Drew finally speaks to Joe Johnson, and he wants him back

For the first time since getting the Hawks' coaching job . . .

For the first time since getting the Hawks' coaching job . . .

Larry Drew was tired late Thursday night, so tired that, as he said, “One of my bulbs is out and the other one is blinking.”

But the new Hawks coach was happy for two reasons: 1) The team had drafted Xavier’s Jordan Crawford, whose game tape makes Drew light up; 2) For the first time since he was named the team’s head coach, Drew said he finally got a return phone call from impending free agent Joe Johnson and the two spoke about the future.

“It was encouraging,” Drew said. “Joe’s not going to tip his hand. But we had a good conversation. I had left him a couple of messages and

. . . Larry Drew had a chance to speak to Joe Johnson. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

. . . Larry Drew spoke to Joe Johnson. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Joe did respond back, and I was happy that he did.”

Drew said he was sitting in his Philips Arena office on Monday. His phone was on his desk and he had left for a minute to go to the restroom. “When I was in the restroom I heard the phone vibrate on the desk. When I got back there I saw who it was and I quickly picked it up. I was hoping it wouldn’t say, ‘Call missed.’”

Re-stating the obvious: Drew wants Johnson back. He told him that: “The one thing I said was I totally respect his position in the free agency market. There are teams that want him and will do everything they can to entice him, and I said we want him even more.”

He is aware that the fan base is somewhat divided on Johnson, given some poor playoff performances and his comments following a loss during the disastrous Orlando series. Johnson and the team were booed loudly during a Game 3 blowout at home, setting up the likelihood of several empty seats for Game 4 and prompting Johnson’s comment: “We could care less if they showed up.”

Drew believes Johnson regrets those comments and would like to make amends for his playoff showing.

“I know he’s disappointed about his performance in the playoffs,” he said. “Joe would be the first to admit that he didn’t play Joe Johnson basketball. Then the comments that he made afterward, I spoke to him briefly about them. I told him, I’ve seen interviews with Kobe [Bryant], I’ve seen interviews with K.G. [Kevin Garnett] after bad games. Both guys made the comment, ‘They should’ve booed us.’ That’s the way I would like to see him handle it. From what I was told, it was kind of misunderstood how [Johnson] meant it.”

Drew reiterated how he wants to add “movement” to the offense and get away from the isolation plays with Johnson that have plagued this team. “Movement makes them harder to defend,” he said. “Our biggest problem last year was we became a stationary team at times. I want guys to move freely. I want all five guys to be a threat. At times we got a little bogged down, standing around, playing a little bit too much one on one. We were stagnant.”

He thinks Crawford, whom he watched on tape for the first time two weeks ago, will fit in his offense well: “He has an uncanny ability to score. He looked like Jamal [Crawford] out there. He has a quick first step. He’s elusive with the basketball. He can make shots. He can just flat out score. I just love a guy who can break a defense down. They make it easy for other guys.”

Nobody knows if Johnson will be one of the other guys. But at least he’s phoning back.

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119 comments Add your comment

Reid Adair

June 25th, 2010
9:52 am

It’s one thing for the new head coach to “believe” that Joe Johnson regrets his comments and his poor performance; it’s another for the man who was directly involved to at least attempt to make amends for his actions.

I still don’t want to see Joe Johnson in a Hawks uniform next year. I realize that I’m probably in the minority with that opinion, but that’s the way it is.

bone

June 25th, 2010
9:53 am

OMGGGGGGGG JOE RETURNED THE CALL? HES A HUMAN? I DIDNT KNO THIS

bone

June 25th, 2010
9:55 am

OH and word on hoops hype is that jCHILLZ is signing with the wizards in the next few days

TommyJack

June 25th, 2010
9:58 am

Sorry, I couldn’t give a rat’s azz about the NBA. But I’m a Schultz fan nontheless.

BDowning

June 25th, 2010
10:04 am

Very Good sign that joe and coach drew talked…Listen I would love to see the hawks sign joe. Who else can we get to fill his shoes. A new coach, new scheme, an improved desire to get the ball to josh and al, using teague in the right way. I like it. Just a thought… how bout signing kurt thomas and use him as a back up power forward and center? He played horford tough in the playoffs.

