Atlanta Hawks: Judging Joe Johnson

It would seem the pressure is on J.J for the playoffs.

He faded during the playoffs last spring and dismissed Hawks booing Hawks fans. J.J. came out of last year’s free agent summer with the most expensive contract in the league, one that limits the team’s financial flexibility going forward. He made his fifth consecutive All-Star game but just finished the least productive and efficient of his six seasons with the Hawks.

J.J. is the Hawks’ lead dog, and lead dogs in the NBA usually are judged by how far they take their squads. But J.J. said he doesn’t feel that burden.

“Not at all,” J.J. said. “In this case, it is not like that. We’ve got equal opportunity around here. We ain’t just depending on one guy. We’ve got two All-Stars. It’s not just going to be all on me. I don’t get all of the glory when we win so I don’t get to take all the [blame] when we lose.”

But as he said during the Orlando series last year, chances are J.J. will “take a lot of heat” if he stumbles and the Hawks fade like in the last two postseasons. Injuries were a factor both times for J.J. This year he had elbow surgery in December and sprained his shooting thumb in March.

Each time he’s queried about those injuries, he’s gone out of his way to say they won’t be an issue.

“It’s not going to affect anything,” he said. “I ain’t worried about it.”

All season J.J. has said he was looking forward to the playoffs so the Hawks could “prove everybody wrong.” And now that the postseason is about to start, I’ve noticed a difference in his mood. He seems more restless, as if he can’t wait to show what the Hawks can do.

J.J. has never been one to provide much clue to what he’s really feeling, but L.D. and his teammates have noticed a difference, too.

“You don’t get a lot of him from an emotional side, but just watching the things that he’s doing I can see that his focus is there,” L.D. said.

“I think he is ‘grind mode,’” Smoove said. “I know he definitely wants this series and definitely wants to play, and it all starts with him. If he looks like he is passionate and really wants it, I think it will trickle down. I think it might be a little bit more emotional for him this postseason.”

Perhaps J.J. feels slighted and disrespected. Maybe that could end up being a good thing.

“That’s the mentality we need him to have, and that’s the mentality we all should have is playing with a chip on our shoulder,” Al said. “That’s important.”

J.J. always has said he doesn’t care about the perception of outsiders. Now that it’s time for the Hawks to prove they are better than the beatdown they took from the Magic last spring and several times this season, he seems to be using the doubts as fuel.

“Speaking for myself, we are all we’ve got in this room,” J.J. said. “So we can care less what anybody else thinks about us. We are going to move forward. We know we are a pretty good team. We have just got to show it.”

Joe’s has played with more of an edge lately, too.

With the No. 5 seed locked up, he said he was using the last four games to “get in a rhythm.” You could see he was playing faster and getting to his sweet spots regardless of how defenses tried to play him. J.J.’s spot-up jumpers still weren’t falling–they haven’t all season, really–but there was purposefulness in his moves to the basket.

He got his post-ups and his floater. He made decisions quicker when the double teams came. It won’t be easy against Dwight and the Magic but J.J. going to the basket can be an an anecdote antidote to Atlanta’s jump-shot happy attack.

“I am really looking for him to get out of shooting slump he has been in,” Drew said. “He has been doing all the other things hard and I can’t really fault him on any of that. He’s doing things hard; he’s doing things with a pace; he’s doing things with energy. That’s where it all begins.

“I’m going to be going to him a lot in this series. He’s played well against Orlando [this season] and I expect him to do it again.”

Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat

238 comments Add your comment

tbhawksfan

April 14th, 2011
4:15 pm

“Speaking for myself, we are all we’ve got in this room,” J.J. said. “So we can care less what anybody else thinks about us.”

What JJ thinks about fans again. JJ is prepped for the playoffs

Hawk Str8Talk

April 14th, 2011
4:24 pm

I would like to say that this is EXACTLY why Joe Johnson, while a good shooting guard, should have never received an extension over $80M from the Atlanta Hawks. If he thought that they paid him that money to lose in the first round this year and NOT take responsibility for it, he must be more delusional than I even thought he could be.

chem

April 14th, 2011
4:26 pm

It’s true Joe, you don’t get all the glory when the Hawks win, but you do get all the money. Consummate team player

ant banks

April 14th, 2011
4:33 pm

Enter your comments here

Booo!

April 14th, 2011
4:36 pm

I dont care about what happend in the past Joe, Just get it done man. Drop 60+ on somebody and put the rest of the league on notice.

Go Hawks!!!

Free The Teague!!!

