Avery Johnson was fired as the Brooklyn Nets head coach on Thursday, as the team has lost 10 of its last 13. However, the Nets best player may have been the biggest reason that Johnson is out of a job.
According to Howard Beck of the New York Times, Johnson had lost several members of the locker room, most notably Deron Williams. When the point guard decided to sit out Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks because of a wrist injury, it gave credence to the idea that Williams “totally quit on Avery,” said one friend of the head coach.
Williams has denied the allegations, claiming he has a good relationship with Johnson. Both Johnson and Nets general manager Billy King said Williams is not to blame, as well.
If Williams did not quit on his coach, it might be hard to tell by looking at his numbers. He hasn’t played this poorly since his rookie season. The point guard is shooting a career-low 39.8 percent from the field and 29.5 percent from three-point range.
When Jerry Sloan resigned from the Utah Jazz in 2011, there were rumors that the head coach left because of his deteriorating relationship with Williams. Now, with the departure of Johnson, he’s developed a reputation as a “coach killer.”
In the offseason, Williams signed a five-year contract to stay in Brooklyn. In his almost two seasons with the Nets, he has underperformed and failed to help them become a winning franchise.
Carmelo Anthony was accused of getting Mike D’Antoni fired last season. He earned a poor reputation among New York Knicks fans, but has now turned things around with an MVP-caliber season.
With the firing of Johnson and the team underachieving, Williams is in a similar situation.
If Brooklyn hires a big name coach like Phil Jackson and is able to make a run in the Eastern Conference, Nets fans will quickly forget about the issues surrounding Williams. If Williams play doesn’t improve and Brooklyn misses the playoffs, the point guard will have a lot to answer for.