Joe Johnson plans to ease his way back into the lineup because of his troublesome left knee. Obviously it’s not good for the Hawks to have him out of the lineup (even if you like that ball movement without him) but, in the long term, they have to be happy to see their All-Star guard embracing a cautious approach.
“Right when it’s feeling great, I don’t want to jump straight back out there,” Joe said today. “That’s kind of what I did last time. I thought it was feeling great but then I got to running on it and it was different. I am going to really test it before I get out there.”
If Joe sticks to that plan, he’ll miss both tomorrow’s game at Indiana and Wednesday at Miami. The Hawks aren’t scheduled to practice Thursday after the back-to-back and will have a shootaround before Friday’s game at the Pistons. I wouldn’t be surprised if Joe sat that one out, too, and then test ed the knee during Saturday’s practice in Detroit.
This is the first time I can recall Joe taking the long view on an injury and choosing to sit when he could suit up. He’s a tough player who’s reluctant to talk much about his injuries lest it be viewed as making excuses, but sometimes he probably should rest instead of pushing injuries.
Remember two seasons ago Joe never really let his sore right thumb heal (it still flares up from time to time). Last season Joe didn’t tell anyone about his elbow problem before suddenly going in for surgery, then rushed back from that injury–after a hot streak in January, he faded down the stretch.
Joe said there’s still some pain in the knee but not as much as after he played against Golden State last week.
“The main thing right now is to strengthen my quadriceps to knock that tendinitis out,” he said. “So far it’s been working.”
Asked if it’s tough to sit out, Joe said: “We keep winning, it’s not that hard. I think you lose a game or two you tend to get anxious and want to get out there and help as much as possible. But we keep winning, [so] all I have got to do is take my time.”
Unfortunately for the Hawks, the timing of Joe’s knee troubles is bad because it adds him to their increasingly crowded injured list right before they embark on a challenging six-game trip.
Willie Green (back spasms) participated in practice today but is questionable to play against the Pacers. So is Tracy McGrady (knee), who was limited in practice today, and Jerry Stackhouse, who didn’t travel with the team today because of a stomach virus. Jason Collins (elbow) won’t make the trip, which means he’s out at least another two weeks.
“I think we have more day-to-day [guys] than we do active bodies,” Larry Drew joked.
Green took the court today for the first time since David Lee crashed into him and tweaked his back. He said he’s had back spasms one other time in his career, though he can’t recall exactly when. Green’s treatment plan has included massage therapy and stretching to loosen up his back.
“See how it feels tomorrow and go from there,” Green said.
McGrady declined to talk to media today. He told a Hawks spokesman the knee feels “OK” and he’s day-to-day.
Drew said Stackhouse could re-join the team tomorrow in Indiana. The Hawks said they don’t believe Stackhouse’s illness is related to the bug that recently sidelined Vladimir Radmanovic.
So the Hawks could open the trip with Kirk Hinrich as the only healthy shooting guard. If that’s the case, Drew probably will have no choice but to go small in the backcourt for stretches until Green or Stackhouse returns.
The schedule provides no relief with Indiana, Miami, Denver and the Clippers among Atlanta’s six opponents in nine days.
“We are playing some good teams,” Drew said. “Certainly it will be a big challenge for us given whether we may or may not have Joe. Obviously Al [Horford] has been gone all year. It gives our bench guys a chance to play against some good teams. A lot of them are used to playing against those second-team type players. Now, with our situation what it is, they will be thrown into the fire to play against these first-tier guys and play significant minutes. It will be a big test for us. I’m anxious to see how we respond.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat