EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The lockout hasn’t stopped Avery Johnson from making some pretty impressive rounds this offseason. It’s just prevented the Nets coach from visiting and talking to his players – for the most part.
The one exception was last month when Johnson attended the wedding of Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian. He got league approval to go to California and had to have congratulated the groom, which would have made it the only time since 11:59 p.m. on June 30 that Johnson communicated with one of his players.
“My wife had a great time,” he said.
A few weeks later, Johnson had a great time during a trip to Russia.
He held a clinic for 100 coaches at Moscow Sports University, conducted a camp for children 13-and-under and played in an exhibition game with principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov. Johnson, the ex-point guard, hit four threes and set up Prokhorov for a basket.
“A three-point play,” Johnson said. “It’s on YouTube. Check it out.”
Though Johnson couldn’t say it, he probably would rather see Deron Williams passing it to Brook Lopez for a three-point play. You could YouTube that, too, and it could be the last time you see it for a while.
The owners and players union seemed to be making progress in recent meetings, and there was hope the season would start on time. But after an important session Tuesday, a bleak picture was painted again; the threat of a shortened season or none at all re-emerged.
There still is time for the season to start in November, but the two sides have to keep talking and clearly must concede a little more. In the meantime, Johnson continues to keep himself busy and prepare for when this madness ends.
Johnson, one of the most outspoken and informative coaches there is, can’t say anything about the lockout. He doesn’t want to risk any fines. He won’t say he’s bothered that he can’t talk with his players or check on them, but as a coach, especially one as hands on as Johnson, this can’t be easy.
“It’s been an adjustment,” Johnson said. “More than anything, you’ve just got to kind of manage your energy and your emotions because normally you have a bit more to do. But it’s been an adjustment. We’ll just keep adjusting until further notified.”
Until the lockout ends, Johnson will keep watching film as well as some Euroleague games. There’s a Turkish team that has a Williams everyone associated with the Nets will keep an eye on.
But Johnson would have an interesting take on the whole situation if he was able to talk about it. He’s an intelligent, articulate man who doesn’t lack opinions. And Johnson is one who has seen this situation from both sides now.
He was the player who ended the 1999 season, the only one shortened by a lockout. His jumper in Game 5 of the Finals clinched the 1999 NBA Championship for the Spurs against the Knicks. There probably is a side of Johnson who wishes he could do something to end this lockout, too.
As much as the players want to return to work, Johnson no doubt wants to work with some of his. He wants to be able to coach Williams for a full season, see how Lopez develops playing alongside a great point guard and all the way down the roster.
That’s the way it is for all coaches.
Lawrence Frank can’t wait to get started in Detroit. Erik Spoelstra wants to get back to work in Miami and see if his Heat can win a title. Mark Jackson has been waiting a long time to become a head coach. He can’t wait for the Warriors' season to start.
But this is how it is for everyone involved. The players can play overseas or in exhibition games until the lockout is lifted. The coaches just keep meeting with their staffs and figuring out what it’s going to take to be successful when the time comes. Johnson thinks at least a 10-day training camp would be ideal to get his team ready.
“But I just think we’re in a situation right now where whatever we get, we’ll take it,” he said. “I just think as NBA coaches, whether you talk to Tom Thibodeau, Gregg Popovich, Mike Brown, Doc Rivers, I just think we all just want to do what we love to do.
“Right now we just don’t have any control over it, so we just prepare and plan and do what we do around this time of the year without having anybody to work with.”
Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).