Avery Johnson Pays the Price for Unreasonable Expectations

Johnson's firing can be blamed on marketing as much as anything.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Following a disappointing 3-10 record in December, and coming off back-to-back blowouts, including a nationally televised disaster on Christmas Day, the Nets have fired head coach Avery Johnson. (Published Friday, Dec 28, 2012)

    The writing was on the wall for Avery Johnson the second that Deron Williams went public with his feeling that the Nets offense wasn't well suited for his talents. 

    Forget the fact that Williams has been playing so poorly this season that there doesn't seem to be an offense in existence that could actually turn his performance into wins because these things are more about perception than reality. Williams is the Nets' "star" and star players will win out over coaches every single time in the NBA. 

    There are a lot more coaches out there than stars, something that Carmelo Anthony proved last year and something just about every other NBA superstar has also done at some point in their career. Magic Johnson's on that list, which is a good way of illustrating how little people care about great players flexing their muscles to get rid of a coach they don't like. 

    Despite that, G.M. Billy King spent a lot of time Thursday denying that Williams' displeasure was the reason why Johnson got a pink slip, which actually just served to underscore Williams' lead role because you don't talk that much about something that isn't true. King pinned it all on Johnson losing the players, a nebulous answer that doesn't begin to strike at the truth of the matter. 

    The truth is that Williams was unhappy and that Johnson was the scapegoat for the Nets' long marketing campaign ahead of this year's move to Brooklyn. Mikhail Prokhorov and company chose to act like an expansion team when it came to acting like the franchise has no history before this year and an instant title contender despite completely changing the roster over the summer. 

    Given the need to stand out on a much bigger stage, it's hard to blame them for hyping things as hard as they did but you can't overpromise without overdelivering in this town or the sports business. Rex Ryan's learned that the hard way, but the Nets learned nothing from his experiences as they acted like there was a title right around the corner. 

    Johnson certainly wasn't doing a great job, but the sum of the salaries of the Nets roster is a lot greater than the sum of the parts in basketball terms. The Nets looked like a team that will struggle to win more than about 45 wins this year coming into the season, which is exactly how they've performed to the chagrin of a sales team selling a 60-win juggernaut.

    It would help if Williams played like the superstar that the Nets claim he is. If you're going to pull the coach forceout, you have to follow it up with play that reaches the highest levels every single night or you're just a Marbury-style prima donna. 

    The Nets are upping the ante on the overpromising by leaking Phil Jackson's name as a top candidate for the job. If they land him it is a massive coup for the franchise, but, if not, they've again raised the bar high and failed to reach it. 

    You only get so many chances to miss shots at the brass ring before you're forever painted as a fool. New York loves confidence and swagger, but they also love to call out the Emperor's New Clothes when they're being worn as flamboyantly as the Nets wore them coming into this season. 

    The Nets are 0-for-1 right now. Striking out again would not be advised. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.