JeJe

April 14th, 2011
4:36 pm

LOL.

Joe didn’t play well last night. Apparently moving quickly equates playing with more of an edge. He still has had a garbage season. Score 25 a game as the highest paid player vs. Orlando and prove me wrong

What a joke

JeJe

April 14th, 2011
4:37 pm

Joe hasn’t had multiple 25 points games in like 3 years

Gainesville#1

April 14th, 2011
4:38 pm

Orlando doesnt have any gaurds that can guard him so he should post up and draw doubleteams all day.

The Game Has Changed

April 14th, 2011
4:43 pm

Listen up. If someone offered you 20 mil a year would you turn it down? I think not. Yall can hate all you want. I dont see the Bucks fans crying about paying M. Redd 18 mil a year and he has played in about 36 games the last two year. He is a top 10 shooting guard rather you like it or not. Maybe top 6. And how many shooting guards are in the league? Around 70. We would not have been to three straight playoffs without him. Stop hating haters. Go Hawks

The Game Has Changed

April 14th, 2011
4:45 pm

@JeJe-Joe and Kobe are the only shooting guards to avg 20,5,5 the last five years. But I guess you knew that.

Starrman

April 14th, 2011
4:45 pm

I bet Joe the Choke shows up again

Hollywould

April 14th, 2011
4:45 pm

Yeah, he will draw doubleteams after dribbling for 15 seconds and then passing out so someone has to shoot a 30 footer.

Najeh Davenpoop

April 14th, 2011
4:46 pm

From MC’s Twitter — this would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

Hollywould

April 14th, 2011
4:52 pm

The Game, Do you know any Buck Fans?

bigdave

April 14th, 2011
4:53 pm

i’ve said in the past..
though not a vocal raah raah guy that most like and i personally could care less for, if Joe Johnson showed fire/passion to some extent it would go a long way in this locker room.. when the Hawks play w/ emotion they play at a high level.. if Joe hits a big playoff shot and does one of those, “get up” arm motions to the phillips crowd.. hell would break loose..

LETS GET IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

fan4life93

April 14th, 2011
4:53 pm

We believe Joe, show us and the world what you have. Take J Rich to the f’ing basket! You are our leader and we believe!!! Get your rings this year and put Kobe and everyone else who thinks the Hawks are a bunch of no bodies in there place! Go Hawks!!!

bigdave

April 14th, 2011
4:53 pm

be special Joe!

Najeh Davenpoop

April 14th, 2011
4:54 pm

“Perhaps J.J. feels slighted and disrespected. Maybe that could end up being a good thing.”

If this results in him playing more quickly and aggressively rather than letting the defense dictate what he does, then it will be a good thing. If it results in him trying to take even tougher shots than usual, then no.

It really just comes down to how Joe feels like playing. If he would just stop thinking so much and force the defense to react to him rather than pound the ball into the ground deciding what to do, both he and the Hawks would be so much more effective.

Najeh Davenpoop

April 14th, 2011
4:58 pm

“Injuries were a factor both times for J.J. This year he had elbow surgery in December and sprained his shooting thumb in March.

Each time he’s queried about those injuries, he’s gone out of his way to say they won’t be an issue.”

I appreciate a guy who doesn’t make excuses. This was my favorite thing about Woody and it is one of the things I like about Joe. But ultimately, when the season is over, when it comes time to “judge Joe Johnson”, injuries are going to play a big part of the equation. If these injuries are more serious than he’s letting on and they have contributed to his decreased efficiency this season, he has a legitimate excuse and we in turn have hope that he will get back to the level at which he’s played over the past few years. If they are really as irrelevant as he wants us to believe, none of the other possible explanations regarding his decreased efficiency cast him in a very good light.

HawkFanWithClearVision

April 14th, 2011
4:59 pm

who’s ready for j-j-choooooke JOHNSON!!!!!!

niremetal

April 14th, 2011
4:59 pm

Antidote, MC. Antidote. ;)

isssie

April 14th, 2011
5:00 pm

JJ sucks. Total black hole. hope they trade him soooon.

The Game Has Changed

April 14th, 2011
5:01 pm

Yes Sir. I work for Airtran and thats one of our busiest station outside atlanta. I have to go there and work 6 times a year. I attend games there because we get free tickets. Dont forget about Marbury contract and Jamison contracts. I can go on and on.

The Game Has Changed

April 14th, 2011
5:03 pm

@Fan4life93-Well said. Im with you

Najeh Davenpoop

April 14th, 2011
5:03 pm

““I’m going to be going to him a lot in this series. He’s played well against Orlando [this season] and I expect him to do it again.””

