5. Brook Lopez is healthy.
The NBA is a cruel, unfair sport, and sometimes it’s just a matter of circumstance that can change the course of your employment. When Brook Lopez went down with an injured right foot at the end of November, the Nets were on cruise control — they were 10-4 and dismantled the Boston Celtics the night Lopez left early. After an ugly win against a talent-deficient Orlando team, the Nets stumbled without Lopez, going 1-5 in their next six games without him and then stumbling through another 2-5 stretch as he recovered. As mentioned earlier, once that rough patch ended, Lopez caught fire.
But did Lopez’s tear result from Johnson’s departure, or was it circumstantial? Was Lopez just not 100% before returning from injury and needed some adjustment? He was the team’s best player in Johnson’s final game coaching, hitting 9 of 18 shots en route to a 21-10-3 blocks performance. Can’t credit the coaching change for that one.