Maverick owner ousts Avery

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

The crazy season just got crazier in the NBA, the coaching carousel picking up steam and the speculation intensifying.

Trying to separate fact from fiction is like trying to find a Raptor not named Chris Bosh who is willing to attack the basket.

This much we do know: Avery Johnson is out in Dallas.

And if an SI.com published report proves factual, and given the author's close ties to the desert, no one is questioning its authenticity, Mike D'Antoni will soon be available.

Given how quickly the coaching landscape changes, it's little wonder why Sam Mitchell gets floated around in rumours, ones that have his name linked to the Big Apple.

D'Antoni is known for his uptempo style, his offence-first approach that helped inject life into a league dominated by half-court, boring basketball.

The guy who gave D'Antoni the coaching keys in Phoenix is president and general manager Bryan Colangelo, who met with the Raptors' coaching staff yesterday, a day after huddling with his players.

As much as people want to hail D'Antoni, the fact remains that the Suns go as Steve Nash goes.

When Nash was winning back-to-back MVPs, the Suns were title contenders.

In this spring's first-round exit, Nash could not contain Tony Parker.

Nash made the Suns and he also made Joe Johnson one rich young man when the athletic wing player bolted Phoenix for the Atlanta Hawks.

D'Antoni has two years and $8.5 million US left on his contract. But keep in mind that the Suns are owned by Robert Sarver, the same guy who couldn't get along with Colangelo.

As quickly as San Antonio disposed of the Suns on Tuesday, Jack McCallum broke the news of D'Antoni's imminent departure from the desert.

McCallum isn't one of those rumour mongers, attention grabbers, who have become the norm in sports reporting. The guy knows his stuff and remember McCallum wrote a book on the Suns, having spent an entire season documenting the team.

D'Antoni met with the media yesterday for about 90 seconds, during which time he said nothing to deny the report or douse the speculation concerning his future.

Like all teams, D'Antoni will meet with Sarver and GM Steve Kerr as a matter of course.

"We'll make a decision," D'Antoni said. "Hopefully, we go on and get this team over the top."

He was then asked if his preference was to stay with the Suns, an organization that is being portrayed as dysfunctional.

"I'm not going to sit here and explain, guys. I hate to be abrupt but we'll all sit down and talk and evaluate everything and see where we are.

"I would love to go on but, you know me, I'll keep talking and kill myself."

Kerr was handpicked by Sarver following a brief, but impressive career as a TV analyst.

Needless to say, Kerr dismissed reports of D'Antoni's ouster.

"There's no truth to that," Kerr said. "I asked Mike when the story came out and he denied it.

"Mike's our coach and has done a great job for four years. We'll get together soon and talk about where this team can go from here."

There's also an opening in Dallas, where yesterday the Mavs tied the can to Johnson, the Lil' General who clashed with Dallas owner Mark Cuban.

Just like the Suns, the Mavs have seen their championship window close at a time when distractions and internal conflicts ruined team chemistry.

Each team made some radical on-court moves, but neither panned out. Jason Kidd was completely outplayed by Chris Paul, while the Suns failed to find a way to use Shaquille O'Neal's diminishing skill set.

After leading the Miami Heat 2-0 in the NBA final two years ago, the Mavs went on to lose the next four games and the series.

They followed up a 60-win season a year ago by losing to the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors and then came this year's first-round flame-out to New Orleans.

Johnson told a radio audience that he harboured no ill-will.

"More than anything, I knew that after this year we were probably going in a different direction," Johnson said. "It's probably just something that needed to be done. It's not a separation or split or situation where I've been removed from head coaching duties that is a bitter situation. It's nothing like this.

"This was something that needed to happen. It happened. We're all going to go our separate ways.

"There's no animosity, no bitterness, nothing. We all still really care about each other.


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