NEW YORK – Mikhail Prokhorov saw the draining team spirit, the missing will to fight, and decided change was needed.
The Brooklyn Nets owner had to like the results in the first game under P.J. Carlesimo.
The Nets gave their interim coach a victory in his debut and the Charlotte Bobcats a 17th consecutive loss, getting 26 points and 11 rebounds from Brook Lopez in a 97-81 rout Friday night.
A day after firing Avery Johnson, the Nets played as they did last month, when they were 11-4 and Johnson was Eastern Conference coach of the month. They are 4-10 in December, a slump that cost Johnson his job, but got back over .500 with ease.
“It’s hard to be confident when you’re not enjoying success. So I think you have to play your way out of it, shoot your way out of it and I thought we did that tonight,” said Carlesimo, who coached the Sonics to a 20-62 record in the team’s final season in Seattle in 2007-08.
Deron Williams added 17 of his 19 points in the first half and Joe Johnson had 16 for the Nets, who led by 29 points and won for just the second time in seven games.
Hakim Warrick scored 13 points and Ramon Sessions had 12 for the Bobcats (7-22), who shot 38 percent and haven’t won since tying last season’s total with their seventh victory.
Of course, nobody is expecting the Bobcats to be any good. Prokhorov believes his team is, and he acted quickly when he didn’t like the team’s spirit.
The Russian billionaire cut short a ski vacation to Canada and revealed at halftime he had decided to fire Johnson last week. The Nets fired Johnson on Thursday and promoted Carlesimo, his assistant, to interim coach.
“I respect Avery and really I wish him well, but sometimes chemistry just isn’t right. It happens,” Prokhorov said.
Though names such as Phil Jackson and other top coaches have already been mentioned as replacements, Prokhorov said he wants Carlesimo to be the coach.
“He helped us focus tonight,” Lopez said.