From the start, Avery Johnson was a perfect fit as coach of the Dallas Mavericks. At the end, it was pretty obvious he wasn't.
Johnson lost his job yesterday, a move the team referred to as "relieving him of his duties." The softer tone made sense considering that in three-plus seasons Johnson guided the Mavericks to the Finals for the first time and to a club-record 67 wins the following season.
Yet for all the high points, there were some serious lows - blowing a 2-0 lead in the 2006 Finals, getting dumped in the first round of the playoffs after that 67-win season, and then, the final straw, getting knocked out in the first round again this season after Dallas shook up its roster and mortgaged some of its future to acquire Jason Kidd.
Over those three straight postseason wipeouts, the Mavericks lost 12 of 15 games, including all nine on the road.
"Was it time for a change? I guess," said Dirk Nowitzki, who became the league MVP under Johnson's watch. "I think this franchise, we owe him a lot. Unfortunately, it's just one of those situations where everybody's got to move on."
The final mark during Johnson's tenure: 194-70 in the regular season, 23-24 in the playoffs.
Johnson got the news during a meeting at his condominium yesterday morning. Donnie Nelson, the team's president of basketball operations, was there, while team owner Mark Cuban joined via cellphone from Chicago.
Johnson called in to the local ESPN affiliate, KESN, to talk about his dismissal.
"This is something that needed to happen," Johnson said. "There's no animosity or bitterness. We all still really care about each other, but it was time to go in a different direction . . . We didn't win the championship, but if you look at the whole body of work that we put together over the last 3 1/2 years . . . we'll put it up against anybody."
Johnson might not be unemployed very long. The New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls are among the teams needing coaches.
What will Cuban do? That list may include Paul Westphal, Del Harris, Jeff Van Gundy, Rick Carlisle, and Mike D'Antoni (if he loses his job).
Durant top rookie?The expectations were there for Kevin Durant the day he first arrived in Seattle: Anything less than being the best rookie in the NBA would be a disappointment. The 19-year-old didn't disappoint.
Durant has been chosen as the NBA Rookie of the Year, the Associated Press learned from a person with knowledge of the vote who requested anonymity because the announcement has not been made, but is likely to come today.
"I don't think it's remotely close in terms of what he's done in any category, from top to bottom," Sonics coach P.J. Carlesimo said at the end of the season. Durant averaged 20.3 points, grabbed 4.4 rebounds, and played a team-high 34 minutes per night. His scoring was the highest average for a rookie of the year since LeBron James averaged 20.9 points in 2003-04.
"It would mean a lot," Durant said after the season about the rookie award. "My main goal was to come in and get better. But if I am the rookie of the year, it's a blessing."