Ken Sugiura sitting in for MC again. Michael stayed up in the northeast rather than bounce back down here for one game. He’ll be back with the team Sunday for the much-anticipated tilt with the Nets. Hmm, Sunday game at 1 p.m. I wonder if anything else will be on TV at that time?
The story, obviously, was the return of your favorite four-time All-Star. Joe Johnson surprised everyone when he showed up to the arena and wanted to give it a go. In recent days, Johnson had been working out and shooting on his own and was not feeling pain, which was encouraging to Larry Drew. Still, he wasn’t anticipating this quick a recovery.
Actually, the Hawks had their walkthrough before the game Friday without him. But he was shooting 3-pointers without pain, and he shot so well against assistant coach Nick Van Exel Thursday that he joked about getting on a plane to play in Boston. When he told Marvin Williams before the game Friday that he wanted to suit up, Williams didn’t believe him.
You can say what you want about him, but it was fairly clear to me talking to him and others how much he means to this team. He sounded very sincere in his desire to get back to the court as quickly as he could, and teammates like Williams and Mike Bibby sounded very glad to have him back, not just in a way they’d be glad to have any teammate back, but to have their leader return.
“That was another main factor why I wanted to come back,” Johnson said of the team’s recent downturn, “to help these guys. We’re all we’ve got in this room.”
I don’t anticipate a relapse on the injury. He got banged around a bit and held up fine.
- Which brings us to Jamal Crawford, who sat out his second game in a row with a back injury. Drew said he was told it was a disc problem, Crawford said it was spasms. He said his back locked up against Detroit and he tried to play through it without success.
He said it was feeling better and that he anticipated getting back against New Jersey or Orlando at the latest. Obviously, though, a back injury is not to be trifled with and something that can often get re-aggravated. Hopefully, some rest will be helpful for Crawford. The Hawks have some testy matchups coming up — Orlando on Monday, at New Orleans Dec. 26, at Oklahoma City New Year’s Eve — and it wouldn’t hurt for them to be at full strength.
- One positive the Hawks got out of Crawford being sidelined, though, was the play of Jeff Teague. I think MC might have covered this after the Boston game, but Teague said that with both Crawford and Johnson out against Boston, he felt responsible to pick up his game and play aggressively. I’m planning to cover this in a story for Monday’s paper.
He kept at it tonight with a real strong finish in the third quarter. I was watching him fairly closely, and I think this is a fairly accurate rundown of the possessions.
- Screen from Al Horford, finds Josh Powell alone under the basket, who gets fouled.
- Drives the lane, fouled by Derek Brown. Same possession, pick and pop with Horford, who hits from the free-throw line.
- Screen from Horford, Teague hits from free-throw line.
- On Charlotte’s ensuing possession, stays in front of shaking-and-baking D.J. Augustin, preventing him from driving. Augustin passes off to Tyrus Thomas, who chucks up a 3-point attempt airball as Charlotte has a 24-second violation.
- On final possession of the quarter, gets inbounds pass, dribbles upcourt, goes behind the back and pulls up for a buzzer-beating jumper over Augustin.
And then in the fourth quarter, he had that ridiculous block against the glass of Derrick Brown. He was in for 15 minutes total. I’m going to guess his 40 minutes back-to-back might be a career-best for him with the exception of games he’s started and then final regular-season game against Cleveland last year.
- Some numbers: Charlotte’s 18 offensive rebounds were the most against the Hawks this year, but the Bobcats only had nine second-chance points. Hawks had 27 fast-break points. Hawks went to the line just 13 times, fewest in the past six games.
Zaza Pachulia had a two-minute stint early after Horford got in foul trouble, got his own two quick whistles and didn’t go back in. All the Hawks starters were in double figures. Former Hawk Boris Diaw had 22 points, almost double his season average. Looks like he’s put on a little weight.
Hawks never trailed. Hawks took 25 3-pointers, the second-highest total of the season, making only six. Josh Smith, Mo Evans and Johnson were a combined 1-for-12. Hawks had eight blocks, one below season best. Teague had two, Smith and Horford had three.
- This isn’t exactly new territory, but it’s hard to believe Kwame Brown was once a No. 1 overall pick. I talked with someone within the past year who knew Brown in high school – I forget who but I’m not making it up – and he said basically that Brown just never was that into basketball. I imagine that can be something of a disadvantage in the pursuit of a professional basketball career.
I was looking at his Wikipedia page. Did you know about the incident in which he allegedly threw a cake at someone? Kind of funny, though strange. Rather interesting that Michael Jordan would sign him again after drafting him in Washington, and also that Brown wanted to go to Jordan’s team, although perhaps the options weren’t many. That’d be like if Billy Knight got a job somewhere and signed Shelden Williams.