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Old 09-20-2007, 08:30 AM   #1
Silverbullit
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Default Johnson optimistic about Mavs' future

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcont...y.36ee938.html

Q&A with Dallas' head coach


03:48 AM CDT on Monday, September 17, 2007
By EDDIE SEFKO / The Dallas Morning News
esefko@dallasnews.com

The Mavericks' summer has been too long, and just about everybody in the organization is ready to start training camp, which is just over two weeks away.

The Mavericks have been strangely quiet through most of the summer. But that doesn't mean the wheels haven't been turning, particularly inside coach Avery Johnson's head.

Recently, Johnson sat down with The Dallas Morning News for a question-and-answer session to set up training camp. Here are 10 things that inquiring minds want to know.



It was a relatively quiet summer by Mavericks standards. Was that by design? Or were there some things you'd hoped to accomplish and couldn't get done?

It's strictly by design. But again, when we tried to entertain some situations, what other institutions wanted in return, they pretty much wanted us to liquidate our team. And we didn't want to liquidate our team. We really like our team. But we promised our fans that we're committed to winning and committed to winning a championship. And we'll do whatever it takes. But we're not going to liquidate our team for one player.
We like what we've added in Eddie Jones. We like what we've added in Brandon Bass. And we like that a lot of our returning players are going to be 20 percent better. That's what we're thinking. We're hoping they're better mentally, physically and have a better understanding of what we're trying to do. We're banking on that.



Devin Harris has signed a five-year contract extension. What does that say about his importance to the organization?

We think he has an enormous amount of talent and potential. He's scratched the surface a little bit. I wouldn't say he hasn't scratched the surface. And we feel he's moving in the right direction.



Who's your backup power forward right now?

Brandon Bass. He's 6-8 and 250. We have a lot of confidence in where we think he can go. There will be some others who are vying for some playing time. But Brandon was brought in to be a different type of power forward from Dirk, different from what we had.



It's a departure from the past, isn't it, because previous backups to Dirk Nowitzki have been more like Dirk starter kits?

We don't want to go that route this year. We wanted somebody different.



If you had to make a gut guess right now, would Chris Webber or P.J. Brown end up in a Mavericks uniform this season?

Ooh, I hope so. But we'll have to wait and see. Either of those guys would be a tremendous asset in terms of a role-playing guy for a team. But they have some other opportunities that they're looking at. So we'll have to wait and see.



With Kevin Garnett, Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen all heading to the Eastern Conference, did the West perhaps get just a shade easier?

I don't think so because Portland's probably going to be a little bit better, San Antonio and Phoenix and Houston are going to be better. So I don't think the West is going to be any easier.



With Devin Harris signed long term, what does that mean for Jason Terry? The pair was effective last season but was undersized against basically everybody they played.

Fortunately we have two, and they're different. Jet is a huge part of our team. Whenever Jet is on the floor for us, he's a significant threat for us. So whether he starts at guard or whatever role he's playing, if you look statistically at what he's done, we wouldn't be here without Jet. He's one of the best shooters in the league. He is a great shooter. We need Jason Terry. The main thing is Jason Terry is a significant contributor for our ballclub. And we found out that he and Devin Harris can play together. And we found out that they can play independent of one another, too.



Last year, you start 0-4, then go 67-11, then 2-4 in the playoffs. What did you learn from that as a coach?

You learn several things, some you're willing to share and some you're not willing to share. But the main thing is you learn you have to keep focusing on the program. We talked about finishing, and that was our motto. We didn't finish. Now, do we not start again? No. We start and we start strong and we try to stay strong. That's the trick.



What does Dirk Nowitzki have to do this year to improve on an MVP season?

Dirk can get better, and there are some things that Dirk can improve in that may not be basketball-related. It may be leadership-related. Dirk can get better on and off the court. And that's why I've been stretching him. He's the reigning MVP, and if he's not willing to be stretched by his coach, then he never would have improved. So he's willing to be stretched. And his stretching may not be necessarily on the court, but it may be in the area of leadership, and we're willing to help him get better in that area.



One hypothetical question – a few years down the line when you've picked up a championship or two with the Mavericks, what would you see as the next logical step in your coaching career – coaching the Houston Rockets or the New Orleans Hornets, your two hometowns, albeit The Woodlands is your adopted home now?

I would say, really and truly, I want to have a Jerry Sloan run with the Mavericks, but with a championship. So I want to have kind of a Jerry Sloan/Gregg Popovich run. That's what I want to have for the city of Dallas.
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Old 09-26-2007, 02:22 AM   #2
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Default Re: Johnson optimistic about Mavs' future

Quote:
Fish Or Cut Bait
Do We Buy What AJ Is Selling?
By Mike Fisher -- DallasBasketball.com

Avery Johnson speaks. … and DB.com listens – but with the caution we think appropriate because so much of what the Mavs' “General’’ says this summer sounds at the least, familiar, and in some cases, dubious. Let’s review his comments and decide if we can agree with what he’s saying (“FISH’’) or if we’re a little iffy (“CUT BAIT’’).

Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News conducted the question-and-answer session he termed “10 things that inquiring minds want to know.’’

Let’s review:

The DMN asked if the Mavs’ relatively quiet summer was by design or the result of failing to accomplish some goals.

AN AVERY ANSWER: “It's strictly by design. But again, when we tried to entertain some situations, what other institutions wanted in return, they pretty much wanted us to liquidate our team. And we didn't want to liquidate our team. We really like our team. But we promised our fans that we're committed to winning and committed to winning a championship. And we'll do whatever it takes. But we're not going to liquidate our team for one player.’’

FISH OR CUT BAIT? Sorry, Avery, but we gotta CUT BAIT here. “Entertain some situations involving institutions and liquidation’’? Thanks, coach, for proving you’re smarter than a fifth-grader, but what does all that jibber-jabber have to do with basketball?

AN AVERY ANSWER: “We like what we've added in Eddie Jones. We like what we've added in Brandon Bass. And we like that a lot of our returning players are going to be 20 percent better. That's what we're thinking. We're hoping they're better mentally, physically and have a better understanding of what we're trying to do. We're banking on that.’’

FISH OR CUT BAIT? Again, we CUT BAIT. It seems to us that Dallas already employs three of four Eddie Joneses (Though granted, Eddie Jones might be the best of the Eddie Joneses). At this early stage, there is no way Brandon Bass’ name deserves to be mentioned among the Mavs’ “important off-season moves.’’ So the roster is essentially the same. That’s not a bad thing; this team remains elite. But it’s silly to claim it’s a “better’’ team.

And the “we’re all going to be 20-percent better’’ thing is simply ridiculous. A smart bet would be that Dirk, Damp, Stack, JET, Devean, Buckner and Eddie Jones will NOT be 20-percent improved over what they’ve been in the past. (Diop and Devin, maybe yes.) But how does the MVP get 20 percent better? How does a 67-win team get 20-percent better? Those things seem physically and mathematically impossible. Yet “we’re banking’’ on that? Remind us not to leave much money in that bank’s safe.

Oh, and one more thing about that “20-percent better’’ philosophy: Does that also apply to Avery himself? Is he, stripped of the help of Del Harris and no longer cruising through a honeymoon period with fans, prepared to be 20-percent better as a strategist, as a manager, as a psychologist, as a teacher, as a coach?


In summary of these answers – and we never thought we’d say this word in association with Avery Johnson – but it all sounds so. … complacent.


The DMN asks what Devin Harris’ new contract says about his importance.


AN AVERY ANSWER: “We think he has an enormous amount of talent and potential. He's scratched the surface a little bit. I wouldn't say he hasn't scratched the surface. And we feel he's moving in the right direction.”

FISH OR CUT BAIT? Some observers who don’t know Avery or his relationship with his young point guard have misinterpreted this comment as a rip on Harris. To the contrary, Avery is simply handling Devin the way a lot of fathers handle sons who are on their team: Dad is always hardest on his own boy. So we know what Avery is trying to do here, and we applaud it. Therefore, we FISH.

(P.S.: We will continue to make this point about Avery/Devin whenever the subject of the kid’s development is broached: If ex-PG Avery Johnson does not succeed in molding Harris into the equal of Tony Parker or better, Avery’s record deserves a permanent CUT BAIT.)

The DMN asks, ‘Who's your backup power forward right now?’

AN AVERY ANSWER: “Brandon Bass. He's 6-8 and 250. We have a lot of confidence in where we think he can go. There will be some others who are vying for some playing time. But Brandon was brought in to be a different type of power forward from Dirk, different from what we had.

FISH OR CUT BAIT? Raving about the brilliance of street-free-agent Brandon Bass is an overreach. A guy the Bobcats didn’t want is an ideal counterpunch to Dirk? Let us retract the word “overreach.’’ It almost sounds like another word: “desperate.’’ We CUT BAIT.

The DMN asks, ‘It's a departure from the past, isn't it, because previous backups to Dirk Nowitzki have been more like Dirk starter kits?’

AN AVERY ANSWER: “We don't want to go that route this year. We wanted somebody different.’’

FISH OR CUT BAIT? Really, coach? No more Dirk-play-alikes? You might want to stroll into your locker room and inform Nick Fazekas of that decision. We CUT BAIT.

