Even though the Brooklyn Nets beat the Orlando Magic on Sunday, Joe Johnson wasn’t happy after the game and blasted his teammates for being “selfish”. A couple of days later, his teammates have responded and he isn’t backing down from the statement.
“I just think guys kind of exhaust their options and then when there’s nothing else for them, then they’ll pass it when they have to,” Johnson told Howie Kussoy of the NY Post. “For the most part, we’ve been very selfish. 4-2, I mean, it’s pretty good, but I wouldn’t say it’s where we want to be right now against teams that aren’t playoff teams. Honestly, I have no idea how it changes.”
Johnson wouldn’t single out any teammates in particular and added that he hadn’t discussed the problem with the team at that point, only the media.
On Tuesday, head coach Lionel Hollins responded. He didn’t sound upset at Johnson for speaking his mind, but he didn’t seem to agree.
“They’re grown men, and they’re entitled to their opinion,” said Hollins. “I don’t have to agree or disagree — I don’t care what they say. I thought our ball movement was really good. I thought our offense was really good.”
Kevin Garnett and other teammates responded on Wednesday during practice.
“I think for one of our star players to come out and call out our team and not an individual says a lot,” Kevin Garnett said. “I can understand where he comes from. Our shot selection sometimes is not the best. Overall, I guess the message here, and I want everyone to understand this, is team.”
“Usually when you make a comment like this it’s severe, you would like to keep it internal, but we’re professionals,” KG told Stefan Bondy of the NY Daily News.
Even though Johnson didn’t call anybody out by name, Devin Kharpertian had a great piece on The Brooklyn Game where he called out Brook Lopez as the team’s passing problem. More from Kharpertian:
The Nets on the outset don’t seem to have too many passing issues. They’re in the middle of the pack in assists per 48 minutes, and though they’re on the lower end of the NBA in team passes per game, that’s partially deflated by their slow pace.
But Lopez has recorded just one assist (to Mirza Teletovic) and one secondary assist through four games. Worse, according to SportVU data provided exclusively to The Brooklyn Game, Lopez has touched the ball 88 times in the frontcourt, and only passed 29 (29!) times. Only Nikola Pekovic & Andre Drummond have a worse ratio of passes to touches in the frontcourt…
…Even if he’s not talking about Brook Lopez, the profile fits. (Let’s also not forget that Johnson said it wasn’t like this in preseason — when Lopez mostly sat out with a mild right midfoot sprain).
It seems unlikely that this is going to create a locker room rift, but it is troubling what’s happening so far with the Nets this season. Nobody seems to be taking this with much offense, but, remember, this isn’t the first issue that they’ve had so far during this young season. The Nets have already seen head coach Lionel Hollins call out Lopez for his poor defense.
This could be a sign of building tensions or it could be the fact that it’s so early in the season and the team chemistry just isn’t there yet. The Nets are 4-2 now so things aren’t so bad. But they have played nothing but bad teams so far and they should probably be 6-0. Once they start playing some tougher opponents, we’ll see how big of a deal this really becomes.