May 17, 2023 8:06 pm
Avery Johnson joined Zach to discuss if he feels more confident in the Lakers or Nuggets after Game 1 and how good Victor Wembanyama can be with the Spurs.
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Our number three of our radio program, that's right, it is the Zach Gilb Show coast to coast on CBS Sports Radio. Denver survives game one last night between the Nuggets and Lakers by a final score of $1.32 to $1.26. You have game one of the Easter Conference Finals coming up in a few moments between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics in Boston at TD Garden. And we know last night, Victor Wabinyama is going to have a new home and that's going to be with the San Antonio Spurs as they did get the number one overall pick in the draft lottery. Let's head out to the hotline right now. Welcome in Avery Johnson who did win an NBA championship as a player with the Spurs in 1999, was a coach of the year with the Dallas Mavericks in 2006 and now does a phenomenal job with CBS Sports and CBS Sports HQ.
Avery, appreciate the time. Let me start you off with the game last night. Denver in the first half really took it to Los Angeles. The Lakers played as bad of a first half as you could but then they were right there at the end and Denver did survive. How do you walk away last night feeling about Los Angeles after what you got to witness? I still feel really good about the Lakers. You know I picked the Lakers to win this series four two and we'll see if they can get a split here in this next game but I think they found a couple of things in game one that they can lean on a little bit more. First of all, I really didn't like the starting lineup.
I thought it was too small. It'll be interesting if Darvin Ham inserts Hachimura into the lineup. I just think Schroeder, Russell and Reeves, it's just too small and it would give Anthony Davis a chance to rotate to help with Jokic and maybe not be the primary defender on him. Aaron Gordon is a guy that Anthony Davis can guard because he's not a prolific three-point shooter.
He rolled for three from the three-point line and actually struggled from the free throw line. So I think Darvin Ham, this is a series for maybe Hachimura to start. I don't know if this is a series for a guy like Jared Vanderbilt.
I think this is a seven-man rotation type of a series. If you need to go deeper into the bench you probably got to lean more towards a guy like Malik Beasley or if you want to throw Tristan Thompson in there and try to you know use up a couple of fouls for about eight minutes. So you'll see some adjustment from the Lakers defensively.
They weren't very good to start that game. They defended a little bit better as the game went on but when you give up 132 points in a playoff game you're probably going to lose. What was your reasoning just wondering heading into this series why you like the Lakers in six games? I just think overall this will be a series where Anthony Davis is really going to put his imprint on this series as time moves on and I just think defensively Jokic is not going to be able to hide.
Jamal Murray's not going to be able to hide. Obviously those guys had big games last night combining for 65 points but I think the Lakers wear them now as the series wears on. I believe other guys like D'Angelo Russell, he's been a hot and cold guy. When he's hot the Lakers win. When he's not hot they don't play as well. Lonnie Walker's obviously had his moments but I just think you know the combination of Anthony Davis and LeBron being two-way players they'll figure it out especially on the defensive end to try to slow down this Denver Nuggets team.
Avery Johnson here with us. You talked about Murray defensively. Now I know it's tough to question LeBron James but with under a minute to go you're down three. You have Murray on you. 15 seconds left on the shot clock and you pull up from three. I didn't like that selection by the king LeBron James.
How about yourself? He didn't like that shot at all especially had made his two free throws on the previous possession. I thought he was going to get downhill try to get a traditional three-point play you know at that time I believe Murray had five fouls so you know he could have easily fouled out in the game or but I'm sure LeBron James in that situation again that's a put your head down drive think right go left and just bulldoze your way into the paint make yokies try to come over and help play a two-man game with Anthony Davis at the rim and something great is going to happen. You've seen a lot of great players. You've coached them.
You played along with them. You watched a lot of great players as well growing up as a student of the game. When you see Nikola Jokic coach Avery Johnson and what he's been able to do the last few years just what goes through your mind? Man this guy's just sensational. I mean one of the best big men to ever play the game just his creativity his passing ability you know the three-point range he was three for three from three last night I mean you see you're dropping 34 21 and 14 assists and it's not your two guard or your small forward it's your center and the way he can run the break and lead the break man this guy is very unique. He's got a diversified skill set. He's maybe not the most athletic guy but arguably you know two-time MVP.
He's just phenomenal to watch. Avery Johnson here with us. When we take a look at the Easter Conference Finals game one coming up in a bit Heat and the Celtics. I think the Celtics are a better team.
I think the Celtics should win this series. It's just going to be how much of a fight are they going to allow for Miami who we know is such a tough team led by Jimmy Butler. I'm really curious tonight Avery Johnson what type of effort you see from Boston because just in this last series we saw them let Philadelphia hang around hang around hang around until there was no more margin of error for the Celtics.
