assume that it’s history repeating itself because of what was said about Coach Sloan and me after he resigned.
“The last thing I would want to do is get Coach Johnson fired. Any coach, for that matter.”
Color me cynical, but this still sounds like a “Let’s nip this in the bud” type of situation for Brooklyn’s front office. Los Angeles faced the same thing earlier this season with Kobe Bryant and Mike Brown, and the Lakers seem to be somewhat back on track. The Knicks faced it last season with Carmelo Anthony and Mike D’Antoni, and the latter resigned, letting the problem resolve itself. Now ‘Melo is playing the most well-rounded basketball of his career under a coach who he alleges is his most effective since entering the league.
Opting for the star player instead of the coach has a recent track record of working and unfortunately for Johnson, King and Prokhorov had the business savvy to recognize it. It probably isn’t fair to say Deron Williams caused Johnson to be fired, but it is fair to assume there was some star-player appeasement going on.
And no, I checked. Avery Johnson and Mike Brown were never on the cover of any Madden game.
[ESPN New York, Getty Images]