James

June 25th, 2010
10:17 am

This dude is saying all the right things–let’s see if he can do them, too. I’m willing to give him a chance! Go hawks!

Bob Didier caught here

June 25th, 2010
10:22 am

Any chance we can make a trade for that gifted big man Kwame Brown??

JRo

June 25th, 2010
10:26 am

Thanks for letting us know you have absolutely nothing to add to the conversation, TommyJack. Don’t we still have the rights to Childress? I think Drew might turn out to be a descent coach, though it’s always difficult to become THE authority figure when you’ve been more buddy-buddy with the people you are going to be managing for such a long time.

lyric82

June 25th, 2010
10:29 am

TommyJack,

Seems like your upset that your a greeter at walmart and not making millions like these physically gifted young men. Im sure if you had any athletic talent in your body at all, you would not pass up the opportunity to join the thug nation.

Jeff Schultz

June 25th, 2010
10:34 am

Reid — I think it’s 50-50 on whether Joe is back. I realize that’s not going out on a limb.

Jeff Schultz

June 25th, 2010
10:35 am

Bone — Wizards don’t have permission to talk to Chills. It would be tampering since Hawks own his rights. Report out of Greece was erroneous (at least for now).

Remarkable

June 25th, 2010
10:38 am

We have a team. Others will have pieces of a team. If we can resign JJ, the Hawks may have an advantage over several of these teams that have gutted their teams for a chance at a superstar. Add a draft pick and pick up a free agent center and we will be ready to take on most of these other teams. . .

Remarkable

June 25th, 2010
10:40 am

Jeff, will Childress ever play a game in an Atlanta uniform? Will he be a starter and in place of who?

ASHCAN.

June 25th, 2010
10:47 am

@James, any coach but woodson.Now i like woodson but he had no offensive plays just out of time outs.I think drew will make all 5 starters on the court better with real play calling threw out the game instead of just time outs.The guy created his own offense and displayed it for the owners.I wonder what the name of it is called?

TheAntiMe

June 25th, 2010
10:48 am

I don’t know what Joe Johnson is thinking about where he wants to play next season but I do know that if he got his iddy biddy feelings hurt by the fans here in Atlanta, then he is going to have a nervous breakdown when the fans in Chicago and especially the fans in New York get on his case if he decides to go with the Bulls or the Knicks.

Glenn

June 25th, 2010
10:58 am

Wow ! They talked ! We won’t offer Joe a max contract ( and shouldn’t ) . Someone will . I will bet a ham sandwich to any taker that Joe & Lebron wind up in Chicago holding hands all giddy to be together . They will be unbeatable as well .

Gamer

June 25th, 2010
10:59 am

Joe Johnson is probably going to miami, boston or chicago for same amount of money that he could get from the Hawks with a deeper playoff run on a better all around team.

jlewis

June 25th, 2010
10:59 am

JJ is not coming back to atl, the guy played 40 minutes a game, played hurt, played sick and basically carried this team for 4 years. The guy never got arrested, dui, anything, he makes one mistake, and what he meant was “its not about the fans, its about us, we have to play harder”. Yet his heart and leadership is questioned because he doesnt hit his chest when he scores or runs his mouth or makes excuses. Its a reason free agents wont come to atl and the ownership is not throwing money into the team because the team plays in an arena with fans disguised as empty seats.

TONE

June 25th, 2010
11:01 am

the only place JJ can go with a chance to win and be the Man is ATL.
i am a master of stating the obvious
that being said he is just like the top tier free agents he is first in line in the 2nd tier waiting to see what Lebron does.
hasn’t chicago freed up enough money to where they can sign 2 or three big money free agents ?
james , bosh , and JJ nah I don’t think JJ could stand being the 4th option
he is coming back to ATL

CJ

June 25th, 2010
11:01 am

Jeff, what are the chances that Pape is ever a Hawk?

