Avery Johnson Interview
After winning the first two games of the 2006 NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks have dropped two straight games to the Miami Heat. The series is now tied 2-2. And Jerry Stackhouse's hard foul on Shaquille O'Neal in Game 4 resulted in a one-game suspension. Here's what Mavs coach Avery Johnson said to the media in press conference on Saturday, the day before Game 5:
Q. Have you been able to transmit your anger to your players in the last couple days? To get them a little bit more aggressive, angry, upset, whatever word you want to use?
AVERY JOHNSON: We've taken a look at where we are right now, and we just haven't played our style of basketball. We haven't been as proactive as we'd liked to be offensively and defensively. We don't like losing the rebound game. So we'll have another opportunity to get back and do it tomorrow.
Q. You've had a little while to mull the Stackhouse suspension. Can you just talk about your reaction to that now, and also, what do you guys have to do to make up for his loss tomorrow night?
AVERY JOHNSON: Well, I guess I've expressed my disappointment. And I don't know -- what am I supposed to do? Everybody's so amazed that I disagree with the decision. I mean, what am I supposed to do, go out and have a parade and have a party? Because the league comes down with a certain ruling, what are we supposed to do as coaches? Say, amen? I disagree with the ruling, all right. I don't think it's consistent with what we've seen in the playoffs. Didn't bother Shaq. I just want -- I want there to be a level of consistency. There's too much inconsistency, all right. That's my opinion, based on what I see.
Q. It does seem a little out of character for you, though. All season you've made a point of...
AVERY JOHNSON: Let me say something to that, also. See, when I was a player, I used to see -- and I may not know all of the coaches in our league, all right, but I have a high level of respect, especially now that I'm on this side. I have a high level of respect for what these guys have been going through for all of these years, all right. Whether I know you or whether it's Lawrence Frank and I don't know you that well, or it's Mike Dunleavy or Doc Rivers, it really doesn't matter, Jerry Sloan, Popovich. But what I've seen these guys go through, and I used to just watch all of the interviews when something happens and they may complain or say something. I say, well, well, maybe I don't want to do that. But it's really amazing when you get on this side and you see the stuff that these great coaches in our league have to go through, day-in and day-out. You just want it to be a level of consistency. That's the frustration for me. Just be consistent, all right. Whether it's Player A that commits a Player B on this team that commits a flagrant foul, whether it's Player A that displaces or reroutes; just make it consistent. And then let the players decide the game. That's it. That's all we want as coaches. Does that answer your question?
Q. Obviously you've traded in some convenience for relative privacy up in Fort Lauderdale, I guess, just curious, how long is the bus ride here?
AVERY JOHNSON: Longer than it was three days ago. (Laughter).
Q. Without Jerry tomorrow night, who do you anticipate taking those shots?
AVERY JOHNSON: We've been adjusting all year. We've been injured all year. We've had more players suspended in the playoffs than any team, right. Anybody else had three guys suspended? Who else? Who else? So we have made a concerted effort from the day I took this job, never to complain. But I think people have taken that for a weakness. See, because I always said in my mind, there's certain things that I just don't want to do as a coach. So we have been injured, we've gotten guys suspended, but we don't complain. All we want to do is play ball. But it's just hard when there's a level of inconsistency.
Q. Yesterday in the interview that you gave to the radio, you went a step further with the inconsistency, you said that some players get special treatment over others...
AVERY JOHNSON: That's a historical thing in the league. That's nothing new. We have all been around the NBA. But that's the way it is.
Q. You had mentioned Shaq in particular, and also your owner mentioned that in comments yesterday; that they are not calling things on him, and the same thing that happened during the regular season, Shaq only got a slap on the wrist.
AVERY JOHNSON: Really and truly, I never want to cry about -- and I don't like using other players' names, all right. My point is this: First, you guys, go back and look at the first play of the game, all right. Their player, Player A, came over and just pounded Dirk. Wasn't crying, I wasn't crying about a flagrant foul, all right. It was an elbow to Dirk's head. We weren't crying about a flagrant foul, because we don't complain about flagrant fouls, all right. But we make the same attempt, and then my player gets suspended. So now because I'm supposed to be a religious man, I'm supposed to come in here today and have a prayer meeting. (Laughter).
