Hawks need more from Johnson, whether he likes it or not

Joe Johnson needs to know he's not just one of Hawks' faces in the crowd. (AP photo)

Joe Johnson needs to know he's not just one of Hawks' faces in the crowd. (AP photo)

There is still a level of doesn’t-get-it-ness with Joe Johnson. Stars get paid the most because stars are expected to do the most, but that second part is seldom acknowledged by the Hawks’ guard.

“I don’t get all of the glory when we win, so I don’t get to take all the [blame] when we lose,” Johnson said before this playoff series started.

Oh, Joe.

This much is true: The Hawks did not lose game five to Orlando by 25 points solely because Johnson made only two of 12 shots, at least when we even noticed he was on the floor. They all stunk. But Johnson didn’t do nearly enough to prevent the loss – or even collective team humiliation – from happening. And yes, he does deserve a greater share of the blame than Josh Smith or Jamal Crawford or anybody else on the roster because more is expected from him.

Such are the little inconveniences that come with a $123.7 million contract.

Johnson has had one good game (25 points in game one) and one good half (he drew fouls and made some clutch free throws in the second half of game four) in this first-round series. That’s six quarters out of 20. Unfortunately, that seems about par for Johnson in the postseason during his Hawks’ tenure.

They need more from him.

When asked specifically about Johnson’s play in Tuesday’s 101-76 loss to the Magic, coach Larry Drew responded mostly in “we” instead of “he” form.

“Everybody had a rough night,” he said. “They made everything tough. Yeah, they played him tough. They got up in him. They took some things away. They crowded him. They bumped him. These were all things we discussed as a team going into the game. We could not cry to the officials about it. We had to respond to it, and we didn’t do that.”

How should Johnson react?

“Just maintain his composure and play off of it,” Drew said. “They’re playing the way playoff basketball is played. So it’s nothing out of the ordinary. You have to be sharper, clever. You have to do things harder. [But] it wasn’t just Joe. It was everybody.”

Problem is that even in Drew’s intended share-the-ball offense, Johnson should still be expected to take (and make) the big shot, spark a team and show semblance of leadership. Too often, he doesn’t. Too often, he goes 0 for 3.

Johnson, who wasn’t available for comment Wednesday, hasn’t had a great season. Some of that can be attributed to injuries, elbow surgery and a sprained thumb being the primary ones. But great players are supposed to fight through things. Johnson’s scoring average (18.2) and three-point shooting (29.7 percent) during the regular season represented by far his worst numbers since he came to Atlanta. Bad timing, since it follows a summer in which he became the NBA’s highest-paid player.

He was 9 for 16 (56.2 percent) with 25 points in the series opener at Orlando. In the four games since, he has gone a combined 23 for 65 (35.4) with point totals of 14, 21, 20 and 5.

“Joe and Jamal are our main guys who put the ball in the hole,” Josh Smith said. “We depend on them to get us involved at the offensive end, because when they start making shots, it opens things up for everybody else.”

Crawford, who was only 2 for 8 in the last game, said the Magic “stayed longer on the pick-and-rolls. They left room for less isolation stuff with second and even third defenders.”

Orlando likely won’t change defensive strategy in game six. How the Hawks respond will determine their playoff existence. How Johnson responds will further define his career. Because whether he likes it or not, there’s an expectation level that comes with salary and stature and he’s not meeting it.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

86 comments Add your comment

joe is overrated

April 27th, 2011
4:14 pm

JJ is a second tier star who acts like a prime time hero. He has bad ball handling skills. Makes dumb decisions late in games. Is not a leader except in payroll.

This team would have been better with jk out and build it around Al, Josh, and Jamal… Even zaza and twin. Shame to make a man with no heart rich as he is.
Sad.

Hawks Fan

April 27th, 2011
4:17 pm

I agree 100% with your comments, and want to add more on top of it. The best that happened to Hawks this season was bringing in Kirk for Bibby. Though Bibby made few remarkable three pointers, his slow dribble game and zero defense always was being exploited then, and now in Miami.

For Joe, I dont like him as a person after he made ego comment against Atlanta fans and would have never resigned him, but now thats a future, so now I at least expect him to “MAN UP” which I think will bring his better game. Atlanta’s best asset Horford and Jamal can help any team seek the trophy, but they also rely on their best team player, in our case Joe.

Drew seems to be always polite and nice and positive, maybe he needs to blend is some positive criticism directed towards players. One side comment, Portland had trailed 18 or so points one game and they came back to win the trailing game, I see no level of such enthusiasm in Hawks.

Joe did make few free shots in the third game which was good of him.