Yeah I think they're going to put forward a strong effort. I think what the Heat is a 15 point underdog in this in this whole series basically. I know they're a big underdog whatever the numbers are but you can't this Heat team man this is a very dangerous team and with all the peaks and valleys that Jason Tatum have I know everybody wants to talk about the 50 plus points in the closeout game against Philly but he was really struggling going into game six into the fourth quarter in game six where before he made those three threes and I you know the peaks and valleys of Jason Tatum the turnovers you can't do that against Jimmy Butler he doesn't have as many peaks and valleys he's got more peaks so I'm just not under the mindset that this is going to be a clear domination series by the Boston Celtics. I'm not going to be surprised if this goes seven games I'm still picking Boston to win but man that Jimmy Butler he's a problem and he really puts his team on his back if he doesn't have any ankle issues in this series this could be a scary series for the Celtics and this is a different type of team than what they played against with Philadelphia.
I can't see Jimmy Butler playing the way James Harden and Jordan being if it's a game seven in Boston I can't see him having that type of performance. No doubt when we know that Butler has that killer instinct something that the Sixers have been lacking and he'll just take over a big game as we've seen before with Jimmy Butler you also look at the coaching advantage too Spolstra could be the best coach in the game right now when you look at Missoula of the Celtics what do you have to see from him as from a coaching perspective this series? You know what I think there's been some struggles there to be brutally honest and you've seen some of the lack of adjustments and you know Joe's going to have to be on top of his game you know they've lost a lot of key assistance Damon Stoudemire nobody wants to talk about them obviously Will Hardy you know he ended up leaving but they lost some key guys and obviously Mumei Yudoka was the coach last year and Joe wasn't even the head assistant so he's going up against a guy that's going to go down there as a Hall of Fame coach and Eric Spolstra two-time NBA champion is coached in the finals multiple times this guy is I believe has done the best coaching job this year from start to finish and you know they have a real serious infrastructure and culture there in Miami that that helps them from an accountability standpoint so obviously the coaching edge goes to the heat we'll see how much of a factor that's going to be in the series. Avery Johnson last night when you're seeing the cards get unveiled and everyone figure out who's going to get the number one pick for Victor Wimbunyama and it goes to the San Antonio Spurs an organization you clearly know very well just had to react to that one. Well I was texting a lot of my CBS HQ colleagues about that the fourth HQ colleagues it was just funny because I was remembering and I was on CBS Sports HQ last night doing the draft lottery and I was just remembering the time in 97 when the ping pong ball came up first and I was basically running around my neighborhood running around my house because I was so excited that we got Kim Duncan and I knew how that would forever change the series and I know the excitement of the Spurs fans last night I saw all the different replays on social media and this is a generational talent it'll be very interesting to see how he helps change the direction and unfortunately this franchise there's still not a playoff team today with this current roster as constructed but boy he brings a lot of hope and excitement to a franchise that he used to you know having foreign players like Tony Parker whose else is from France and Manu Ginobili and Boris Diao and Popovich and his staff knowing how to handle the likes of the David Robinsons and the Kim Duncans and now they got another you can't call him a Greek freak that name's already taken but the French freak is exciting.
And look at the praise right now throughout the last year Avery Johnson you had Steph Curry say that Victor Mbunyama is a cheat code you had LeBron James call the kid an alien and Giannis says he's never seen anyone like Victor Mbunyama I just wonder what the impact individually and also for a team could be your one with the hype just being through the roof for this kid? Well we know basketball is a team sport so you've got to have the other pieces around him fortunately he has a Hall of Fame coach who I'm going to be attending his Hall of Fame ceremony in August along with my former teammate and the player that I coach Dirk Nowitzki so it's pretty exciting you can see it you're going to see it from ticket sales the increase in you know regular season tickets and game day tickets he's disguised box office the Spurs I know there's maybe been some talk about a new arena so who knows he could be at the forefront of the Spurs getting a new arena you never know I know they have a 500 million dollar practice facility that's almost complete so he's going to affect ticket sales jersey sales restaurants oh man this guy won't be able to go anywhere San Antonio is like a four with four what seven million people is like a seven million populated college town the Spurs is the home team there's no disloyalty for those fans down in San Antonio so they have some another superstar to cheer for. I know your pal coach pop Greg Popovich is 74 years old I guess now he's never gonna retire maybe when he's 90.
