Just 10 days after he had surgery to remove a loose body from his shooting elbow, Hawks guard Joe Johnson was making jump shots today at Hawks practice.
Johnson took some midrange jump shots near the end of the team’s practice. He said the first 10 attempts felt awkward because it had been so long since he got shots up.
“For the most part if was pain-free,” he said. “But we are taking it one day at a time. I may have a little soreness tomorrow. We are trying to get it as strong as possible.”
Johnson and the team said his activity today is not an indication that he will return sooner than the minimum four weeks announced when he had the procedure on Dec. 2. But coach Larry Drew took it as a sign that Johnson at least might be on the short end of the four to six week timetable.
“Heck yeah,” he said. “It was good to see him out there. I don’t know what the timetable is as far as his comeback. But I am very encouraged that he is able to be out there just to shoot. We will see how it goes as he continues his therapy.”
Johnson has been durable during his career and is reluctant to sit out games due to injury. The team wasn’t even aware of the seriousness of the elbow injury until the pain became too much for Johnson to ignore and he sought medical treatment.
But Johnson said sitting out might end up being the best thing for both him and the team in the long run. The Hawks have won five of seven games without Johnson, whose uncharacteristic shooting woes were in stark contrast to the accuracy of the rest of Atlanta’s regulars.
“Things happen in mysterious ways,” Johnson said. “This could be a blessing in disguise. It can help me feel better or give me a break, and let the guys go out there and figure things out [without him]. Who knows? So far, so good.”
The Hawks have managed to win without Johnson but Drew said he looks forward to getting him back healthy and productive. Johnson has generally fit in with Drew’s philosophy of sharing the ball and spreading around the scoring (he leads the team in assists per game) so if he can improve his shooting accuracy while maintaining that approach Atlanta’s offense should be enhanced.
“He has missed a lot of good looks, shots that he normally makes,” Drew said. “We are just hoping the problem was the elbow and we can get the ‘old Joe’ back.”
Johnson’s return also would allow Drew to cease the lineup shuffling that’s included using Marvin Williams at shooting guard. Drew has used Johnson to defend point guards, shooting guards and small forwards, and the recent addition of Damien Wilkins as a defensive specialist should help ease the burden on Johnson.
Johnson was struggling and the Hawks have managed without him but he is the team’s top dog and their longtime mainstay.
“I do like the fact that we are less predictable [without Johnson] but I also know that with Joe in the lineup, he is a go-to guy,” Drew said. “I know in most cases he is going to command a double team. It is just a matter of making the right play out of the double team which he has shown the willingness to do. His presence [is important]. I know when he is out there, I can see the body language of our players they swell with confidence with his presence.”
– Al Horford (hand), Mo Evans (knee) and Josh Powell (knee) missed portions of practice today. The Hawks said all are expected to play tomorrow at Detroit.