If he’s going to go to Joe a lot, at least get him the ball in the places where he’s most effective. As NBA Playbook so brilliantly points out, the Hawks are good when they post up Joe and when they use off the ball screens. Both are good ways to free up Joe to get him makeable shots. On the other hand, the Hawks as a team are not very good in isolation and Joe is merely average as far as his efficiency in isolation. There are effective ways to get Joe the ball without resorting to iso-Joe. Hopefully the Hawks realize this and plan accordingly.

The Owl of Prophecy

April 14th, 2011
5:09 pm

@The Game has Changed…you are correct, and so has our culture. There is no “team spirit” anymore, just showcase individual talent without fouls being called because ‘the fans want to be entertained’! The NBA is real close to WWF, but with body art rather than costumes. Belkin has been laughing all the way to the bank in how he snookered these trustfundbaby owners. Everyone on this blog knows the Hawks will be one series and out. Who cares.

The Game Has Changed

April 14th, 2011
5:12 pm

@Issie-We are not giving up Joe. Why would we give up a top 6 or 7 shooting guard.

WaltFrazier

April 14th, 2011
5:19 pm

The Hawks are a PHENOMINAL team that was built from the ground up by Mike Woodsen, Billy Knight and Dominique Wilkins. They are a wonderful team to like because they have players who fight and play hard (jsmoove, al horford, jamal crawford, jeff teague and joe johnson). The Hawks are lacking only two things: direction and leadership. The Hawks have enough athleticism to win a championship but many times they are clueless as to what play they are going to run. Their offense sputters on many occasions and they tend to get outrebounded alot. The other two big shortages is there is a preponderance of many turnovers routinely and there is a disdain and failure to share the basketball and get enough assists to win a game. The problem with the Hawks is you dont know which Hawk team will show up. All I can say is if the Hawk team who recently beat Orlando AND Boston on consecutive games; IF THAT HAWKS TEAM SHOWS UP, WATCH OUT THEY ARE CAPABLE OF WINNING THE NBA CHAMPIONSHIP. On the other hand, if it is the other (lazy) Hawk team that quit on the season and finished the regular year by LOSING FOUR STRAIGHT GAMES BY completely quiting and failing to compete, then that Hawks team will get blown out four straight times and swept into the offseason. The hawks, if you havent noticed, have a jekyll and hyde team and you dont know which of those teams is going to show up. That is the major underlying problem being a hawks fan. The pathetic hawks team usually is being blown out by 30 by halftime. That team i refuse to watch. The other hawks team (i call them the championship hawks team) who competed with boston 3 years ago, taking them to 7 games, that hawks team shares the basketball and plays competitive, fun, entertaining basketball. I hope the great hawks team shows up for the playoffs and makes a concerted effort to bring home the gold trophy. Go Hawks.

ag

April 14th, 2011
5:21 pm

JJ best five best scoring games this season (Tor 37, mil 36, Sac 36, Phoe 34, NY 34)- all wins

His worst – not including 10 minutes against Char (NO, Mia 9; NY 7;Phil & Bos 6) The Hawks are 1-4 in those games.

I guess what sticks out is except for NY, his best games came against non-playoff teams. Yet, his worst games came against all playoff teams.

I don’t expect much out of Joe

START JEFF TEAGUE
FIRE WOODY-LITE

cp

April 14th, 2011
5:27 pm

It would be nice if he played well but I wont hold my breath.

steve brown

April 14th, 2011
5:29 pm

Competed in athletics my whole life without being paid a dime and can’t think of a single time I didn’t give it my all in an effort to win. The Hawk millionaires including players, coaches, management and owners should be ashamed at the lack of desire, integrity and just plain caring displayed by this team the past 2 weeks. Disgusting exhibition demonstrating not even a hint of self respect.

XYZ

April 14th, 2011
5:34 pm

Hawks should have never signed JJ. He is not a true leader. He’ll gets his points, but other than that, there isn’t anything special about this guy. The only reason he made the All-Star is because he’s a ball hog and shoots a ton. He doesn’t work hard. Big Al Horford is the true leader on this team and the offense should goes around him. The Hawks will never be a true contender as long as JJ is on the team. I said get rid of him. He suxs.

