One of the things that made former San Antonio Spurs guard Avery Johnson so valuable to the franchise during his playing career was his ability to be a player and a coach at the same time. In fact, if they didn’t have such a great coach in Gregg Popovich, the Spurs organization may have even considered making AJ a player/coach. He was an amazing connection between players and staff that built chemistry and ensured that both sides were happy. Now, as the coach of the New Jersey Nets, he’s helping star point guard Deron Williams step into that same role.
“He comes to my office here and there before practice,” Johnson said. “I might ask him about a practice idea — time frames. That’s what I did when I played for Popovich and I’ve seen it happen with other teams.”
It’s a very smart move by AJ. I think as a coach or general manager, you’d like to see an extension of yourself out on the court. As a player, you’d love to know that someone is in the coach’s ear talking about something you might like to see or have done. Every team in the NBA should have one player that wants to step into the same role as Williams.
If Williams really does want to step into this role it would be good news for a Nets team that’s seemingly falling apart right now. Brook Lopez, one of their best players, is out with a broken foot and their attempts to land Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic look like they’ve fallen short. They’re worried that Williams will want to jump ship too if they don’t get the players around him that will make the Nets competitive. If they make him feel more tied to the team, give him a bigger role, maybe that will make it less likely that he’ll want to be traded away.
One things for sure, if the Nets don’t land some better players soon, they’ll be headed to the Eastern Conference basement no matter how good of a leader Williams is.