Lost in the shuffle of the Carmelo Anthony drama – today’s story, national writers say ‘Melo still neeeds to be “sold” on a trade, while the trusty beat writers think a deal goes down early next week – was the curious benching of Brook Lopez on Wednesday night in Phoenix and his subsequent reaction. There’s a video circulating the Interwebs showing Lopez screaming some naughty words towards Avery Johnson after the benching, which came in overtime after Lopez demonstrated poor shot selection, a running theme for Lopez this year (the poor shots, not the benching). Rather than link to the video, I’d rather direct you towards some worthwhile waxed poetic from Ball Don’t Lie’s Kelly Dwyer on the topic:
Because the current approach isn’t working. It’s making Lopez worse, and Johnson is a fool if he thinks repeated use of the same approach, despite failure each and every time out, is the smart way to go here. The Nets are trying their hardest to make Lopez the second-best player on a team featuring Carmelo Anthony, and while that’s not going to be a championship core at its best, it’s going to be far worse if Johnson keeps handling Lopez this way. Because the third-year center has taken a clear step backward, and it can’t be coincidental that Johnson is talking smack on- and off-record about the guy every damn day.
The smack talk in question can be found in the form of this dig from Avery last week in practice.
Obviously, I’ve made my issues with Avery Johnson well-known. I also accept and understand that Mikhail Prokhorov reportedly loves him and he’s a “proven winner,” at least based on his record leading an ultra-talented Dallas team, so he’s going nowhere.
But we’re also at a point that a trend has developed with Avery. There were of course the reports when he was first hired that there may have been some “issues” with Devin Harris, who he coached with Dallas, that needed to be resolved. Then there’s been the mysterious exile of Troy Murphy’s, who’s biggest flaw so far seems to be he got injured before the team’s global road trip in the preseason. Then of course was the Terrence Williams saga. Say what you will about TWill and his maturity, but his one-week “demotion” to the D-League just came across as petty, especially after he was traded soon after to Houston.
The thing is, TWill’s been trade, Murphy will undoubtedly be traded, and my guess is Harris will too. The strife with Brook Lopez is different and more alarming because by almost all accounts, Lopez isn’t going anywhere and in fact, the hope seems to be that maybe he’ll realize his potential once proven go-to scorer’s like Anthony and Rip Hamilton are on this team. It’s one thing for Avery to alienate players who are “not in his plans” but if he’s doing with guys he allegedly wants to move forward with, is this really how he plans on motivating people and at one point does this team of superstars that Prokhorov wants to bring in tune out the Little General and force him back to the analyst booth at ESPN?