The Game Has Changed

April 14th, 2011
5:34 pm

@Waltfrazier-I feel the same way . I wish they would just get out and run run run. I feel if you have Joe, Marvin, Josh, Al, and Za Za on the court at the same time we shouldnt get out rebounded. That line up would give us the height advantage over every playoff team. All those guys are big, athletic, and talented. Lets Go Hawks

The Game Has Changed

April 14th, 2011
5:36 pm

@XYZ-The other 5 shooting guards that are better than Joe are in long term deals so we are going to keep Joe. So deal with it

Hawksfan31023

April 14th, 2011
5:36 pm

The Hawks will win in 5 games.

Ra'mon

April 14th, 2011
5:37 pm

The Hawks will win the series in 5 games.

Ra'mon

April 14th, 2011
5:38 pm

Wow, I’m finally able to post on the blog again, after being unable to every since I moved to Smyrna from Macon. SO many things I have wanted to comment on, over the last month, lol. So give me a moment.

mykhalc

April 14th, 2011
5:43 pm

the only switch that the Hawks have is an ‘OFF’ switch…PERIOD!!! and they showed it to us durin’ the course of most of this season. 6 losses in a row mean anythin’??? oh yeah…there was a reason right?? KA BOOM…PERIOD!!!

Najeh Davenpoop

April 14th, 2011
5:47 pm

Interesting to see the contrast in Dwight Howard’s approach to the series vs. Joe Johnson. Joe goes out of his way to emphasize that everyone on the team shares in the glory and the blame; Dwight goes out of his way to put the onus on himself. Not saying this to diss Joe, just pointing it out since it’s such a stark contrast.

Dr. Dave

April 14th, 2011
5:53 pm

Joe Johnson has no charisma and no heart. He is not a vocal leader. This is why the Hawks are in trouble. I wish we had let him go and saved our cap room for Dwight Howard so that he can come home to Atlanta. Now THAT would be worth a max contract.

mykhalc

April 14th, 2011
5:54 pm

yep…leader vs non-leader…simple ;-)

drmaryb (*_-)

April 14th, 2011
5:58 pm

Ra’mon

Welcome Back! And welcome to Atlanta.
_______________

XYZ …. never mind.

mykhalc

April 14th, 2011
6:00 pm

there is NOTHIN’ magical to figure out about this team!!! 3 years ago…yeah maybe. today, for those that continue to search, merely do it as a mental (maybe demented) exercise IMHO. i’ll always be a Hawks fan. but i’m NO fan of a bunch that has no team concept and with NO leaders. and LD is nightmare too and that’s bein’ kind. blow ‘em up PLEASE!!!

Rufus1

April 14th, 2011
6:07 pm

The moment has come….

The Hawks have waited for this moment all year, knowing they would be in the playoffs and the playoffs are all that matter.

The Hawks will be ready. If joe goes off for 30pts, the Magic will get blown away. We don’t need 30pts Joe, we need 20pts, 5rebs, 5ast Joe, and the defensive Joe, to win this series.

I PREDICT…

Josh will not miss 5 shots from 16-23ft, because he won’t take those shots….unless his is making them.

Al will average 16pts and 10rebs for the series.

Jamal will average 14pts and 3ast.

Marvin will average 7rbs a game.

NO ONE ON THE MAGIC WILL AVERAGE 18PTS A GAME!!!!

Hawks win in 6 games…

Ra'mon

April 14th, 2011
6:09 pm

First, its funny how when Horford was out, everyone made such a big deal about the Hawks losing to a playoff team. Yet, when Josh was out, the Hawks couldn’t beat the Wizards, and the Pacers (barely a playoff team).

Despite his shot selection (which is still pretty good actually if you consider his overall field goal percentage), Josh is the most important, and consistent player on this team. He’s shown up big for more games this season, than anyone else on the roster. And since the all star break, Al’s rebounding average has dropped more than a half of a rebound. Al went from 9.9 rpg to 9.3. Al is a great serviceable guy. But why does everyone on the roster say they get their energy from Josh, even though there are many times when Josh is the only one hustling? On the Bulls, every one got their energy from MJ, the Lakers – Kobe.

I don’t believe Josh is the type of player that may lead a team to a championship alone. But I do believe Josh is a championship type of player. And I would choose to keep him over Al and JJ. I actually would consider trading Al and Marvin to Dallas for Chandler and Terry. Then I would start Terry at the 2, and move Joe to the 3. After this I would cash in the difference of JC contract for 2-3 more valuable bench players.

O'Brien

April 14th, 2011
6:11 pm

We ain’t just depending on one guy. We’ve got two All-Stars. It’s not just going to be all on me. I don’t get all of the glory when we win so I don’t get to take all the [blame] when we lose.”.

