THE TRUTH ABOUT THE AJ TRADE
By Mike Fisher -- DallasBasketball.com
Want the truth about the dumping of Anthony Johnson? You get it here, first and exclusively:
No, it's not about "faith in JJB.'' No, it's not about an unwillingness to pay Johnson $9 mil over two years. No, it's not because Johnson's accidental elbow broke Greg Buckner's nose in practice. No, it's not because the Mavs wanting to open up a roster spot for Keith Van Horn.
Anthony Johnson had been traded to Atlanta for a second-round pick because the Mavs didn't like his sluggish game, didn't like his attitude and didn't like the fact that he was 20 pounds overweight and couldn't or wouldn't lose it.
Leave it to classy coach Avery Johnson to explain the deadline deal by saying it was motivated by a renewed faith in Devin Harris. ("Let's just say we feel really, really strong about Devin," AJ said.) Leave it to the classy coach to make it sound as if a second-round pick is a heckuva commodity. (That's like a late first-round pick!'' AJ said.)
Leave it to me, though, to give it to you straight: Avery, initially a fan of Anthony because of his toughness and experience, grew more and more disappointed in Anthony's weight issue. Dallas shouldn't have been surprised; there are old-time NBA'ers who will always argue that a thick-bodied small guard, once he gets into his 30's, is in constant danger of "losing it.''
And Anthony Johnson -- thick-bodied and thick-legged by nature, carrying 20 needless extra pounds, and in his 30's -- lost it.
The staff was also disappointed in some occasional behavior things -- "little b.s. things,'' one staffer said -- difficult for outsiders to detect because Anthony had a knack for saying the right thing to both the media and to coaches. But, a source said, his actions did not match his words. And his performance was even poorer than his actions.
Johnson came here this year from the Pacers in the Darrell Armstrong trade. He averaged 2.8 points, two assists and 14.1 minutes in 40 games -- numbers that cause me to long for D.A.
Make no mistake, the Mavs are clearly Avery's team. Because of the respect he's earned from Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson, he is able to win debates on these sort of issues. The owner might argue that the investment should be seen through. The GM might argue that an insurance policy third PG is important.
But Avery didn't like Anthony. So Anthony is gone.
It might be logical to wonder if it wasn't about the money, but it wasn't. It might be logical to think there is an ensuing move on the way. But while it might be nice to fall into a third-string center at some point, that's not the plan, and it's certainly not a plan that includes Keith Van Horn, who I'm told is not an Avery fave, either. How much of it is about getting a pick from the lousy Hawks? In this summer's talent-thick NBA Draft, a top-40-or-so pick would be OK, I guess. How much of it is about Devin? Heck, he's already a part-time starter at the point; what does Anthony Johnson have to do with him? And how much of it is about JJ Barea?
I was told before the game that Barea might be able to play four or five minutes in a big game, but only in the unlikely event that Dallas loses both Jason Terry and Harris. And really, that even in that case, Dallas would be able to rely on other, better players (Howard, Buckner) to bring the ball up and then, according to one coach, "Just pass the ball to Dirk.'' (Barea's work in mop-up time Thursday was less than impressive.)
Naturally, I wondered all day how comfortable the Mavs would really be in any third-string PG scenario.
And now we know: Avery Johnson would be more comfortable doing most anything than he would be keeping Anthony Johnson around.