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Mike Fratello explains the importance of a team’s “mental health” and gives his thoughts on “new money” owners in the league.
The Brooklyn Nets have dropped four games in a row. Starting center Brook Lopez missed Brooklyn’s last five contests with a right foot injury that isn’t healing as quickly as expected. Into this 5-spot void coach Avery Johnson has inserted 6’11” Andray Blatche.
26-year-old Blatche spent the first seven seasons of his eight-year NBA career with the underperforming Washington Wizards. Blatche had some success, but was criticized for having a poor work ethic. He also got into some off-court trouble, which diminished his popularity with DC fans who often greeted Blatche with boos and taunts.
This past summer, the Wiz waived Blatche with the Amnesty Clause, and he hooked on with the Nets under a one year, non-guaranteed deal. The slimmed-down Blatche appeared motivated to make the most of his opportunity to start with a clean slate in Brooklyn. Coach Johnson quickly named Blatche his backup center and publicly stated that he has confidence in Blatche at the 5 and at the 4.
In the Nets’ 15 games in November, Blatche averaged 9.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg and .5 spg in 17.9 mpg, shooting .448 from the field. So far in December he’s putting up 18 ppg, 10 rpg and 2.5 spg in 29 mpg, shooting .553 from the field. On December 7th, Blatche scored 22 points with 15 boards and 4 steals in 35 minutes of court time in a home loss to the Warriors.
Lopez missed all but 5 of the 66 games last season with a broken right foot, so the Nets will definitely play it safe while he recovers from his most recent injury. Renewed by the transition to a franchise on the rise and loaded with talent, look for Blatche’s comfort level, minutes and production to increase while he fills in for Lopez.
In the third quarter of Wednesday’s loss to the Wizards, Deron Williams was hit with consecutive technical fouls and ejected from the game after arguing a no-call with the officials. Coach Avery Johnson reacted to losing his All-Star starting point guard and wound up joining Williams in the Nets’ locker room after getting tossed during the same timeout.
When your star player is thrown out of a game, as head coach you have to deal with the aftermath and decide how to react to the referee’s decision, bearing your team’s best interest in mind. Sometimes your emotions will get the best of you, but you must try to keep them in check and figure out what will ultimately benefit your team. Does your team need you on the court? Or is there more value in making a statement by venting your frustrations?
Though I earned more than my fair share of technicals when I was coaching, I seldom got myself thrown out of a game intentionally. However, it did happen on occasion. There were nights when I decided enough was enough, and I made my point. I also paid some hefty fines to the league as a result. But for the most part I felt my job was to guide my team down the stretch. Players expect their coach to be there for them when the going gets tough.
Of course keeping your cool while doing battle on the NBA hardwood is far easier said than done. But if you want to stay on the sidelines and guide your guys to a win, you’ve got to regroup, get your emotions under control and lay off the officials. Your team will only get back in the game by playing good basketball.