I understand JJ wants to give credit to everyone on the team and say they are all threats. But I would have preferred if he put more of the onus on him. Its like he is running away from the responsibility.

Ra'mon

April 14th, 2011
6:15 pm

Drmary, thanks.

Najeh, Joe has NO leadership qualities. He just happened to be the best player on the team for a few seasons, but was never a leader. Anyone who says they wants to be a ’superstar’ (his words) along with Wade, James, and Kobe, knows that they are solely judged on the playoffs. McGrady and Vince Carter were never really considered great players because they never made it to the conference finals even though they had the talent (even more talent than Joe) to lead their team. And guess what, neither of them were ever considered great leaders either .

The Game Has Changed

April 14th, 2011
6:16 pm

@Ra’mon-Josh has shot us out of 10 games and turnovered us out of 7 and complained us out of 5. If anything I would get Chandler and Terry for him.

Elton

April 14th, 2011
6:22 pm

““I’m going to be going to him a lot in this series. He’s played well against Orlando [this season] and I expect him to do it again.”

This quote says it all. I’m already feeling worse about this series after hearing that. Going JJ more almost always hurts us. Everytime our worthless coach tries to force-feed Joe the ball, it results in an extremely inefficient and predictable offense, and we typically lose badly in those situations. What sickens me the most is that Drew still hasn’t learned that, and he calls himself a coach. It’s disgusting to even think about.

At some point, people need to realize that if you want to base your entire attack off of one player and isolation basketball, then you either need that one player to be a hall-of-fame caliber player who can do it all on the offensive end, or you need to have some other great strength to fall back on. For example, if your offense is based on inefficient isolation plays and you don’t have a superstar to go to for efficient isolation scoring (Joe does not fit these credentials at all), then you better be playing some incredible defense on the other end of the floor, otherwise, you are not going to go very far.

Think about it, all the great teams who have had success with their offensive revolving around one player have had something else special going for them. In recent history, when you think about this year’s bulls or last season’s cavaliers, both teams have had offenses that were dominated by one player (i.e. Rose, Lebron), but they have also had excellent defense to fall back upon, in case the offense just isn’t functioning correctly at all times. When you have great defense, you can get away with subpar offense to some extent.

Unfortunately, we don’t have either of those luxuries that I just described. We don’t have any single player capable of carrying us entirely on the offensive end, and I, personally, do not like that style of basketball anyway. Also, we don’t have a strong defensive team. Because of that, we have to win with unselfish team basketball where we maximize the strengths of our players, along with hustle and grit on the defensive end. That hustle and grit is almost nonexistent amongst most of our players, and our worthless coach has no clue how to maximize the strengths of our players, he only knows how to maximize our weaknesses (e.g. having all players resort to the jump shot as the primary attack). Additionally, we don’t have enough unselfish players on the team. Amongst the starting unit, we have only two players who play true team basketball and never play selfish – Marvin and Al. Those two players are, unfortunately, the players who receive the ball the least in the offense, unless they are just being used as middle-men to get the ball to someone else (e.g. Joe or Jamal). Our other unselfish players (Damien, Teague, Zaza) are sadly just not big enough factors to really impact the game much on the offensive end in this offense. Teague is never given the freedom, and both Damien and Zaza are basically garbage players (in the rebounding-putback sense) when it comes to offense.

With all of that being said, I don’t feel confident at all about this team. Until we get a competent coach who knows how to get the most out of his players and knows how to develop strategies that actually utilize their strengths, I’m afraid we will just be incredibly mediocre. Under Drew, I think we will probably become a lottery team.

Ra'mon

April 14th, 2011
6:22 pm

The Game has changed, which games has Josh shot us out of 10 times? And how is his shooting any worst than Joe’s, JC’s, or Al’s through various games of the season? He’s turnovered us out of 7 games? How, do you realize how many games Lebron, Kobe, Wade, Joe, and others have had with more than 7 turnovers in a single game. Complained us out of 5 games? Kirk Hinrich has been here for a month, and has already complained more on this team than Josh does. Or Kobe and Dwight have both reached the limits for technical fouls for a season. Yet, how many techs does Josh have on the season? Josh energy, defense, play making , scoring, rebounding, and simple presence, have won us over 25 games this season. Josh doesn’t even get to crash the boards on the offensive end because he has to get back and stop any fast break opportunities, yet he STILL ranks in the top 15 in the league in rebounding. Josh may should take the ball to the rim more, or post up more. But he stills post up more than anyone else on the team. Our starting center averages 2 free throws a game. TWO FREE THROWS A GAME. How is that going to get the other teams big in foul trouble?