After the Brooklyn Nets unexpectedly fired head coach Avery Johnson on Thursday, much of the blame fell on star point guard Deron Williams, due to the pair’s reported rift.
But Williams downplayed those suggestions on Thursday. He told the New York Daily News’ Stefan Bondy Thursday night that he had nothing to do with Johnson’s firing. In fact, he said, he was as “surprised” as anyone.
“I was surprised,” Williams said in a telephone interview with Daily News. “I never had any conversation with (GM) Billy King about not liking coach, nothing about coach Johnson. Avery was a big reason I came back, because him and Billy. So I was surprised.
The Nets fired Johnson on Thursday after a 14-14 start and a horrid month of December in the franchise’s much-anticipated first season in Brooklyn.
For Williams, the situation mirrors one two years ago when he was with the Utah Jazz. Coach Jerry Sloan retired then after a reported rift with Williams.
Last week, Williams caused a stir when he said that he had never been comfortable in Johnson’s offense. But on Thursday, he tried to put aside any notion that those comments led to bad blood between him and Johnson.
“It’s almost like I’m always on the offense when I talk about Utah because of how things ended there with coach Sloan,” Williams said. “So the next day I went in, talked to coach Johnson and made sure he knew that I didn’t mean anything by it, and he was like, ‘No worries, I haven’t even thought about it.”
Johnson was in the final year of a three-year, $12 million contract. Williams, who signed a near $100 million contract this offseason, has struggled this season. He has averaged 16.6 points per game while shooting only 39.8 percent from the field.