By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
At some point—this point—you blame the coach and his message as much as the players. Johnson, the cagey ol' point guard-turned-control freak, couldn't develop Harris, can't coach Kidd and is supervising a sad regression in Howard from do-it-all Scottie Pippen to set-shot Michael Finley.
Again, the season is still salvageable, but if the Mavs don't beat the Hornets, they'll end the season as a franchise that hasn't re-invigorated its fans, doesn't develop young players and is led by a coach who's crashed from high throne to hot seat.
If you watched Game 1, the prognosis can't be good.
As they did in getting torched by Wade and Golden State's Baron Davis, the Mavs refused to aggressively trap the ball away from the Hornets' best player, Chris Paul. Where was the half-court pressure that flustered Paul in last week's regular-season finale? They played without competitive fire and didn't try enough zone. They again relied on an offensive scheme based on isolations instead of allowing Kidd to freelance on the fast break. Where were the post-ups for Kidd to make Paul expend energy on defense? I sometimes get the feeling that Johnson coaching Kidd is like Bobby Knight put in charge of the Harlem Globetrotters.
In retrospect, Dallas' best moment of the season might have come when Dirk Nowitzki nailed a scintillating, game-winning 3-pointer that beat the Utah Jazz and clinched the playoffs. The play came on a possession when Johnson had no timeouts. Go figure.
Avery Johnson is a great person. He sends players' wives Christmas gifts, baby-sits Jerry Stackhouse's son and his Aspire Higher self-help tome is a best-seller.
But now it's time—past time—for Avery Johnson to be a great coach.