Avery Johnson sees promise in Nets, Kris Humphries after Brook Lopez hits clutch shot to top Cavs
Avery Johnson dreams big and talks big, not allowing losses or a failed trade to dissuade his lofty aspirations.
So after his team completed a dramatic comeback Monday night – already ensuring a higher win total than last season’s 12-70 disaster – Johnson took the opportunity to make a grand gesture.
“We’re trying to start our own history and, hopefully, we’ll be able to look back on this year as the year that catapulted Nets basketball back to prominence,” he said.
The Nets (13-32) still have a long way to go, but getting a game-winner from Brook Lopez in Monday night’s 103-101 win over the post-LeBron Cavaliers at the Rock is a nice way to start, even if only 10,197 were announced to watch the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference. At one point, tickets at stubhub.com were listed at just 11 cents apiece. Lopez sank his baby-hook with 1.4 seconds remaining, capping a fourth-quarter comeback against the Cavs (8-36), whose losing streak reached 17 games.
Lopez’s game-winner was designed during a timeout and was “executed perfectly,” Johnson said, after Joey Graham had tied it with a 3-pointer with :7.1 left. The shot negated a lethargic first half from the Nets. “Man, I was praying, holding my breath. I really wanted this one for our guys,” said Johnson, who had designed a similar play that failed in the final seconds of Saturday night’s loss to the Mavericks. “Especially to execute something that we had been working on all morning, and we come to the game tonight and we actually needed it, and we went over it in a timeout and they executed it perfectly.”
Lopez finished with a game-high 28 points, while Anthony Morrow, in his third game back since injuring his hamstring, dropped 10 of his 16 in the fourth quarter. Johnson called Morrow the closer, “kind of like our Mariano Rivera.”
The first-year coach also bestowed pre-game praise on Kris Humphries, the team’s most improved player this season, who is playing on an expiring contract. “We want Humphries back,” Johnson said. “What the Nets are all about and where we’re going, Humphries is our kind of player. We’ve told him that. We would love to have you as a part of our program as we move forward.”
Humphries made Johnson look good by following with his 14th double of the season (11 points, 11 rebounds), carrying the Nets with his energy during stretches in the second half. In circles more familiar to TMZ, Humphries is best known as the new boyfriend of Kim Kardashian. But to the Nets, “Hump” is a player they want as part of their future in Brooklyn. “It’d be nice to continue to go on and try to really win games and make a push for the playoffs as we move towards Brooklyn,” he said.