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Friday, June 11, 2010

Nets snag Johnson

Ex-Mavericks coach poised to pilot New Jersey

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Avery Johnson says he has agreed to become the coach of the New Jersey Nets, the NBA's worst team.

News photo
Major work ahead: Avery Johnson, former coach of the Dallas Mavericks, has agreed to become the new bench boss of the New Jersey Nets. AP PHOTO

In a text message on Wednesday, Johnson said he thinks the Nets will announce the deal on Thursday.

Nets president and general manager Rod Thorn did not immediately respond when asked to comment on Johnson's text. In an earlier e-mail, he said he "will have something to say" Thursday.

The current ESPN analyst coached Dallas for three-plus seasons, going 194-70 in the regular season and 23-24 in the playoffs. He guided the Mavs to the NBA Finals in 2006, but was fired after a first-round playoff series loss to New Orleans in 2008.

Johnson will take over a team that posted a league worst 12-70 record and set a league-record opening the season with 18 straight losses.

The miserable start led to the firing of coach Lawrence Frank after 16 games. Outgoing general manager Kiki Vandeweghe served as the interim coach for the majority of the franchise's worst season and only the fifth 70-loss season in NBA history.

The Nets threatened to break the Philadelphia 76ers' league record for fewest wins in a season — nine — until a late run got them over the hump. The 76ers set the record in 1972-73.

Johnson is a proven winner, and his arrival in New Jersey will reunite him with point guard Devin Harris, who was shipped to New Jersey in the deal that sent Jason Kidd to the Mavericks.

The Nets also have a young talented center in Brook Lopez, two guards with tons of potential, Terrence Williams and Courtney Lee, and high hopes for Chinese Olympian Yi Jianlian.

New Jersey also has the third pick in this month's draft.

Johnson should also benefit working with new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. The Russian billionaire has said he will open his wallet in free agency, and the Nets have more than $23 million to spend on a talent pool that might include LeBron James.

Johnson, who met with Thorn early in the coaching search, emerged as the leading contender after former Knicks and Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy turned down overtures from Thorn and Boston Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau opted to take the Chicago Bulls' head coaching job.

The Nets will be moving to the Prudential Center in Newark for the next two years before permanently moving to their new arena, the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 2012.

Izzo quiet on Cavs

DETROIT (AP) Michigan State's Tom Izzo told his team he has talked to the Cleveland Cavaliers about their coaching vacancy, imploring them to concentrate on their classes and workouts to get better on and off the court.

"That was the gist of the meeting yesterday," associate head coach Mark Montgomery said on Wednesday.

Izzo did not tell the Spartans he was leaving the school to coach the Cavs.

His decision, which could come within days or drag out for a month, might hinge on whether LeBron James re-signs in Cleveland.

A text message was sent Wednesday to Izzo, who declined to comment about Cleveland-related reports in a radio interview earlier this week.

Some of his ex-players and a former assistant coach — along with Michigan State fans — have been riveted to developments about a possible departure.

"I have mixed emotions," former Michigan State star Mateen Cleaves said. "Selfishly, I want him to stay at Michigan State because he's good for the school, the state and college basketball as a whole.

"But it's a great opportunity if LeBron comes back."

There's the rub.

The Cavs may not want to wait until July, the earliest James could re-sign, to hire a coach.

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said James will not be consulted during the coaching search, which began when he fired Mike Brown following the team's second straight early exit in the playoffs.

Warmup for worlds

NEW YORK (AP) The U.S. basketball team and the squads from four other countries will bring their world championship preparations to New York in August, with a regulation court set up in Times Square.

The World Basketball Festival will be held Aug. 12-15. The Americans will face France, while China will take on Puerto Rico, in exhibitions at Madison Square Garden on the final day.

The festival will tip off with the U.S. team taking part in an outdoor event on the special Times Square court. Brazil, Puerto Rico and France will hold open practices and scrimmages at Harlem's Rucker Park later in the weekend.

The world championships will be held from Aug. 28-Sept. 12 in Turkey.

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