Joe Johnson should skip All-Star game for Hawks’ sake

If Joe Johnson bows out of All-Star Game, it could open door for Josh Smith.

If Joe Johnson bows out of All-Star game, it could open door for Josh Smith. (AP photo)

(Updated at 2:05 p.m. with news that Joe Johnson will miss the next two games.)

Six-time All-Star Joe Johnson hasn’t often been given a warm embrace by the sports fans of Atlanta. That’s because no matter how many times he is referenced by team officials as “the six-time All-Star Joe Johnson,” significant matters keep getting in the way. Like his contract, his aloofness, his seeming lack of leadership and his team’s general shortcomings.

Well, here’s one way “six-time All-Star Joe Johnson” can score some points with the general populace: don’t play in his sixth All-Star game.

The Hawks are on a slide. They lost more games in the past 10 (3-7) than they did in the first 22 (16-6). This isn’t completely unexpected. They’re banged up. They’re worn down. They’re starting to play some better teams. They’re missing their starting center (Al Horford) and his backup (Jason Collins), and this was an undersized team to begin with. It figured at some point that a 16-6 team would have a market correction.

Johnson has tendinitis in his left knee. He came out of Monday’s game in Chicago and never went back in.

Some folks enthusiastically are taking verbal 2-by-4’s to Johnson for not playing through the injury. I’m not going down that road. It’s much safer to question an athlete’s ability, character and leadership than it is to wonder whether he is really injured.

But this we know for certain: Johnson says he wasn’t healthy enough to finish the game in Chicago. He returned to Atlanta for an MRI and will not play in the next two games before the All-Star break (Wednesday in New York; Thursday at home against Orlando). That will be followed by the five-day break before the season resumes Feb. 29 against Golden State.

The Hawks come out of the break playing three games in four days at home, then go on a six-game, nine-day road trip straight out of Travelocity Hell. It carries them from Indiana down to Miami, back up to Detroit, way over to Sacramento, back to Denver, back down to Los Angeles, then home. (Thank you, David Stern. You can put down the pipe now.) This is a team that has fallen to sixth overall in the Eastern Conference and suddenly is scrambling just to make the playoffs. The second half: kind of important.

I realize the NBA is the only league where the All-Star game is still somewhat of an event. It’s Entertainment Tonight in high-tops. Stern looks at the weekend like a wedding planner looks at a perfect three-tiered cake and prime rib buffet. He kvells. The weekend is an ego rush for the players. Shoe companies want their millionaire pitchmen on site for marketing purposes.

Johnson needs to be thinking about his team here. And yes, as much as the man is criticized, as great as Josh Smith has been, as important as Horford is when he’s healthy, it’s still Johnson’s team. The Hawks will go only as far as he takes them. He needs to play, he needs to score, even if his personality doesn’t scream, “Jump on my back, guys.” He doesn’t need the NBA’s three carnival events in Orlando — the All-Star game, the three-point contest and the “Shooting Stars” competition.

Resting the knee for the second half accomplishes three things: 1) It gives the Hawks the best chance for success, even if the absence of Horford suggests there’s probably a ceiling; 2) It sends the right message to the team and fans; 3) It opens the door for him to be replaced on the Eastern Conference roster by the guy who should really be there: Smith. (All-Star replacements are decided by the commissioner. But Smith’s exclusion from the game sparked criticism, even from the TNT crew, and logic suggests Smith would have a good chance to make it.)

Not going to Orlando might be a shot to Johnson’s ego, but he needs to decide what’s more important. The answer should be obvious.

By Jeff Schultz

Earlier: Marvin Williams wants out of Atlanta? (OK, what’s the joke?)


73 comments Add your comment

Nothing But The Truth

February 21st, 2012
1:13 pm

He held the team hostage for a 120M contract. Chances of him thinking of anyone but himself are slim.

cpsman_atlanta

February 21st, 2012
1:17 pm

Joe Johnson – The reason why the Thrashers are no longer playing in Philips Arena. The reason why I won’t attend any events at Philips Arena until Atlanta Spirit Group are gone. Makes me happy to see baseball season just around the corner, and knowing that Gwinnett Center has an ACTUAL competitive sports team playing there in the Gwinnett Gladiators makes me happy.

