DALLAS — Mavericks players didn't seem too stunned Wednesday when they learned coach Avery Johnson had been fired. While the players care for Johnson as a person, they know this is coaching life in the NBA — win or else.
"After you have a run in this league, and you don't have the success that a team of this caliber is supposed to have, obviously there's going to be change," veteran Jerry Stackhouse said. "It's nothing personal.
"We've been able to write some history with the Dallas Mavericks in the last four years, but at the end of the day, the bottom line is winning a championship and we weren't able to do that."
Players met with team officials at American Airlines Center during the afternoon and then faced reporters one last time before scattering for the summer.
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Center Erick Dampier said the players weren't told exactly why Johnson was fired. But if you win, the coaches stay.
"If you're losers, they decide to make changes," he said.
Johnson did win during the regular season. He was 194-70 in three-plus seasons. But Johnson leaves Dallas with a 23-24 postseason record, which includes three consecutive playoff collapses.
"I think you're always measured with winning," Jason Kidd said. "Unfortunately we didn't win, so as a team we probably let Coach down in that sense. That's probably why he was fired."
Dampier believes this wasn't a situation where the players tuned Johnson's message out.
"I think he definitely had the guys behind him," Dampier said. "He was the general, the leader of the team. He had everything under control. I think the guys were definitely still behind him. Unfortunately the situation turned out the way it did."
CELTICS 110, HAWKS 85, at Boston — Paul Pierce scored a playoff-high 22 points, and Ray Allen hit three 3-pointers in the middle of the third quarter to turn back Atlanta's charge and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 is in Atlanta on Friday.
WIZARDS 88, CAVALIERS 87, at Cleveland — Caron Butler saved Washington's season by making a layup with 3.9 seconds left, and the Wizards held their breath as Cleveland's LeBron James missed a potential series-ending layup at the horn, adding at least one more game to this overheated NBA playoff series. Game 6 is Friday in Washington.
DURANT TOP ROOKIE — The expectations were there for Kevin Durant the day he first arrived in Seattle: Anything less than being the best rookie in the NBA would be a disappointment.
Durant didn't disappoint.
Durant, 19, the Sonics' dynamic young star, has been chosen as the NBA Rookie of the Year, The Associated Press has learned from a person with knowledge of the vote. The person requested anonymity because the official announcement has not been made, but is likely to come today when the Sonics have scheduled a news conference.
TIP-INS — Boston forward Paul Pierce, fined $25,000 for what the NBA called a "menacing gesture" during Game 3 of Boston's playoff series against Atlanta, denied that the sign was gang-related. "I 100 percent do not in any way promote gang violence or anything close to it," Pierce said. ... Washington All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas says he won't play again this season because of problems with his surgically repaired knee.
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