Scoots

June 25th, 2010
11:03 am

Jeff-

With the $3 million the Hawks got last night, how much $$ do they have to play with in free agency? I’d like to see them sign Joe, but even more so want to see them get a legit center.

Mitch

June 25th, 2010
11:09 am

Even though JJ called LD…it’s hard to imagine he will be re-signing with the Hawks. LD showed him the love and has a better plan for everyone in the offense…but that plan may not be all that attractive to JJ. JJ is going to get big offers and my guess is he will wind up playing in New Jersey for Avery Johnson and along side of Devin Harris and Brook Lopez. Not sure if the Nets have a player that the Hawks would want in a sign and trade, as they’ve been clearing the roster for cap room.

Even so…what do you Jeff and my fellow Hawk fans think about this off-season plan?

1. Sign & Trade: F Josh Childress to the Wizards for F Al Thornton.

2. Free agent signings: 1G Nate Robinson; 2G John Salmons; PF Craig Smith; C Ilgauskas.

Depth Chart:

1 Teague/Robinson/Bibby

2 Crawford/Salmons/Crawford

3 Williams/Thronton/Evans

4 Smoove/SmithC/SmithJoe

5 Horford/Ilgauskas/Pachulia

Adding Nate Robinson would make the Hawks’ running game all the more explosive. John Salmons gives the Hawks a chance to groom Jordan Crawford. Al Thornton could be a big-time scorer off the bench in place of Marvin. Craig Smith has the power inside the Hawks are a little lacking in. And Ilgauskasp—whom the Hawks wanted last year—gives the team a center with uncanny shooting ability and range.

Other possible free agents:

1. Ray Allen. Yes he’s 34, but he’s not showing it. In fact, his dribble/drive game is still improving. His connection to Rick Sund makes this a possibility, especially if JJ does not re-sign.

2. PG Luke Ridnour. The Hawks have always liked this kid and now he’s finally available.

3. F Travis Outlaw. Man, think of the games he torched the Hawks. He’s a slasher and step back splasher who can be a real spark off the bench.

4. C/PF David Lee. Imagine fellow Gators Horford and Lee paired together. Lee can score in the post, something the Hawks need and he and Horford are two of the best crashers in the league. Their chemistry would be something to watch.

5. C Marcus Camby. Still a very good shot blocker…imagine adding him and PG Nate Robinson??? Talk about high-flying fast breaks off of Camby blocks!!!

7. F Al Harrington. Hey, he still dominates us and is now happy coming in off the bench.

8. F Jarvis Hayes. Local talent who needs the right fit and that could be here in Hotlanta.

9. Flip Murray. If JJ leaves, why not bring Flip back as a 4th guard option? Flip was clutch for the Hawks two years ago.

Simpdawg

June 25th, 2010
11:10 am

Once again the Hawks fail to get it right on draft night, and now they’re going to have to over pay for free agents, when they had the opportunity to draft the right player the first time. Last night draft should prove to all you Hawks fans that this organization is not commented to winning and Joe Johnson will not resign with the Hawks unless it’s a sign and trade deal. The Hawks will win 32 games next year. F@ck the Hawks!!!!

KevinM

June 25th, 2010
11:10 am

If what I am hearing is right, we have a new coach and a new scheme. That remains to be seen, clearly. Saying that, I don’t see us going away alot from what got us to 53 wins. If we do, there will be an awful lot of mistakes happening, and giving LD his shot will prove whether he can lead or not.
Aside of that, you bet LD wants JJ back. If not, he has a hole to fill with limited options. We aren’t a FA player, we aren’t bringing in any big names to go with JJ. If we were able to bring in a big name for JJ to show our seriousness to change and improve, then, yes, I think JJ could have been a 50/50 option to come back. Right now, I think he leans heavily elsewhere, especially if Chicago strikes out on LeBron.
JJ and Rose have the same agent and JJ has said good things about being in Chicago in the future.
Is it me or is it wrong for JJ to take this long and wait to speak to LD after being named HC? That in itself says alot to me about how he feels about being here. I don’t think JJ is thick-skinned enough to handle the backlash he got here in the playoffs.
IMO, free up the $$ and go find a leader and some help who can get us to a championship contender. We are playing with fool’s gold right now saying we can pay more for JJ than anyone else.
That would be a foolish move.