BOYCOTT ATLANTA SPIRIT GROUP!!!

steve brown

February 21st, 2012
1:24 pm

For the Hawks sake-sake of what. Stop with the delusions and illusions this team is built to fail, you know it, I know it and people that know basketball know it. I feel bad for our fans that continue to hope against hope. You egomaniac owners, please sell the team and give us a fighting chance to rebuild.

FittenTrim

February 21st, 2012
1:25 pm

Jeff is right, Joe shouldn’t play… but I’m just bitter.

Everyone’s an expert: but when the FANS screamed that the Hawks shouldn’t resign Joe to such an insane contract… many of your AJC buddies wrote “the fans are stupid”

Now to hear everyone admitting that “hey, the Hawks should never have signed Joe to that crazy contract…” I just roll my eyes.

Do we have to suffer through 3 more years of “Mularkey was a moron” before the ‘experts’ admit that Matt Ryan doesn’t look to go deep, can’t connect on the deep ball…. hey, it wasn’t Mularkey’s fault.

Must we hear… CMR has turned it around at UGA for two more years, until the Dawgs start playing a real schedule again?

Grrr…. I have a cast of the Monday’s on Tuesday…. thanks a lot George Washington!!!

KellieJenee

February 21st, 2012
1:25 pm

The only way I would agree with this is if it were guaranteed that Josh would be his replacement. Otherwise I think he’s deserving and should go and represent for the Hawks. He can easily tell them he only wants to play a few minutes per half, that’s been done plenty of times before.

Trainwreck

February 21st, 2012
1:27 pm

I’d think if his knee is really still bothering him he won’t go. If he misses Friday’s game against Orlando I’d bet he won’t participate in the All-Star Weekend

R. Royce

February 21st, 2012
1:27 pm

Joe probably will go. He has that ego that says: “It’s my perrogative, I made this money-you didn’t, right? TED?!” It’s the New Jack Swing all over again.

doggoneit

February 21st, 2012
1:27 pm

If he doesn’t show up for the games then why show up for the all-star hoopla. Lets be consistent !

nate from detroit

February 21st, 2012
1:29 pm

It shows the sad state of the NBA if J Johnson is a six time all star. If it hadn’t been for hurting all of the ancillary personnel that are employed at Philips Arena it wouldn’t have bothered me if the NBA had stayed out and missed the whole season. These prima donna players need a dose of reality. I believe most of them have forgotten how to be professionals. The only Hawk that I would consider a professional is hurt right now.(Horford)

superiorblogman

February 21st, 2012
1:36 pm

Joe should ask for a trade for the sake of the Hawks.

doggoneit

February 21st, 2012
1:40 pm

FittenTrim Yes it was Mularkeys’ fault. If Boss man says to throw it deep then worker(ie Ryan) will throw it deep. You have no fixes just complaints!! Go pick another team to pick on

Jcard120

February 21st, 2012
1:40 pm

My prediction is he goes to the All-Star game but plays limited minutes. There isn’t gonna be any harm if he participates in the three point contest. You stand in 5 spots and shoot up three pointers..you think he needs to sit it out because of a sore knee? If he doesn’t go then no Hawk will be there which is just sad for this team. Let’s just hope these guys get it together and start winning again.

BYC

February 21st, 2012
1:46 pm

Great article. Makes a lot of sense and I would give Joe alot of props for doing this especially if it lets Josh get it. I don’t blame Joe for the stupid ass contract, the Hawks management are the ones that offered that to him immediately without even looking to see what his market value is. I was hugely against resigning Joe, but no one can blame him for taking that money after it was offered to him.

Devil's Advocate

February 21st, 2012
1:46 pm

Y’all mad bro?

Does it matter?

February 21st, 2012
1:56 pm

Does it matter if we make the playoffs? Whether we miss the playoffs or get bounced in six games in the first round by the Heat, Bulls, Celtics, Knicks, or Sixers, does it make a difference?

Nic

February 21st, 2012
2:00 pm

He should go. He “cough” earned “cough” it, so he should go and trust me, he will.

Jeff Schultz

February 21st, 2012
2:02 pm

We’ve got an update: Hawks announce that Joe Johnson has returned to Atlanta for an MRI on his knee and will not play in the next two games. Will update blog now.

