Johnson needs to step back for the Hawks to step forward

Much has to happen. The Hawks need to re-sign Mike Bibby, to work a sign-and-trade with Marvin Williams and to draft a guard, preferably Eric Maynor of VCU, in Round 1. But for this team to climb from pretty good to really good, something more must be done.

The Hawks must wean themselves from their reliance on Joe Johnson.

Almost every bit of the Hawks’ offense since 2005 has run through Johnson, and it’s past time for an adjustment. It’s not that he isn’t a fine player; it’s that this team has two younger players who require room to grow.

Come 2011, Josh Smith and Al Horford should be the Hawks’ best players. (And this assumes Johnson re-ups next summer.) Together, Smith and Horford took 1,443 shots this regular season. By himself, Johnson took 1,420. Save the occasional lob, the team doesn’t run many plays for Smith. It runs almost none for Horford.

Johnson isn’t a ball hog – he led the team in assists, ahead of Bibby – but he’s the focal point. You can be a focal point if you’re LeBron or Kobe or D-Wade, but Johnson isn’t quite. The Hawks would be better served if he played fewer minutes – he led the NBA in those – and took fewer shots.

Would Johnson be amenable? “I would,” he said Tuesday. “But I don’t know if that’s going to be the case. I have a passion and love for the game. Sometimes the coach tries to take me out, and I tell him to leave me in. It’s not that I’m selfish – it’s just my passion for the game.”

Is the goal to stoke Johnson’s fire or to win more games? He was demonstrably fatigued in the postseason and admitted as much. Save for the final three quarters of Game 7 against Miami, he was never the Johnson whom co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. calls “the greatest Hawk since Dominique.”

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Johnson has filled an essential role. More than anyone else, he lifted the Hawks up from squalor. For this team to go further, he needs to work as well with Smith and Horford as he does with Bibby. He needs to become a leader, not just a scorer.

Horford won two NCAA titles with a team famous for sharing the ball. He’s not one to make requests. But here was his reaction when asked if he’d like more shots: “Yeah, every player would. Count me in for that.”

Do the Hawks run much for him? “They don’t,” said Horford, who took fewer shots than Flip Murray. “But I understand. I know what it takes: I have to work on my game and make them give me the ball a little more.”

Would Mike Woodson be willing to work Johnson less? “Without a doubt,” the coach said. “Did I wear him down? Sure. But I needed to ride him to get us where we needed to go.”

For this team to reach the next level, Smith and Horford must pull more of the load. They’re 23. (Johnson is 27.) They’re the future.

Williams is not. So long as he’s here, he’ll always be the guy who isn’t Chris Paul, and there should be teams willing to work a sign-and-trade. Bibby should stay because the Hawks went too long without a point guard. And another guard should be the focus of this draft because there won’t be a big man around when the Hawks pick.

But the big transition has to be internal. Johnson cannot be the lone star any longer. For the good of all, he must become one of the gang.

259 comments Add your comment

matt r

May 12th, 2009
1:31 pm

Nice work MB

Dan

May 12th, 2009
1:41 pm

Marvin Williams is the only player on this team with any semblance of an inside-outside game. This team needs a coach to cultivate that out of him. Trading him would be a HUGE mistake.

truth-serum

May 12th, 2009
1:48 pm

Trade that sorry scrubb know as the” turnover waiting to happen” ZaZa is a scrubb and a loser. The reason the Hawks did not go further is we dont have a center. It would be nice to trade Za-scrubb for sump-ting….any thing grilled chicken for KFC sumpting,. He is like a green lite under the board. He stops no one!~!

Dennis

May 12th, 2009
1:49 pm

Fire Woodson, and bring in a coach that will let these guys run. They are too athletic to be bogged down in a half court style offense for the majority of the game. )One reason the Hawks do so well against Western Conference teams is that they able to run with them.

Joseph

May 12th, 2009
1:49 pm

I agree that the Hawks should not dismantle the team but build key components. Fans were frustrated with the series but the last two games were in reach with better offense. Williams may come through but I think Smith and Horford are the key stones, who need more shots (and less erratic play Mr. Smith) to drive the Hawks forward. A yonger PG who could defend as well as shoot would be nice too to win 55 games next year.

HHBO

May 12th, 2009
1:49 pm

What would we call ‘em?
“Smoove ‘n the gang”?!?

nola hawk fan

May 12th, 2009
1:56 pm

nice work mark. enjoyed your coverage of the playoffs.

Question – have you looked at what bigs are out there for possible sign and trade or FA? To me, that is the biggest hole right now. Whether it was Z or Sideshow Bob grabbing endless offensive rebounds this series, it was apparent, the hawks need a real center and let Al play the 4.

And if Marvin can be the bait to get a Big, I agree, he would be the one to trade.

freshd

May 12th, 2009
1:57 pm

It wouldn”t hurt for WOODROW to play AC LAW and develop him into the rotation, and see what he has. RICK SUND has said he likes AC and WOODY needs to throw him into the fire and quit trying to save his job every season by playing JOE 40 minutes a game. He should take a look at ORLANDO and how they threw COURTNEY LEE into the fire, and he”s a rookie.

Desmond

May 12th, 2009
2:00 pm

What do U mean by “Johnson needs to step back for the Hawks to step forward?” Joe Johnson may not played as well this postseason but Joe Johnson put the Atlanta Hawks back on the map and without Joe Johnson, there would not be no Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Hawks will not be successful, and Josh Smith, Al Hortford, and everybody else would not play as good without Joe.

