I don’t want to assume that Avery Johnson is the Hawks’ No. 1 choice to become their next coach because: 1) Nobody has said that publicly; 2) There’s a chance that even if Johnson is the No. 1 choice of one owner or general manager Rick Sund, he might not be the No. 1 choice of another owner (or Sund).
For all we know, there might be four votes — Sund, Michael Gearon Jr., Bruce Levenson and Steve Belkin (via speaker phone from a remote location) — and each will push for somebody else: Dwane Casey, Larry Drew, Mark Jackson and Johnson.
In this scenario, I believe Atlanta Spirit LLC rules stipulate that the 10th caller to a season-ticket hotline breaks the tie.
But here’s my question: Why would Johnson take the New Jersey Nets’ job over the Hawks’
job, if it should come to that?
Johnson’s representatives were in the New York-New Jersey area on Monday and Tuesday. That at least gives the impression that the two sides were working toward a deal. (Although maybe it means something that they left town without a contract.)
If this comes down to money, New Jersey wins. The Nets are owned by a self-made Russian billionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov, who has left the impression that he’ll pay what it takes to get anybody.
I don’t get the impression Hawks owners will break the bank to get Johnson. Doc Rivers probably is the only coach they would punch a hole through the salary ceiling to get. That’s understandable. But Rivers probably isn’t coming here this summer. He’ll either return to Boston or take time off.
Back to Johnson: Why would a guy who has coached in the NBA finals, and currently has a comfy broadcasting gig, want to take over the Nets?
Does he really want a rebuilding project . . . in New Jersey?
They Nets have missed the playoffs the last three years. They went 12-70 last year. They started the season 3-40.
They have two 7-foot towers (Brook Lopez and Yi Jianlian) and a point guard (Devin Harris) who has had some success. But this remains a long-term project. And the Nets will always be in the shadow of the Knicks (regardless of how bad the Knicks are).
No matter how you might feel about the roster and the impending free agency of Joe Johnson, the Hawks are far closer to winning something significant than New Jersey.
Their potential starting lineup next season could include Johnson, Al Horford, Josh Smith and Jeff Teague. They are not bumping up against the salary cap. If Johnson doesn’t sign, there could be a sign-and-trade coming.
The Hawks have made the playoff three straight years and dropping from postseason contention isn’t realistic. It will be a while before Jersey gets there.
So other than money, what do the Nets have to offer? We know it’s not quality of living.