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
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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