Devil's Advocate

February 21st, 2012
2:05 pm

Does it matter?,

Does it matter for 31 NBA teams, 31 NFL teams, or 29 MLB teams if they make the playoffs since only 1 team can claim the championship? Don’t make up criteria then only apply it to the Hawks.

Nothing But The Truth

February 21st, 2012
2:06 pm

No Hawks should be going to the All-Star Game, honestly. Send Kyrie Irving or Ryan Anderson.

dap01

February 21st, 2012
2:21 pm

The Hawks are crashing.

GT Alum

February 21st, 2012
2:32 pm

Devil’s Advocate -

The problem is you want to see a team making some sort of progress, and the Hawks appear to be stuck in neutral.

@CRuleSportsGuy

February 21st, 2012
2:32 pm

Does Johnson deserve an AS berth? Yes, he does. Just compare the other SGs in the Eastern conference – JJ is likely the second-best 2 in the East behind Dwayne Wade.

Read that sentence again. No, I’m not smoking anything, but Bill Simmons wrote the same thing in his All-Star picks column a few days ago.

But Jeff, you make a great point. Now’s the time for JJ to step up a lead by example a little bit and do what’s best for the team.

And to all those hating on Johnson for the max deal, he just took what was given. Blame the ownership for failing to give him true market value for his skills (which isn’t max, but is pretty good).

GT Alum

February 21st, 2012
2:37 pm

It’s not like Joe ever makes any kind of impact at the ASG anyway. Let someone who will actually add to the spectacle participate.

Najeh Davenpoop

February 21st, 2012
2:41 pm

Joe has played through a lot of injuries in the past. There are a lot of things for which he deserves criticism, but toughness is not one of them. If he’s sitting out, that means he is seriously hurt.

I’d love to see Josh take his place in the All Star Game since he deserved it over him anyway, but seeing as how Joe is a guard and David Stern picks the replacement, you know he’s going to pick Jeremy Lin.

Sad Sack

February 21st, 2012
2:44 pm

rollo lawson

February 21st, 2012
2:47 pm

Showcase Marvin these next few games, then package him with Kirk Hinrich, and Zaza for Chris Kaman and Trevor Ariza.

Devil's Advocate

February 21st, 2012
2:49 pm

GT Alum,

No one is saying the Hawks are ready to win the Finals. What did you expect after Horford went down for the season? It’s amazing that the Hawks still have a winning record.

What happened to the Falcons when Ryan and Turner were hurt for only part of a season? What happened to the Braves over several seasons when various combinations of starters went down?

The Hawks continue to get better every season despite all odds, but yeah, this season is a wash with the injury situation. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t think we’re a Finals contender as long as Joe Johnson is the man here. The Hawks have been 1 star away from being a contender for a long time now. They thought JJ could be that star when they signed him from the Suns. For his first contract in Atlanta he looked like he had promise but as soon as he signed the 2nd contract he showed his true colors, slightly better than Scottie Pippen offensively but nothing like Nique as far as dependable offense. So I don’t blame any fan for being mad at the state of the team from a management POV, but to say that the players and coaches haven’t made the most of the situation and shown progress isn’t being realistic.

Like it or not, the Hawks are the best performing male pro team in Atlanta. It is what it is, but hopefully the Braves and Falcons will figure out how to win a playoff round soon. I think they can learn something from the much maligned Hawks on how to dig deep and at least put up a fighting chance in the post-season over multiple seasons (taking Boston to 7, beating D-Wade’s Heat, beating Dwight’s Magic, giving Rose’s Bulls a run). Looks like improvement year after year to me.

C from Marietta

February 21st, 2012
2:55 pm

@ cpsman_atlanta

No one give a crap about hockey in Georgia. How bout you move back to Yankee Land.

Scotto

February 21st, 2012
3:05 pm

Jesse

February 21st, 2012
3:12 pm

Why not send Ivan Johnson instead of Smooth?

cpsman_atlanta

February 21st, 2012
3:34 pm

@C from Marietta, a lot of people give a crap about hockey in Georgia. Get your head out of your, yeah, that, and take a look at some of the hockey rinks around Atlanta. Tons of cars, limited ice time, growing college teams…

Ownership is the problem in Atlanta. The Alex Meruelo sale, in my opinion, was all a hoax, as it was Atlanta Spirit Group’s reasoning for making the people of our metro area believe that they actually care. They stopped caring 15 minutes after the sale was complete back in 2003.

