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Nets Head Coach Avery Johnson Remains Positive in Wake of Forgettable Season

By: Elizabeth DiPietro

Two words came to mind as the New Jersey Nets wrapped up their 2010-2011 season last week: mediocrity and optimism.  Their final record of 24-58 won’t earn many accolades and wasn’t nearly good enough to entertain the thought of making the playoffs.  However, their win total was more than double the previous season’s, when they had the dubious honor of being the worst team in the NBA.   Coach Avery Johnson and midseason acquisition Deron Williams both had positive words at the conclusion of the season.

The season was characterized by ups and downs, starting with the promising opener against Detroit.  In that game, center Brook Lopez scored 25 points to lead the Nets to a 101-98 victory.  They also took the next game against Sacramento, but soon slipped into a five-game losing streak to open the month of November.   They also began December in the same fashion, ensconced in an eight-game skid.  In fact, New Jersey won only three games the entire month, and did not have a winning record in any month.  Their longest winning streak of the season was five games to open March, but the Nets ended the season with a whimper, winning a devastating one game in April.  Their season ender, a loss to the Chicago Bulls, was not even televised.

 Nevertheless,  Johnson had positive comments after that game, highlighting tasks for the offseason and also looking ahead to next season.   He admitted the team needs to do a better job adapting under pressure in order to win.  “I still feel that our future’s bright.  We have some really nice pieces here.”  This was Johnson’s first season as coach of the Nets, and he added that he was excited to continue working for them next season.

The “really nice pieces” no doubt included Williams, whom the Nets acquired in the wake of the Knicks-Nuggets blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade.   The Nets traded several core players, including Devin Harris and Derrick Favors, to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Williams.  Even though Williams only played in twelve games due to a wrist injury, he made a positive impact, averaging  15 points and nearly five rebounds a game.  With Williams’ ability to opt out of his contract at the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season looming, the team will no doubt try to persuade the point guard to stay by presenting a vision for the future that includes a high-profile move to Brooklyn and deep-seated focus on becoming a contender for a championship.  Fortunately for the Nets, he has expressed an affinity for the organization and for Johnson.   Other bright spots in an otherwise dismal season included Lopez, who averaged 20 points a game, and the defense of Kris Humphries, who averaged ten rebounds a game.

Overall, the only reason why the Nets may want to remember this season is to learn from their mistakes and make improvements.  One was their inordinate amount of turnovers.  In most games they committed more than their opposition, which inevitably results in virtually handing the game over.  Another area that needs improvement is  offense.  The Nets ranked 28th in points scored at the conclusion of the season.  They also allowed triple digit points by the opposition in 43 games.

But Johnson has chosen to remain optimistic, expressing confidence in general manager Billy King’s ability to continue improving the roster during the offseason.  This means that, despite a dreary, injury-plagued year, Nets fans (all twelve of them) can look forward to a fresh start in the fall of 2011.

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