At last, I hope they win today.

joe is overrated

April 27th, 2011
4:17 pm

First. Wow. Also jk is jj as in just kidding Joe. Sad he is holding this team for ransom. We need one scoring bonafide star.

allan in texas

April 27th, 2011
4:18 pm

Great piece Mr.Schultz! First?

allan in texas

April 27th, 2011
4:18 pm

Not first! Oh well!

allan in texas

April 27th, 2011
4:22 pm

If the Hawks lose this series what happens next? Do they blow the whole thing up?

honest_abe

April 27th, 2011
4:23 pm

unfortunately joe johnson doesn’t respond to pressure. i don’t remember the last time he stepped up big in a game of importance. remember there was no pressure in game considering all the pundits had the hawks losing the series and it was in orlando. there’ll be immense pressure on joe tomorrow night and if history holds par for the course he’ll have an underwhelming performance.. if they lose tomorrow night, close the blinds and turn off the lights this baby’s over.

Word

April 27th, 2011
4:27 pm

Can someone please shake the ish out of Joe already. Seriously, is there a pulse in that
$123 million man? While you at it, give Josh a few more marbles to play with!

JeJe

April 27th, 2011
4:34 pm

JOE IS A CAPTAIN ON THIS TEAM? LOL

FIRE JOE

LEA

April 27th, 2011
4:35 pm

oh so drew will be quick to call out jeff teague, josh smith or anyone else. But Joe is above that ? please

lanier

April 27th, 2011
4:37 pm

Jeff are these NBA contracts guranteed like baseball?

KSUAlum

April 27th, 2011
4:43 pm

Joe doesn’t give a damn about the team, as long as his paycheck clears at the bank. He doesn’t have to be a leader, as long as his paycheck clears at the bank. He doesn’t have to step up under pressure or care if the Hawks make it to the next round, or the conference finals, or the league finals, as long as his paycheck clears at the bank.

Joe cares about one thing: his paycheck.

atlnative

April 27th, 2011
4:46 pm

Will the real Atlanta Hawks please “rise up’! Hey “Arkansas”,Joe Johnson,start earning all that d…. money management paid you!

GT Alum

April 27th, 2011
4:47 pm

“You have to be sharper, clever.”

If that’s true, the Hawks are in trouble.

Swaga1

April 27th, 2011
4:48 pm

I never did like Joe Johnson. He just seems real soft to me and he’s a cry baby….I couldn’t believe the Hawks payed him all of this money for the low production he is giving. they should of just let him walk. i guess there is no need to cry over spilled milk and we have to deal with the hand we were dealt…..guess i fold

ltdbrave

April 27th, 2011
4:49 pm

Joe is a worthless and overpaid bum. I still do not understand why the owners paid that much money for a guy is average at best. He signs a 123.7 million contract this year and his production falls off. Joe doesn’t play hard and never puts his butt on the line for the team. He has more excuses for not producing. The Hawks will never win the big one with a guy like Johnson on the team. JD should have been playing Teague all year to get him ready. He sure would not have done any worse.

asdf

April 27th, 2011
4:52 pm

“I don’t get all of the glory when we win, so I don’t get to take all the [blame] when we lose,” – Joe Johnson

You did get all the $ though. Needs to play like he deserves his paycheck… worried that JJ’s contract will be an albatross on this franchise for years to come… hope I’m wrong, but with that kind of attitude, I’m definitely nervous about the future

Gamer

April 27th, 2011
4:53 pm

THE MAGIC’S MADE GOOD ADJUSTMENT TO J.J. AND JAMAL HIGH PICK AND ROLL PLAY…..J.J. AND JAMAL MADE POOR DECISIONS OFF OF THE PLAYS….

J.J. AND JAMAL NEED TO MAKE QUICK DECISIONS TO MAKE QUICK PASSES TO OPEN TEAMMATES…

IF J.J. AND JAMAL ARE HANDLING THE BALL WITH THEIR HEADS UP INTO MAGIC’S DEFENSE THEN THEY CAN JUDGE WHEN THE DEFENDERS HAVE HALF-WAY COMMITTED, COMMITTED OR OVERLY COMMITTED TO DEFEND PICK AND ROLL PLAY.

A COMMITTED OR HALF-WAY COMMITTMENT TO DEFEND THE PICK AND ROLL BY MAGIC’S DEFENDERS TRANSLATE INTO JOE OR JAMAL AGGRESSIVELY ATTACKING THE BASKET, FLOATER, TEARDROP OR MID-RANGE JUMPSHOT.

OVERLY COMMITTMENT BY MAGIC’S DEFENDERS TO PLAY PICK AND ROLL TRANSLATE INTO QUICK DECISIVE PASSES BY JOE OR JAMAL.. HAWKS MUST SWING THE BALL TO OPEN MAN…PREFERRABLY A SLASHING TEAMMATE WHO CAN FINISH HARD AND STRONG AT THE BASKET…

J.J. AND JAMAL NEED TO SPEND SOME SERIOUS HOURS IN THE FILM-ROOM STUDYING. TO SEE HOW THE MAGIC’S DEFENDERS ARE DEFENDING THE PICK AND ROLL…. THE HAWKS CAN MAKE NECESSARY ADJUSTMENTS IN GAME SIX..

