Avery Johnson: “We don’t have a hit-first mentality”

Avery Johnson’s not normally known for criticizing his roster. Even on last year’s 22-44 team, Johnson was mostly positive and forward-looking (and, as anyone who saw a press conference last year would attest to, ensured us all that his guys were “battling”).

Today was a bit of a different story, as Johnson admitted that the team is a step behind where he expected them defensively. “We don’t have a hit-first mentality,” Johnson admitted. “And if you don’t have a hit-first mentality, you’re gonna get hit.”

We haven’t had the type of defensive intensity, physicality, that i’m looking for. This team does not have the personality that I thought it would have at this point. That’s been somewhat of a disappointment.

Are they trying? Yes. Is anybody panicking? No. But we should have a little bit more of a physicality, a presence, and communication on a loud level on the court. We haven’t gotten that consistently.

Throughout training camp and preseason, the Nets have set their focus almost exclusively on defense. Brook Lopez estimated that the training camp handbook leaned roughly “80 percent” towards the defensive end on media day. Joe Johnson today stressed its importance, saying that “we can’t rely on offense and then defense, it has to be defense first.”

The Nets allowed the Sixers to hit 22 of 32 field goal attempts at the rim on Wednesday night and got beaten out of most of their defensive coverages. When they stacked the strong side early, the Sixers whipped the ball to the open man on the weak side for three-pointers; when they manned straight up, the Sixers confounded them with pick-and-rolls and the Nets didn’t communicate.

It’s not hard to see where the issues are. “We’ve been inconsistent with our pick-and-roll coverages,” Johnson specifically noted. “We’ve got three different coverages, some that I’ve never heard of before. So we’ve had to straighten that out a little bit.”

Joe Johnson also bemoaned the coverage issues. “Our coverages that we’ve been going over in practice, we really haven’t been executing. It’s hurt us the past couple games. That’s why it’s the preseason, we’re trying to get it down before the season starts. … I wouldn’t say it was a lack of effort. I think the effort was pretty good. We’ve just had a lack of communication.”