Hockey has a better chance of succeeding long term in Atlanta than this Hawks franchise has right now of winning. Plain and simple.

steven A.

February 21st, 2012
3:35 pm

Hawks will be an 8 seed, guarenteed……

Gwinnett Fred

February 21st, 2012
3:38 pm

Before I start pulling for a total fold job – the Hawks do have their own 1st round pick next year, right?

Insanity

February 21st, 2012
3:44 pm

@CRuleSportsGuy

February 21st, 2012
2:32 pm
Does Johnson deserve an AS berth? Yes, he does. “Just compare the other SGs in the Eastern conference – JJ is likely the second-best 2 in the East behind Dwayne Wade”.

So basically, there is only ONE great SG in the Eastern Conference?

steven A.

February 21st, 2012
3:45 pm

sign Agent Zero….

steven A.

February 21st, 2012
3:58 pm

Blow this team up ASG. Stop wasting time…..

atlanta spirit are dumbies

February 21st, 2012
4:11 pm

I DISLIKE JOE JOHNSON THE BASKETBALL PLAYER, don’t know him personally, BUT I WISH I KNEW WHERE HE STAYED I WOULD EGG HIS HOUSE UNTIL HE SHOWS MORE LEADERSHIP & HEART!!!!!

Dozer

February 21st, 2012
4:17 pm

I agree with you Jeff – after all, he’s skipped a bunch of Hawks games already whether he’s on the floor or not…..

E

February 21st, 2012
4:18 pm

The Hawks are not worth wasting a comment on…The HELL with them

Athens Sports Fan

February 21st, 2012
4:31 pm

I guess considering we still have a winning record without Horford or Collins should impress me, but when we lose to the Heat, Bulls, Blazers, etc. by double digits, its still makes me sick. Joe Johnson needs to ride out with the Atlanta Spirit Group when it leaves town for good.

Jt

February 21st, 2012
4:32 pm

You be right, Jeff! Well said.

beone

February 21st, 2012
4:36 pm

Don’t think it would really mean much re: his knee. He won’t put forth any effort if he is in the AS game. But it would be a nice PR move on Joe’s part. Lord knows he needs a better image.

Kelvin

February 21st, 2012
4:42 pm

Honestly, this team needs to miss the playoffs. Acquiring a player through the lottery is the only way they can obtain a someone that might actually be able to help them long term. Otherwise, we are set for another first or second round exit. We’ve already seen what this team does when they go up against the upper echelon teams. I’m afraid this team has reached it’s peak. It’s time to inject some new blood or break them up and start over.

Old Man Peabody

February 21st, 2012
4:43 pm

Yeah, let JJ stay home and replace him with Josh so he can see what a real coach would do if he shoot those ugly jumpers he throw up. Thibs would bench his you know what and Lebron and Wade would not throw him the ball unless he was under the rim. Josh needs to go the the ASG so he can learn the game from real coaches and real All-Stars.

DawgNole

February 21st, 2012
5:04 pm

Devil’s Advocate

February 21st, 2012
2:49 pm

“The Hawks continue to get better every season despite all odds . . . .”
______________________

What a ridiculous statement. The team has been in ATL since the 1960s and has never in that time made it past the second round of the playoffs.

“Better every season”?! Please.

DawgNole

February 21st, 2012
5:09 pm

Devil’s Advocate

February 21st, 2012
2:49 pm

“The Hawks continue to get better every season despite all odds . . . .”
____________________________

What an ignorant statement. The team has played in ATL since the 1960s and has never in that time made it past the second round of the playoffs.

“Better every season”?! Please.

B'Red

February 21st, 2012
5:19 pm

Joe Johnson is not even close to being the player Scottie Pippen was.. He cant find his way to the basket with a GPS

Whopper Dawg

February 21st, 2012
5:36 pm

Jeff, you and I know, it really doesn’t matter what Joe does.

The Truth

February 21st, 2012
5:45 pm

I want a popsicle.

Steve

February 21st, 2012
5:58 pm

Trade Joe for Paul Mokeski & Granville Waiters. Alot less money & 48 mins. of non-stop laughs.