Saturday, March 8, 2008

Johnson: Tough trading Devin & Diop

We heard from the players yesterday on the emotions associated with the return of Devin Harris and Gana Diop. What about the man that had to pull the trigger on the blockbuster deal that sent Jason Kidd back to Dallas?

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a different feeling,” Avery Johnson said earlier today. “We have some men over there that we’ve invested a lot of time into and we’ve been through a lot of different, tough games with and they cooperated while they were here and were very coachable, so, yeah, it is a little different.

“But we’re just in need of trying to play well. Once the ball goes up, you’ll forget about all that and everybody will play as hard as they can.”

Losers of three straight, the Mavs need a win in the worst way tonight against New Jersey at American Airlines Center. That’s got to be the focus. And though the NBA is a business, personal relationships aren’t brushed aside.

“Devin and Diop are two of the toughest players I’ve ever had to trade,” Johnson admitted. “Those players, I was kind of emotionally attached to. So it was tough to talk to them and let them know they were involved in this trade, but everybody has to move on.”

It shouldn’t take long tonight.

“It’s good to catch up, but once you’re on the court and in between the lines it’s all business,” Jerry Stackhouse said.

After about five minutes, emotions burn off and, as Stackhouse added: “It becomes the Mavs against the Nets. Both teams are striving and trying to get back in the playoff picture.”

Johnson went through similar separation issues as a player with two of the coaches he’s closest to – Gregg Popovich and Don Nelson. Though he parted ways on a few occasions with both, Johnson remained close to Pop and Nellie.

And just as he did with those two, Johnson hopes the friendship with Harris and Diop perseveres. Perhaps someday they can have dinner together.

“You have those strong ties to some players,” Johnson said. “Some players are easier to trade than others and those two right there were definitely hard.”

Johnson also continues to believe that Harris could be an All-Star down the road: “He has that potential. Who knows how it’s going to all come together.”

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