Former coach faces sizzling Mavericks
DALLAS -- Former Dallas coach Avery Johnson will make his first return to his old haunt as an opposing coach when the New Jersey Nets try to put an end to the Mavericks' 10-game winning streak on Thursday night.
And Johnson, who coached the Mavericks for three-plus seasons, is making it known just how important this game means to him.
"The coaches that have told you that it doesn't mean anything and it's just another game, that's a complete lie, OK? I'm calling them all out," Johnson said. "This is not just another game, especially when you have so many great memories. I'm going to probably have 25 or 30 people here. We have a special little dinner here tonight with a few close friends and family. So, it's going to be wonderful.
"It's just going to be weird. I've sat on the other side as a player, but I've never sat on those seats over there as a coach. It's going to be fun."
Johnson took over a mostly veteran Mavericks team from Don Nelson at the end of the 2004-05 season, and he put together a 194-70 regular-season record during his tenure.
He also had a 23-24 playoff mark with the Mavericks, which included a gut-wrenching loss to the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals.
His task at stopping the NBA's hottest team will be made tougher with the "favorable" return of Mavs starting center Tyson Chandler, who participated in Wednesday's practice after missing Tuesday's game and Monday's practice with a stomach illness.
"He's not completely 100 percent, but hopefully by tomorrow he'll keep improving," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "We hope he'll play. At this point it looks favorable, but I always hold the caveat that it may not happen for whatever reason."
The game also will feature the return of former guard Devin Harris, who was traded by the Mavericks to the Nets during the 2007-08 season.
The 27-year-old Harris is averaging 17.2 points and 6.8 assists for the Nets, who have lost five games in a row and have the worst record in the Eastern Conference at 6-16.
But Harris said Johnson's emotions about the game will carry over to the rest of the team.
"It will," Harris said. "I can sense it."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
DALLAS TOP STORIES
MORE NBA HEADLINES
- adidas Men's Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki #41 Revolution 30 Replica Light Royal Basketball Jersey