TONE

June 25th, 2010
11:13 am

i like the nate robinson thought even if JJ comes back

Atlfan

June 25th, 2010
11:14 am

I think the draft was ok for us, but we really need vets that play the big position Center. Getting Joe back would be nice for us. He fills in alot of holes for the Hawks. We also really need to figure out the small forward position most of the time we a playing 4 on 5 with Marvin out there.

Scoots

June 25th, 2010
11:16 am

Simpdawg. They got the guy they wanted, plus an extra $3 mil. Why’s that a failure? How does gaining extra $$ show that they aren’t committed to signing Joe?

What did you expect to happen with the #23 spot in a draft with a shallow pool of talent?

Dwayne Wade

June 25th, 2010
11:20 am

I’d love to play for you guys. I’m a winner, and more clutch than ‘Tha King’. Show me the money and I’ll bring you a championship!

Feudfinder

June 25th, 2010
11:22 am

I like Joe, but I do not think the fans owe him an apology. If he wants to leave after slapping fans who pay his salary in the face, then so be it. The Hawks had somebody before him. But I hope Chicago or New York fans bow down for him for insulting them.

Dr. Warren

June 25th, 2010
11:23 am

Drew: “As an assistant, you’re just sitting there, listening to everybody. This was totally different. Now when they go around the room they’re asking for your opinion.”

From a management perspective, this quote is a bad sign. Why, as an assistant, did he “just sit there listening” for six years? Natural leaders tend to be proactive and give opinions. They’re often divergent thinkers and need to get it out there. And now, as head coach, why be so appreciative that “they’re asking for your opinion.” Should you be offering it without being asked? Shouldn’t you be a thought leader in your organization? Passivity is never a good sign in a manager.

Dr. Warren

June 25th, 2010
11:24 am

Meant to say: “Shouldn’t you be offering it without being asked.”

Glenn

June 25th, 2010
11:26 am

Joe isn’t coming back . Just because we can’t resign him doesn’t mean we can’t make other FA moves that can help us . I like Joe but he isn’t worth the max . He is a great second option though . Because of that he will get the max contract . If we are committed to bringing in other players we will be fine . I’m actually more concerned about Larry Drew as a head coach & our thinking in giving him the job than I am on whether JJ is back .

Dora Witherspoon

June 25th, 2010
11:42 am

I truely believe Joe should come back only because he has been a major help in Atlanta getting where they are at over the years. Come back maybe for a year or 2. He’s a good player not a great player! You’re if you can’t take being booed at Atlanta, – New York and Chicago is going to make you cry!!!

atl fan

June 25th, 2010
11:44 am

I think the hawks should let smoove and bibby go in some kind of trade even if they dont get anything in return because it would free up a lot of money. then try to sign dirk or salmons and mcghee of the wizard because he can opt out and ray allen they would have enough money to do that. your starters would be pg jeff teague sg ray allen sf dirk or salmons pf al horford c Mcgee back ups pg jamal crawford sg jordan crawford sf williams or evans pf sy c zaza thats pretty good

LEA

June 25th, 2010
11:54 am

Dear Joe Johnson you’re not a max player. so don’t even think about asking for max money. Sincerely, Hawks Fans

Ken Strickland

June 25th, 2010
11:55 am

It’s amusing to read comments from fans who want JJ sent packing just because of an emotional comment made after being booed. Yet, these same fans are showing just how silly, ridiculous and overly sensitive they are by suggesting we get rid of our best player since Nique, just because they feel insulted by his emotional utterance. TWO WRONGS(STUPIDITIES)DON’T MAKE A RIGHT.

We’ll definitely be a better team with JJ, but we certainly won’t collapse as a team if he leaves, as some of you whining CRY BABIES seem to think.