The DMN asks, ‘If you had to make a gut guess right now, would Chris Webber or P.J. Brown end up in a Mavericks uniform this season?’

AN AVERY ANSWER: “Ooh, I hope so. But we'll have to wait and see. Either of those guys would be a tremendous asset in terms of a role-playing guy for a team. But they have some other opportunities that they're looking at. So we'll have to wait and see.’’

FISH OR CUT BAIT? We’d prefer a more proactive approach here, and we’d prefer C-Webb. But Avery’s enthusiam here buys him a FISH.

The DMN asks, ‘With Devin Harris signed long term, what does that mean for Jason Terry? The pair was effective last season but was undersized against basically everybody they played.’

AN AVERY ANSWER: “Fortunately we have two, and they're different. Jet is a huge part of our team. Whenever Jet is on the floor for us, he's a significant threat for us. So whether he starts at guard or whatever role he's playing, if you look statistically at what he's done, we wouldn't be here without Jet. He's one of the best shooters in the league. He is a great shooter. We need Jason Terry. The main thing is Jason Terry is a significant contributor for our ballclub. And we found out that he and Devin Harris can play together. And we found out that they can play independent of one another, too.

FISH OR CUT BAIT? We’ll go FISH. But did Avery just suggest that Jason Terry might be coming off the bench?

The DMN asks, ‘Last year, you start 0-4, then go 67-11, then 2-4 in the playoffs. What did you learn from that as a coach?’

AN AVERY ANSWER: “You learn several things, some you're willing to share and some you're not willing to share. But the main thing is you learn you have to keep focusing on the program. We talked about finishing, and that was our motto. We didn't finish. Now, do we not start again? No. We start and we start strong and we try to stay strong. That's the trick.’’

FISH OR CUT BAIT? A three-parter here:

1) “Keep focusing on the program.’’ FISH. The essence of this program – a team that perennially wins 55+ -- is sound.

2) “Start strong and stay strong.’’ CUT BAIT. That makes it seem as if Avery learned nothing about the difference between Game 1 of the regular season and Game 7 of the NBA Finals. There is a difference. Right? Don’t you wonder if Nowitzki would’ve had more energy, rhythm and confidence in the playoffs had he not spent the final week of the regular season shifted into neutral? Maybe The UberMan should get a blow at times during the regular season and then gear up in the final weeks.

3) Sefko’s question was specifically about what AVERY LEARNED AS A COACH. Avery replies with a “we’’ answer. Is Avery not self-reflective enough? This would’ve been a good opportunity for Johnson to assume blame for last year’s collapse. So we give the answer a CUT BAIT.

The DMN asks, ‘What does Dirk Nowitzki have to do this year to improve on an MVP season?’

AN AVERY ANSWER: “Dirk can get better, and there are some things that Dirk can improve in that may not be basketball-related. It may be leadership-related. Dirk can get better on and off the court. And that's why I've been stretching him. He's the reigning MVP, and if he's not willing to be stretched by his coach, then he never would have improved. So he's willing to be stretched. And his stretching may not be necessarily on the court, but it may be in the area of leadership, and we're willing to help him get better in that area.’’

FISH OR CUT BAIT? The coach speaks the truth. But he seemingly completely miscalculated how the comment would be received. It comes across as a coach “calling out’’ his star. What’s the point of announcing this? Sorry, Avery. We accept that you think Dirk has shortcomings. We even reluctantly admit the same. But we see no reason to put that info on a billboard. CUT BAIT.

Sefko asks, ‘One hypothetical question – a few years down the line when you've picked up a championship or two with the Mavericks, what would you see as the next logical step in your coaching career – coaching the Houston Rockets or the New Orleans Hornets, your two hometowns, albeit The Woodlands is your adopted home now?


AN AVERY ANSWER: “I would say, really and truly, I want to have a Jerry Sloan run with the Mavericks, but with a championship. So I want to have kind of a Jerry Sloan/Gregg Popovich run. That's what I want to have for the city of Dallas.’’

FISH OR CUT BAIT? A pair of FISH OR CUT BAIT issues here. One goes to DB.com friend Eddie Sefko: What kind of off-the-wall question is that? It would be a “logical step’’ for Avery to win titles in Dallas and then move? Why? Eddie’s got his Houston ties; that’s the only reason I can invent for why the writer would mention that city. (And The Woodlands? Are they getting an expansion franchise?) Eddie gets a FISH for the interview as a whole, but this Houston-centric question gets a CUT BAIT.

FISH OR CUT BAIT? And now to Avery’s answer. We find it weird that the first name that pops into his head is Sloan, and the second is mentor Popovich. Please, please, Avery, if those two paths are our choices, pick Pops Avenue, OK? And then you’ll earn a FISH for life.

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