Nets have verbal agreement with Avery Johnson

Per ESPN’s Marc Stein…

The New Jersey Nets and ESPN analyst Avery Johnson have reached a verbal agreement to hire Johnson as the Nets’ new coach.

Johnson, who has been working for ESPN since his dismissal from the Dallas Mavericks after the 2007-08 season, was the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2005 and took the Mavs to the NBA Finals in 2006. He posted a record of 194-70 in three-plus seasons, good for a winning percentage of .735, and will be reunited in New Jersey with point guard Devin Harris.

This could be a good thing for Harris, who had a nice season in Johnson’s last year in Dallas, averaging 14-2-5 and 48% shooting.

It strikes me as funny that it has taken Johnson this long to get another job. He was 190-74 (.735) in four seasons in Dallas and was the Coach of the Year in 2006.

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Handicapping the players in the LeBron sweepstakes

Anyone outside of his entourage who claims to know what LeBron is going to do is being disingenuous. He loves the fact that he’s the center of attention even though the playoffs are still in full swing. He often speaks of July 1 in grandiose terms and that’s because, like most superstars, he has a very high opinion of himself.

That said, I found myself rooting for the Celtics in their series with the Cavs because as a writer, Cleveland’s early exit throws LeBron’s future to the wind. He could land any number of places.

Though the LeBron Tracker makes me a little nauseous, I thought I’d take a stab at handicapping where King James might end up. I’ll include the six teams that ESPN deemed worthy of making the top banner and add the Mavs for good measure. For each team, I’ll outline why he’d sign and why he wouldn’t. I’ll also rank (on a scale of 1-10) how he fits from a personnel standpoint.

In terms of fit, I look to the last few premier wings who have broken through and won at least one title as the best player on their team. I’m talking about Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, Dwyane Wade and Michael Jordan. What do they have in common? Kobe, Pierce and Wade all played with top notch big men — Gasol, Garnett and Shaq, respectively — while Jordan had Scottie Pippen. In other words, they all got to play with another All-NBA (Top 15) caliber player when they won their title.

They also enjoyed good coaching. Jordan and Kobe had Phil Jackson, Wade had Pat Riley and Doc Rivers did a great job of coaching the ’08 Celtics. They were also all surrounded by good shooters who could make teams pay for double-teaming their respective superstar.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the major players in line for LeBron’s services and try to handicap their chances of signing the league’s most valuable player.

CAVS (25%)
Why he’ll sign: Loyalty, comfort, familiarity. He’s from the area and he doesn’t want to leave town after an early postseason exit, as it would effectively destroy basketball in the city of Cleveland. Shaq will be gone and there’s an opportunity for an upgrade at head coach.
Why he won’t sign: Too much baggage. The franchise has had seven years to build around him and they’ve made just one Finals appearance. Suspect flexibility with the roster.
Fit: 5/10 The Cavs have a pretty good shooter at power forward (Antawn Jamison) and a good shooter at point guard (Mo Williams), but neither player is even average on defense. There are a lot of solid-to-good players on the roster, but no one approaches the Top 15 sidekick that helped the aforementioned wings win their titles. It’s tough to find that kind of player via trade, but that’s how Gasol, Garnett and Shaq came to play for the Lakers, Celtics and Heat. Cap-wise, if they re-sign LeBron, they won’t have any cap space to speak of until the summer of 2012 when Jamison’s salary is off the books.

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NBA Draft Lottery: Who wouldn’t pick John Wall #1?

The NBA Draft Lottery is tonight, and as always, there is a lot riding on a few ping pong balls. Here is a list of the lottery teams (with their chances of winning the top pick in parenthesis) along with some discussion of their possible strategy if they do win the #1 pick.


Nets (25%)
The Wall-to-New Jersey/Brooklyn rumors have been strong all season, thanks to the Nets’ woeful record and Devin Harris’s struggles. Harris is now viewed as expendable, which means Wall would be a Net if the balls bounce their way tonight.