LEA

June 25th, 2010
11:55 am

atl fan that is just dumb lol, trading away them won’t free up much cap room. Plus when are the naive fans gonan realize Smoove is here to say

Simpdawg

June 25th, 2010
12:03 pm

Scoots,
We could have use the 31st pick to draft a big like Solomon Alabi, Dexter Pittman or Hassan Whiteside for our bench. You telling me that Solomon Alabi, Dexter Pittman or Hassan Whiteside would not have improved our bench over Joe Smith, Jason Collins or Randolph Morris. If we keep the same players we’re going to have the same results. I will say this; the Hawks will have an opportunity to get it right next year when they find themselves in the lottery. You have to understand most of the teams in the Eastern Conference improved their rosters with the exception of the Cavs and the Hawks.

Simpdawg

June 25th, 2010
12:06 pm

I agree with Glenn!!!

BigCaliDawg

June 25th, 2010
12:10 pm

“Drew: “As an assistant, you’re just sitting there, listening to everybody. This was totally different. Now when they go around the room they’re asking for your opinion.”

From a management perspective, this quote is a bad sign. Why, as an assistant, did he “just sit there listening” for six years? Natural leaders tend to be proactive and give opinions. They’re often divergent thinkers and need to get it out there. And now, as head coach, why be so appreciative that “they’re asking for your opinion.” Should you be offering it without being asked? Shouldn’t you be a thought leader in your organization? Passivity is never a good sign in a manager.”

Dr Warren,

Mike Woodson did not strike me as being a very good listener. I don’t think he gave a rats a*s about anyne else’s opinion. Had he done so, he would have utilized his assistant coach, rather than run iso’s every time down court and he would have given more run to Acie Law and Jeff Teague.

More than likely, Coach Woodson did not allow CLD’s opinions to take root.

Also, I believe CLD has been an assistant coach for more like 18 years, as he was an assistant for 2 teams, prior to coming to ATL.

Astro Joe

June 25th, 2010
12:11 pm

It’s obviously a good sign that Joe returned the call.

BigCaliDawg

June 25th, 2010
12:16 pm

Haslem, Jermaine O’Neal, Boozer, and Songaila are all FA’s. Also, Leon Powe and Nate Robinson………

willie

June 25th, 2010
12:16 pm

All stars are very hard to come by, particularly in this town with this ownership debacle. They must do everything that can do to sign Joe, because they will not be able to draw another big name here. I love the Crawford pick last night. He was the one player that I thought coule help up pretty quickly. Great job Hawks!

Supes

June 25th, 2010
12:18 pm

The Poll should have another option…*who cares*

Scoots

June 25th, 2010
12:19 pm

I’d have to disagree. From what all the experts are saying, none of the late 1st round/early 2nd round big men are NBA ready (either long-term projects with upsides, or flawed guys in general). I think Alabi and Whiteside fit into the long-term project category, but I guess you never know. I think Alabi needs to pack on some pounds, or he’s just going to get pushed around all day.

So I think it was good to get the extra $3 mill and sign or trade for a more seasoned center – someone like Big Z, Varaijao, or Brendan Haywood.

Simpdawg

June 25th, 2010
12:31 pm

Scoots,
What’s the extra $3 millions for? Joe Johnson, really!!! Do you really think Joe Johnson is going to resign with the Hawks? They’ll end up over paying for free agents like Josh Howard, John Salmons, Brendan (Brenda) Heywood, Matt Barnes or Mike Miller. Some of these guys are actually descent players but there’re also prone to injuries. Good luck lottery bound Hawks.

DIT

June 25th, 2010
12:36 pm

YAAAAAWWWWWWWNNNN… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Blog about College Football. Anything!

tom

June 25th, 2010
12:52 pm

The problem with the new coach , he is too close to the players. Can’t make a solid decision. Let Johnson go if he wants to leave. Get some fresh blood. This team is lost with this coach.

Danny Terrio

June 25th, 2010
12:59 pm

I’d rather watch Schultz take a dump then Johnson play ball, at least the participant would be putting forth some effort…..

WGAF

June 25th, 2010
1:02 pm

Who cares, it’s basketball and this season is finally over!!!