Just over a month ago now, Avery Johnson was fired and replaced by P.J. Carlesimo and the Brooklyn Nets were clouded by uncertainty about their future. Less than two weeks ago, the Brooklyn Nets defeated the New York Knicks in Manhattan to pull within one game of the Knicks and cement their place in the minds of New York basketball fans. After that win, the Nets were 11-2 under P.J. with wins over Oklahoma City, Indiana, and New York, and most Nets fans believed that Carlesimo would be their coach for the future.
Little did Nets fans know that that win in Manhattan would be the last chapter of the P.J. “honeymoon”. Since that game, Brooklyn pulled out a close win against a very shorthanded Minnesota team, got blown out against two western conference playoff teams, Memphis and Houston, blew out probably the worst team in the NBA right now which was without its best player and was on short rest, Orlando, and got destroyed by the defending champs Heat.
As we all should have known, the Nets would not be able to keep up their winning ways forever and there would be some rough stretches under Carlesimo. This is the first one of those stretches and it is time to see how the Nets will respond. With big home games against Chicago and the Lakers coming up, the Nets will have the chance to prove that their recent skid was just a hiccup and this team is still destined for good things.
This will also be a test for P.J. Carlesimo, who has experienced losing before during his coaching career. The question for Carlesimo and the Nets will be how long Mikhail Prokhorov allows Carlesimo’s leash to grow. He was in town for Wednesday’s loss to Miami and will also watch the Chicago game live. If the Nets are not competitive again against Chicago, the questions might start popping up about P.J.’s job security, especially after seeing how quickly Avery Johnson was fired after winning coach of the month.
I have one proposition for Prokhorov and the Nets: let Carlesimo finish the season with no pressure about getting fired and evaluate him only at the end of the season once the Nets have been eliminated. We saw first-hand how some coaches and teams handle the pressure of not having much job security. Avery’s contract was not guaranteed past the end of this season. Therefore, some players may not have felt the need to listen to him or follow all of his rules and instructions and some players may have not been playing to their potential.
Once P.J. took over, the Nets got a wake-up call to start playing better. They realized that the Nets are trying to win this season and a .500 record was completely unacceptable. They realized that after Avery was gone, the players would be next at the trade deadline if their play didn’t improve. As a result, the Nets played their best basketball of the season and looked like one of the top teams in the league on Martin Luther King Day. But now, the team is returning to its complacency and may be returning to their December ways unless Prokhorov makes a statement to reverse this trend.
My request for Prokhorov is to come out after the game tomorrow, win or lose, and say that P.J. Carlesimo will remain the coach until at least the end of this season and that he will not be replaced. This gives Carlesimo credibility among the players and all the players, especially the young ones, will listen to and respect him.
P.J. is an experienced NBA head coach and is a better fit than any other coach available on the market in the middle of the season. In order to keep the hope of making a deep playoff run alive, Prokhorov needs to make the right call and guarantee Carlesimo for the year.