WE EXPECT ATLANTA HAWKS FAN-BASE TO BE ROCKING PHILLIP’S ARENA (THE HAWK-NEST)!!!!

WILL THE HAWKS PLAYERS BE READY TO ROCK THE HOUSE IN GAME SIX????

HAWKS MUST PLAY AS DESPERADOS…NOT TO TRAVEL BACK TO ORLANDO FOR GAME 7..

PlusSizeModel

April 27th, 2011
4:59 pm

Wait…Joe Johnson is the NBA’s highest paid player? Are you f*cking serious?

loyalhawkfan

April 27th, 2011
5:03 pm

I still til this day do not understand why we gave this idiot THE MOST EXPENSIVE CONTRACT IN THE NBA. He needs to take responsibility for HIS TEAM. HE IS THE MAN of this TEAM. This is his team. If you are given a contract like that you are expected to be a solid contributor to the team. But this guy doesn’t want to be a leader, doesn’t want to take responsibility if the team loses and cries about the support of his teammates. Now how stupid is the gm of this team for giving out a contract that big to someone like him. I love the hawks but I just do not understand why they resigned this guy.

Would u b surprised if they freakin' quit??

April 27th, 2011
5:04 pm

This team lacks heart…look at the defeats this year where they didn’t show up. Never thought they’d do that in the playoffs…especially up 3-1 with a chance to close a team out. Joe’s a baby who can’t handle the big games…this level of ball is above him….no heart. His it is what it is attitude is confounding…I feel sorry for Al, playing with a heartless group. I want them to win, but it’s hard to think they will when you see them check out on a game like last night’s.

decriz

April 27th, 2011
5:04 pm

get rid of Joe and his humungous contract already. trade him for Monta Ellis, the guy’s got balls which Joe doesn’t. and while he’s available, now is the time to hire Rick Adelman. top class coach to take this team higher.

stephanie

April 27th, 2011
5:04 pm

Joe just counting his money. NO HEART!!!!! Piece of S**T!!

decriz

April 27th, 2011
5:14 pm

remember Joe will be paid 16.3M this year and then progressess to 18M, 19.8M, 21.5M, 23M and finally to 24.9 MILLION on 2015/16. WHOAH!!!! he is not a super star so don’t don’t bind your payroll and pay him super star bucks. get rid of him while we still can. it would almost be impossible. we will definitely end up thanking the team that takes him.

JeJe

April 27th, 2011
5:14 pm

FIRE LD

MARVIN WILLIAMS GOT STRIPPED BY JAMEER

LOL
GOT STRIPPED OF THE BALL BY A GUY NOT MUCH LESS THAN A FOOT SHORTER THAN HIM. ROFL

decriz

April 27th, 2011
5:17 pm

trade joe johnson for monta ellis and andris biedrins. contracts work out. then hire rick adelman, we finally get a decent center and a guy with scoring balls. can finally move horford to 4 permanently. this is a good deal, believe me.

B-Sure

April 27th, 2011
5:25 pm

Still don’t understand why they decided to pay Joe max money. What fan was clamoring to keep Joe? They should have saved the money and used it to get Dwight Howard next year and build the team around him.

decriz

April 27th, 2011
5:31 pm

good luck to the Hawks on getting rid of Joe and his Godzilla contract

decriz

April 27th, 2011
5:38 pm

i’ll say it again, Joe will be paid 16.3M this year and then progressess to 18M, 19.8M, 21.5M, 23M and finally to 24.9 MILLION on 2015/16. Hawks management better smarten up soon, otherwise they get what they deserve.

decriz

April 27th, 2011
5:45 pm

it’s not good to complain and not offer a solution. i have one. trade Joe for Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins. the contracts work out. and we get a slumping center and a small scoring guard who are in reality a decent and skilled center (Biedrins) and a scoring machine with guts and balls whose defense is decent too (Ellis). finally we will get to move Al Horford to 4, and our frontline will be unmatched, a “no fly zone” for opponents. and while we’re at it, hire RICK ADELMAN!!!

JW

April 27th, 2011
5:48 pm

PlusSizeModel,

I know, right? Joe is the highest paid NBA player? That’s hilarious…NOT

Who’s running this Sh*t show…oh yeah

Chuck

April 27th, 2011
5:52 pm

It’s an Atlanta tradition to panic and overpay a mediocre player.

Joe Johnson is this generations Jon Koncak. No, it’s not their fault they are vastly overpaid – it’s all on the management of the team. At least Koncak tried (he was blessed with all height and little coordination) – with JJ you’d think it’s against his religion to break a sweat.

