In the middle of his latest report on the Carmelo Anthony saga, Adrian Wojnarowski calls the hounds off of Mikhail Prokhorov but sharpens his knives instead for Avery Johnson, blaming the coach for two of the team’s troubled players they seemingly can’t get rid of:
The Hornets will likely be in pursuit of New Jersey Nets forward Troy Murphy(notes) once the Nets reach a buyout agreement with him after the trade deadline. Nets coach Avery Johnson made clear he didn’t want Murphy after the three-team trade that brought him from the Indiana Pacers. Trade talks have gone nowhere for Murphy, who has an expiring contract. Nets GM Billy King will ultimately work a buyout to free Murphy to sign elsewhere.
New Jersey’s Travis Outlaw(notes) – another overpriced summer signee at five years and $35 million – has been offered in deals, but there are no takers. Nets fans can thank Johnson for pushing that deal onto the franchise’s payroll.
Look, nobody’s a bigger Avery critic than I am, but even I think Woj is being unfair here. There was nothing obvious about Avery’s initial feelings about the Murphy deal. I think everyone inside the organization and out thought it would help the team in some way, but once Murphy got injured, there was a sense from the coach that Troy just wasn’t working hard enough to get back into game shape. True or not, if the player isn’t buying into the coach’s system, there’s going to be a conflict. As for Outlaw, very few people though the years and dollars made sense for the guy, but if he was being used properly – as an offensive sparkplug off the bench – instead of playing 35+ minutes a game with the starters, I think Outlaw’s flaws would be a lot less severe. Plus, it seems convenient of Woj to blame Avery both for having the clout to sign a player that no one else wanted, and then not having enough pull to stop a trade for a player he didn’t want in the first place. You can’t have it both ways.