I'm still surprised he's coaching right now I thought he would have walked away one of these last few years when everyone departed but now it's like you get this potentially generational player I don't think we'll ever see him retire no he knew what you thought he's gonna retire two years ago he looked in that crystal ball and saw this seven foot four phenom playing ball in Spain he said maybe I'll stick around and see what happens with that so I'm excited for him I got a text last night from the managing partner Peter John Holt who was very excited on TV and so just was happy for he and RC the one thing I will say is I'm gonna ask Victor to not have demands to bring my number six jersey that's retired in the right place that's retired in the rafters down but if he asks for it he can have it but hopefully my number six jersey can stay retired. How about that before we let you run Avery Johnson you know what it's like to be looking for a job as a coach you have three jobs that are open the Suns the Bucks and the Sixers if you were one of these top coaches on the market which job out of those three do you think is the most attractive? Wow I think you know anytime you have a job when you can coach Kevin Durant and Devin Booker especially with the way Devin Booker performed in the playoffs oh my goodness unbelievable anytime you can have that opportunity to coach those two guys and figure out what you're going to do with Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton obviously is a huge question mark that team is not very far off especially with a healthy uh Kevin Durant so that would be attractive um you know Milwaukee, Giannis you know and Middleton and Holliday those guys have won a championship they know how to get it done uh Brooke Lopez who I coached in uh Brooklyn slash New Jersey he's he's improved his game so uh I think those two jobs right there are at the forefront uh with some of these coaching job vacancies yeah Philly's a tough one right now because as good as Embiid is he probably has a window of a few more years to win a championship and if they bring back James Harden which you know Darryl Moore is going to want to do for that team I just don't think James Harden is the right fit because Philly needs a finisher and you see too much of James Harden even though he was really good last year he's just disappearing in the postseason yeah Philly's a little tougher I think um what whether James Harden's refined or not that's obviously going to be a huge topic of conversation but a lot of times when we're talking about replacing these guys like a James Harden who are you going to replace him with so you got to the eastern conference semi finals game seven you know those guys didn't have their best game obviously you know it led to Doc Rivers losing his job but if you're not going to be able to replace him with equal talent or two or three other role players that can help fill in the gaps then you're going to take a step back so uh but if you do resign him then you got to continue to build that rock surrounding and talk about guys like Tobias Harris what you're going to do with him that's a pretty big number um but Tyrese Maxey I think that's the way to go in terms of giving him more responsibility do you think this is it for Damon in Portland because a lot of people look at the draft lottery last night they get a big asset the third overall pick clearly it wasn't the number one overall pick to go get Victor Mbunyama but do you feel like a split should be coming with Dame or is he just going to keep on staying loyal and and sticking there in Portland? Well I'll finish with this I've been the one over the last two years that have been saying Dame is gone he's going to request a trade and I've been wrong for the last few years I've been shockingly wrong because the team is not going anywhere this they're not they're absolutely not going anywhere so with Scoot Henderson if he lands in that third spot and you'll give them a chance to get back and hit the reset button and do similar with the Spurs have done you know they they've lost for a couple of years and they've landed on a really uh great player uh but this team currently constructed Portland if the season were to start today even with Scoot Henderson on the roster they're they're not even a playing team so I I'm gonna say it again for the third year in a row I'm gonna expect Dame Lillard to maybe uh request the trade so that he can try to end his legendary career with playing deeper in the playoffs and maybe getting on a team that can play for a championship to try to submit his career. Well third time's a charm for for your case uh last one Avery Johnson I'm gonna let you run really do appreciate you doing this from a coaching perspective I know you know Steve Kerr very well uh getting Draymond Green and Jordan Poole back on the same page if they're if they're on the same team next year is enormous how would you try to kind of mend that relationship this summer because even Draymond admitted last night that he was in the wrong and it probably did derail their season this year. I believe if I was the general manager and I know about my years just taking some time off um you gotta move Jordan Poole I just think in the back of his mind you're never gonna get that video back of his mind I don't know if they can survive with those guys being on the same team uh Draymond couldn't really be himself I've heard him on interviews he couldn't really lead the way he wanted to lead because he always felt like he needed to apologize for that punch so I think the best case moving forward find Jordan Poole a new home bring in another shooter uh that has a clean slate with the Warriors and specifically Draymond Green and then see if you can try to uh move forward with the team that's currently constructed you still have the splash brothers they still can splash they still can they still one of the top back courts in the country uh James Wiseman was a big miss so you'll have to continue to figure out how to build your support staff and role players but uh I think finding uh Poole a new home I think is going to be better for him and it's going to be better for the Warriors Avery Johnson make sure you check him out CBS Sports CBS Sports HQ we always appreciate the time Avery okay thanks a lot appreciate it
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