Wizards (10.3%)
Winning the right to draft Wall would allow the Wizards to cut ties with Gilbert Arenas and the franchise’s gun-toting past. It might also convince a free agent or two to sign for the chance to play with Wall.

76ers (5.3%)
Jrue Holiday is nice, but he’s not going to dissuade the Sixers from drafting a franchise-savior like Wall.

Pistons (5.2%)
See 76ers above but substitute “Rodney Stuckey” for “Jrue Holiday.” That is all.

Pacers (1.1%)
Indiana arguably needs a point guard more than any other team in the lottery, but with just a 1.1% chance of winning, they’re hoping against hope.

Grizzlies (0.7%)
Memphis would be buzzing with the arrival of Wall, who would seemingly be a great fit with O.J. Mayo, a re-signed Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Memphis would likely make the playoffs next season.

Raptors (0.6%)
The chances are very slim, but winning the right to draft Wall would offset the likely loss of Chris Bosh this summer. Neither Jarrett Jack nor Jose Calderon would be enough to convince the Raptors to draft Evan Turner.

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Joe Johnson to the Nets? Not so fast.

First things first: Joe Johnson will become a free agent this summer and there’s a decent chance he’ll re-sign with the Hawks.

But he was asked (in an interview with FanHouse) about joining the Nets, and this is what he had to say:

The Atlanta star guard, bound to be a free agent next summer, was asked in an interview with FanHouse before Wednesday’s game against New Jersey if it would be more difficult to sign with a team like the 3-32 Nets due to their record. Johnson agreed it would.

“It matters, man,” Johnson said before facing a New Jersey outfit that will have more than $20 million of salary-cap room next summer. “It matters. A lot comes into play. Nobody wants to go to a tough team. But you’ve got to keep everybody in consideration.”

Johnson might be the forgotten man in a 2010 free agent class that features bigger names like LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh and Amare. While he hasn’t said that he’s leaving Atlanta, he’s talking openly about potentially signing elsewhere, so he may very well be on the move.

As for the Nets, he’d be a great fit with Devin Harris and Brook Lopez. But all stars of his caliber want to contend, and the Nets are struggling now more than they probably should. Ideally, he’d like to be the missing piece to a team that would contend for a championship, not just make the postseason.

Of course, a lot can change over the next few months. The Nets could start playing .500 ball or they could end up with the #1 pick in the draft and the rights to John Wall. That would change everything.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Detailing the Mark Cuban/Don Nelson split

This is probably only interesting to NBA nuts and Mavs fans, but the transcript from the Cuban/Nelson arbitration hearing has been released, and there are some interesting tidbits of information. Like the story of how the Mavs almost drafted Pavel Podkolzin at #5 (instead of Devin Harris) in 2004.

But as June’s draft loomed, Nelson testified that he had no reason to believe he wouldn’t continue to lead that process, noting that he had selected standout Josh Howard with the 29th pick of the previous year’s draft.

On draft day, the Mavericks acquired the No. 5 pick from Washington. Nelson testified that as he settled into the draft room to talk to team scouts, he was surprised to hear son Donnie, the team’s vice president of operations, discuss taking “this big Russian” with the No. 5 pick.

The player’s name is redacted from the arbitration transcript, but it is clear that Nelson was referring to 7-foot-5 Pavel Podkolzin.

“I said, ‘Donnie, I cannot take that Russian five,’ ” Don Nelson testified. “And he asked me if I would go in the men’s room. I went in the men’s room with him, and he informed me that I wasn’t in charge of the draft.

“And I said, ‘Oh, really? Well, who is?’ He said, ‘I am.’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s nice of somebody to tell me.’

“And I said, ‘Well, if that’s the case, then as your father I’m asking you don’t draft [redacted].’ … And Donnie didn’t. He took Devin Harris.”

Later in that draft, the Mavericks sent a future first-round pick to Utah for the rights to No. 21 pick Podkolzin – who never played a regular-season game for Dallas.

The article also discusses how the Mavs failed to match Phoenix’s offer to Steve Nash, and how that affected the franchise.

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