4

Big Claims By Little General

On his way outta town Avery claims he never wanted Jason Kidd? Yeah, right.
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Listening to former -- weird, huh? -- Mavs head coach Avery Johnson speak from the cushy confines of the Ritz-Carlton, I was confused to whether he had just been handed a pink slip or a gold statue. Avery thanked so many people – his secretary, the team’s media relations director, the players, Mark Cuban, the fans – I was convinced he’d just captured Best Actor.

Oh, he did admit to not being comfortable or “cool” with his predicament. But if the picture was indeed as rosy as he painted, I wondered how the hell he got fired?

Among his bouquet of pleasantries: *“No hard feelings. No bitterness.” *“We can look at ourselves in the mirror and really be proud.” *“I’m proud of my working relationship with Mark. Did we have some rough periods? Absolutely. But I’m proud we got through them.” *“I thought I got the most I could out of these players. They gave me everything they had and in a lot of ways we over-achieved.”

Avery’s a class-act and a stand-up guy. He’s seen heartache in the form of being cut by the Spurs on Christmas Eve, so this ain’t his first rodeo. Most coaches wouldn’t have had the dignity to address us dorks today and for that he gets a hearty “A-men.”

But his sermon today was about how he was a miracle worker that maxed-out the Mavs and somehow coaxed them into the playoffs. And, make no mistake, Avery went out of his way to throw his point guard under the yellow kid-carrier.

While a lot of us know for a fact that Avery was totally on board with acquiring Kidd -- it was me that wasn't, remember? -- his parting shots included calling the Mavs “not quick enough” and lamenting that his team needed “a point guard that could create opportunities off the dribble.” Maybe one like, I dunno, Devin Harris?

“We had Devin Harris knocking on the door to be an All-Star,” Johnson said. “He was going to be an 18 (points) and 8 (assists) player for us. I invested a significant amount of time in him. If we just hold on a little while … The team was changed and we never really got back on track. The deal was made. Hey, it’s over. Something was tried, but it didn’t take us nearly to where we wanted.”

In the end, Avery did admit his team tuned him out after 3 ½ years of hard-drivin’ practices and early-game timeouts. I’d say. Like a teen-ager whose parents scream “brush your teeth!” every morning before his feet hit the floor.

“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s when you need a new voice. It’s just time for somebody else."

Still hard to fathom that just two years ago he was Coach of the Year and the Mavs were on the verge of a parade. -- Richie Whitt

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