Einsteindawg

April 27th, 2011
5:56 pm

Please don’t call me a doomsayer, but I can almost smell the next two Hawks losses. I’m thinking Orlando was only toying with us to keep the NBA flush with playoff TV cash.

Bigger Josh Smith Fan

April 27th, 2011
5:59 pm

Joe is our Alan Houston. Their stats a are very similar.

Bigger Josh Smith Fan

April 27th, 2011
6:01 pm

Einsteindawg, you are not the only one. To drop a game by that much gives a indication that there is something spoil in the soup. These are the HAWKS we have seen this before. I hope it is not true but I am somewhat concern after that AZZ beating.

Einsteindawg

April 27th, 2011
6:06 pm

I’m concerned, too, especially with Howard only scoring so few points last night. Could this be like WWF and fixed?

Bigger Josh Smith Fan

April 27th, 2011
6:12 pm

Doubt it. It’s Atlanta Hawks basketball. Everyone needs to step up. I love Crawford’s play but its a shame someone on the bench has to lead us in scoring. Maybe we should sit Joe and start Crawford. I think with his play he deserves a chance. Further I don’t like the fact that teague has not played much.

Bigger Josh Smith Fan

April 27th, 2011
6:17 pm

Wait if we win we will have to play Chicago. Do we really want to be that exposed on a national level? Hear Charles Barkley crappy talk about us. Us playing Chicago is a broom just waiting for a dusty floor. Can you say sweep.

Jeff Schultz

April 27th, 2011
6:21 pm

Allan In Texas — Thanks.

Jeff Schultz

April 27th, 2011
6:21 pm

Lanier — Yes, NBA contracts are fully guaranteed.

Kariqua

April 27th, 2011
6:31 pm

Thank God someone put this out there. First of all, I blame the Hawks Organization for using poor judgement in reference to JJ singing a max contract. You give max contracts to players who has proven themselves in this league and also, someone you can build a team around. Was he a star in Phoenix? No!! Hell, you can’t build around JJ. He’s too inconsistent. You can’t even count on him to take the last shot. This guy will give you 25 points one night and wont even show up for the next one. Are you kiddin me!! The Hawks are more comfortable putting the ball in JCRAW hands in need of a last winning shot than Joe. That’s right…the sixth man!! This is how bad the Hawks Front office is. How in the hell do you pass up on Deron williams, Cris Paul, Andrew Bynum, Raymond Felton, Danny Granger and Monta Ellis. Who the Hawks pick? You are right…”Marvin Williams”. No 2 pick overall. Worst front office ever!!

mountain_jim

April 27th, 2011
6:33 pm

If the Hawks come out playing as lethargic in this game, I am switching channels to the NFL draft.

And yes JJ in hindsight was not worth his contract, that money could have been used to bring Dwight home.

moorman

April 27th, 2011
6:41 pm

THINK ABOUT IT. the atlanta spirit secretly KNEW they gonna sell the hawks and trashers, so………….. WHO cares if they gave joe johnson that big fat contract, they off the hook as soon as the ink is dry on the bill of sale of the hawks, trashers and phillips arena. they signed joe to make it APPEAR they were trying to win and not lose face, but all along, they arent gonna be on the hook for a franchise ran into the ground because of that contract…………

IlliniBrave

April 27th, 2011
6:45 pm

Just read the Orlando Sentinel column and I couldn’t have said it better. These are the Hawks – perhaps the dumbest team in the NBA. A mentally fragile group who always seem to find a way to collapse and fold like deck of cards. Always taking bad shots, always throwing the ball away, always finding a way to lose. As a result, they are a perennial afterthought, as he says.

Wow, what a daming indictment of the team. If this does not light a fire under them, nothing will.

IlliniBrave

April 27th, 2011
6:47 pm

That would be “damning”. Sorry, I was channeling Vegas Vecation.

Kariqua

April 27th, 2011
6:57 pm

I put JJ in the same class as Carlos Boozer. Overrated and overpaid. Think about it.

Bill Walton

April 27th, 2011
6:59 pm

Joe Johnson is the most overrated Hawk since Wilkins -yeah he was overrated -other than taking lots of shots -and not a very good shooter at that -he had no game -no defense -poor rebounder and wouldn’t know an assist if it hit him in the head

Ben

April 27th, 2011
7:01 pm

We see players with “albatross” contracts get traded all the time. Somebody will take Joe at some point. It’s all about fit and there’s a sucker born every minute.

Problem is does anyone really think the ASG will be smart enough to make the move when the moment presents itself?

Bill Walton

April 27th, 2011
7:03 pm

other than some heart, some brains, and the will to win -the Hawks have all the pieces ———————————–to go out in the first round

JoBjo

April 27th, 2011
7:21 pm

Joe is gonna take us to the promised land. I BELIEVE!!!