In a nearly 10 minute discussion of the Nets on ESPN Lockdown, Bruce Bowen and Israel Gutierrez painted an optimistic picture of the Nets chances this season while painting Avery Johnson as both a micro-manager who had Deron Williams looking over his shoulder and a coach who never got his players to buy into their roles. The discussion was in the context of whether the Nets should keep P.J. Carlesimo for the rest of the season. Both said the decision was a no-brainer.
Gutierrez, who came to ESPN from the Miami Herald, said that "outside of the Heat, you've got the Knicks, the Bulls with Derrick Rose, and you're looking at maybe the Pacers. I think if the Nets keep this up, you have to throw them into that conversation" as an Eastern Conference contender. "if they keep this up theyre going to be what we expected them to be and really be a contender or at least a threat to the Heat and I guess to the Knicks now and to the top of the East."
Bowen agreed, noting "a lot of people yelled at me via Twitter because I said they're the best team in New York and I stand by that even though New York had been playing fantastic basketball. It's what I see in terms of the talent at each position."
As for Johnson, the two agreed that he didn't define team roles well enough, with Bowen quoting talks he had with Carlesimo, Mario Elie and Deron Williams on the subject. Without quoting D-Will directly, Bowen said, "there was a lot of times when Deron Williams couldn't get comfortable because he's looking over his shoulder."
Bowen also credited Carlesimo for giving MarShon Brooks a chance to play. " You don't learn by just sitting. You can learn some of the game by just sitting and watching but you really need to be in the mix to have the opportunity to work on certain things, like your defense or a defensive rotation."
Here's the transcript...
Gutierrez: This is probably for a little bit further down the road, if they keep this up theyre going to be what we expected them to be and really be a contender or at least a threat to the Heat and I guess to the Knicks now and to the top of the East because their biggest problem was the pace they were playing. It's not really a new problem for Avery Johnson to not coach offense well. They were playing too slow, they werent taking advantage of their athleticism. they weren't taking full advantage of Deron Williams skills. Now P.J. seems to be letting them play more offense, get more shots up. Now, they're scoring in the hundreds. they scored 110 in Oklahoma City. I mean, they're playing liek the team you expected them to be. So why would you mess with that now. Why would you bring in anyone else now. P.J. Carlesimo has head coaching experience. It's not entirely new to him. So it's been a while but he's got this team in the right direction. Like I said, frankly, outside of the Heat, you've got the Knicks, the Bulls with Derrick Rose, and you're looking at maybe the Pacers. I think if the Nets keep this up, you have to throw them into that conversation. So why not keep Carlesimo?
Bowen: yeah, when they were here in San Antonio, I got a chance to sit with Deron Williams and just talk about his thoughts about what people are saying about him being the reason Avery got fired. And he said, you know, the only reason why I spoke about Utah's offense was because we were getting ready to play them. That was the only reason and I enjoy the fact that Deron speaks his mind and in New York, it's a little different than Utah but this is of course ... I spoke about this team needing the definition of their roles and speaking with P.J. and talking about guys and their roles, we was really adamant about how we need to put things together about 'hey if you do this, it gives us an opportunity to win. If you do your job, that creates opportunities for others to do their job and what we do is wind up enhancing one another's game because we are sticking to our roles.' So now, you have Gerald Wallace shooting less three pointers, unless it's a wide open shot and less three pointers and he's slashing a lot and he's getting back to that guy who's an irritant on the defensive side. We see MarShon Brooks getting an opportunity to play a lot more and I love the fact that he's getting more of an opportunity because that's the only way you learn to play in this game. You don't learn by just sitting. You can learn some of the game by just sitting and watching but you really need to be in the mix to have the opportunity to work on certain things, like your defense or a defensive rotation.
Gutierrez: And they have enough to cover for him when necessary. It's not like they're relying on MarShon Brooks when he's in there. He's not that big of a liability. He showed enough last year, I'd say, to deserve some time. You talk about going back to the preseason. He was one of the assets people talked about on that team. They're the team in the East when they're playing right has the best balance. They got Brook Lopez. Now Andray Blatche is playing well. They've got Kris Humphries, essentially as a reserve. Whether he starts or not doesn't really matter. He plays that sort of complimentary role and the small forward in Gerald Wallace, defense first, but still can score. And the backcourt's pretty good! Deron Williams when he's playing correctly, when he's playing the way he can, is one of the better point guards in the league. So, that;s why because of that balance, it gives them the opportunity to score the way they're scoring because the defense really can't settle in or focus in on one guy but it also makes you wonder down the road are they going to threaten the Miami Heat and I'm telling you, fast foward two months from now, two and a half months from now, they're going to be top of the discussion instead of the Pacers and possibly the Bulls when Derrick Rose comes back.
Bowen: I know a lot of people yelled at me via Twitter because I said they're the best team in New York and I stand by that even though New York had been playing fantastic basketball. It's what I see in terms of the talent at each position.
Now, Mario Elie who was a competitive soul when he played in Houston and San Antonio, it's funny. Speaking to him about the roles, he got all frowned up and said, 'Man, guys got to do a better job of playing their roles. Tell me, baby, tell me.' He talked about (Kris) Humphries getting back to being that double-double guy and not necessarily becoming this person on offense that then pays attention to rebounding. Let's get back to rebounding first and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes, it's just matter of laying things out for players and holding them accountable to it. Because the offense has not changed. The offense has not changed, but now you have more pace. Now coach Carlesimo is talking about 'get it up the floor, get it up the floor because he has athleticism there and this isn't an old ball club where you got to save the legs. Now, I can see what Avery was trying to do as far as preparation for playoff basketball, but you can't control every single play up the floor. And there was a lot of times when Deron Williams couldn't get comfortable because he's looking over his shoulder. One of the things that Gregg Popovich always spoke about was, 'I don't even want you guys to even call a play. Just get out there and run our secondary offense.' When you have a team that can run the secondary offense and not worry about calling plays, now you're taking the thought process out of things and allowing the physical capabilities to show in your players by just playing the game. I think it was Yogi Berra who said that baseball was 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. So allow that 10 percent to take over because when you start getting into that head stuff, you play golf Izzy, I think you understand.
Gutierrez: Avery was kind of into the old Pat Riley mold, at least the younger Pat Riley where he wanted to control everything in every single game, but that just wears on guys. Its an 82-game season. You can do that in the playoffs because they're listening but in 82 games they might not be listening.