Q. At 2-2 in this format, would you rather have Game 5 at home or the last two at home?
AVERY JOHNSON: We don't complain about the format. We have worked all year to get to this point. We've all talked about getting The Finals and winning a championship. Just give ourselves a chance. We know if we made it to this point, we're going to be playing against the Heat, we're going to be playing against Detroit, we're going to be playing against Team A -- we knew we were going to be playing against a great team. All we want to be able to do is come out and just play the game, and just no preferential treatment. Just play, just be consistent. Let the players determine who is going to win. That's it. That's all I ever want.
Q. Zo was just lamenting out there the fact that you can't play the same kind of physical style that you...
AVERY JOHNSON: You can't? Oh, when did that start? The league took rerouting and all of this stuff out of the game, so when did that happen?
Q. Well, you want me to give you an example?
AVERY JOHNSON: Yeah, give me an example.
Q. For instance, Kevin McHale close-lining Kurt Rambis, he would be out for rest of the playoffs. Bill Laimbeer and Robert Parish wouldn't have played any of that series. Hakeem and Ewing and Houston would foul out of every game. The league has purposely tried to change the tenor and that's what Zo was saying, too. How frustrating is it as a coach? Hard foul has always been a part of the game of basketball, making a guy think twice about going to the basket twice. As a coach now, how difficult as a coach is it to adjust your mindset to rules that are clearly different?
AVERY JOHNSON: That's something that we've talked about all year, and it was, again, with us trying to change the way we play Maverick basketball. We teach hard fouls. We do not teach flagrant fouls. We teach hard, clean fouls. That's a big part of our game.
Now, have I seen it from our team as much as I want to? No. But when we attempt to make a play on an individual and then get suspended, that's pretty disappointing. But now, you know, we can't disagree with the hierarchy, that's supposed to be a no-no. So I guess what are we supposed to do?
Q. That's what I'm asking you: What are you supposed to do? How do you get the mindset of your players that's been that way for a lot of years to change just enough?
AVERY JOHNSON: Just allow both teams to play the same way, that's all, just be consistent. We'll keep teaching it and we'll keep adjusting.
Q. You sounded pretty frustrated yesterday with your team, talking about the vacation mentality. Now you sound pretty frustrated with the league. First, what are you more frustrated with, and secondly, do you have an outlet at all for any of this frustration?
AVERY JOHNSON: Well, for us, as a team, the reason why this series is 2-2, first of all, is because Miami has come out and they have won two games on their home court. They have won two games on their home court and they deserve to win. It's nobody's fault. We've never taken that M.O. of blaming other situations why we lose. We've given credit to our opponents all year. If you guys have followed me all year, you've never seen me make an excuse when we lose. So let's give the Heat some credit for tying up the series 2-2. So that's why we are where we're.
Again, where we are today is because one of my players have been suspended, all right, and I'm frustrated at the ruling. I'm disappointed with the ruling.
Q. You've talked about needing to be maybe more aggressive against Wade defensively, and you're teaching hard fouls, but not flagrant. Are you afraid maybe guys try to do a better job on him and somebody gets suspended?
AVERY JOHNSON: No. Gets suspended? That will be No. 4, then. That will be No. 4. Maybe you shouldn't even say that because somebody may be listening. (Laughter). Come on, Sam, you had a question. What you got? You always have a brilliant question. Come on, ask me something good.
Q. They all use the magic word in the NBA, the integrity of the game and I think that's why some of the questions have come up and the comments you made; do you think that you might get a fine from the league because the question of saying that one player is favored over another in the NBA is usually sensitive -- questions the integrity of the game?
AVERY JOHNSON: First of all, Sam, I've been here for a long time, all right. The NBA, we have a great game. The NBA have afforded us coaches and me previously, player, a great life, all right. This is a great game with great players. Like I told you, I don't know all the coaches personally, but I have a high level of respect for them, also. I don't think you can question necessarily the integrity of our game, or the people who are in authoritative positions. All I'm saying is, I'd just like to see some consistency.