Josh Smildress

May 12th, 2009
2:05 pm

Hey Mark, covering the Hawks for the past two weeks does not entitle you to an opinion about how the Hawks play. All you columnists who watch only 11 games of the season have no idea how the team plays. Marvin is good and played well all season, can we work a sign and trade with you?

Timothy

May 12th, 2009
2:08 pm

While everybody being so damn critical on Joe, watch out for Joe Johnson next season. Once again Joe Johnson is gonna prove everybody wrong and everybody gonna jump back on his bandwagon. BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR JOE JOHNSON NEXT YEAR EVERYBODY.

Harry Hawk

May 12th, 2009
2:11 pm

I’m actually leaning toward Schultz’s column today. Joe might be the guy to move. His knees may very well be close to shot (a 40 minute-per-game average over the last six seasons can do that). Do we wait another year, make the playoffs, and then sign him to a near-max contract? Would it make any sense to do that for a complementary star player who will be turning 30 in 2011? Will the Hawks be acquiring a true superstar for Joe to play with?

Here are my answers to those three questions: I hope not; not much; not likely.

Oh, and don’t forget that Bibby turns 32 next year. Wanna pay him big money? For these two reasons, I think we have an interesting offseason ahead of us.

(Don’t get me wrong. I like Joe. He’s really helped this organization out. We’re back to the Smitty/Mutombo/Mookie days. Unfortunately, teams like that usually get blown up because they aren’t good enough to be elite.)

2PacFan4Life

May 12th, 2009
2:12 pm

WITHOUT JOE JOHNSON, ATLANTA HAWKS IS NOTHING POINT BLANK. REAL TALK.

BDubs

May 12th, 2009
2:17 pm

Agreed more with Schultzie. Trade Joe J. and keep Marvin.

RealSquawk

May 12th, 2009
2:22 pm

That’s a great argument letting a player go because he was picked before somebody. Like he had control over that.

Without you noticing you picked more bones at Woodson then you did Joe. Woodson said he rode Joe so he could keep his job, Woodson said he let Joe tell him what to do, and when you spoke about Marvin you forgot to mention that Woodson doesn’t like small guards and gave chris paul a no vote.

Really I feel sorry for Billy Knight he got a lot of venom spewed his way. When I honestly think most of his perceived poor decisions came from trying to appease Mike Woodson. Who will all know won’t play someone he doesn’t like.

Big Ups to Salim Stoudamire for getting another chance with the Bucks and Royal Ivey for finding his place in the league.

Actually Mark you probably went after Woodson in this column on purpose (no sarcasm there)

Dan

May 12th, 2009
2:24 pm

Mark,

I am one of your biggest critics. I have to say, however, that I agree with everything you wrote. The Eric Mayner suggestion, in particular. Hope he is still around.

A sign-and-trade with Williams is needed. He is a good player, but I feel the team is just the same with him as they are without. If someone has to go, it makes sense that it would be him. We’ll see…

Don’t forget…resign Flip Murray, too…

freshd

May 12th, 2009
2:28 pm

Any chance the hawks could trade for MARK GASOL who averaged 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds this year for MEMPHIS. He is 7 feet tall and weighs 280 lbs and only 24 years old. The HAWKS could then move AL to power forward. They need some bangers and some beef in the middle.

Mark Bradley

May 12th, 2009
2:28 pm

Thanks, Matt. Thanks, Nola. Thanks, Dan.

Let me note that the Hawks won a playoff series with virtually nothing from Marvin Williams. He has been here four seasons and has become that incongruity — an inessential double-figures scorer.

Keepin it 100

May 12th, 2009
2:29 pm

Mark Bradley gone with all that mess bra!!!! Joe Johnson is the Atlanta Hawks and he aint going nowhere you know that i know that he know that the whole A-town knows that. This team has build themselves up from a 13 game winning season to a 47 winning season, 4th place in the eastern conference, and went to the 2nd round of the playoffs!!!! breaking this team will be like breaking up the lakers JOE JOHNSON WILL BE HEAR NEXT YEAR YALL!!! MARK BRADLEY JUST TRIPPIN

Mark Bradley

May 12th, 2009
2:30 pm

Acie Law has no future here. None.

Mark Bradley

May 12th, 2009
2:32 pm

I didn’t say Joe should be traded. I don’t believe Joe should be traded. (You’ve finally won a playoff series, and now you’re going to dump your leading scorer?) What I said — at least what I thought I said — was to have Joe shoulder less of the offensive load and become a part of the offense, not the whole shooting match.

Astro Joe

May 12th, 2009
2:36 pm

Just because some in the media and some fans can’t get over Marvin’s draft position, that shouldn’t be the reason you get rid of a 23 year-old with a high basketball IQ, a great work ethic and contributes within the team concept on both ends of the floor. Carmelo Anthony was drafted before Dwayne Wade. And Carmelo did so little for his team that they had to experiment with Iversen before acquiring Billups to make them into a true winner. Oh, and not to mention that whole sucker punch thing that Melo did that led to a lengthy suspension. I guess by your logic, Denver should have dumped Melo for a six pack of Coors because he wasn’t Mr. T. Mobile.

Oh yeah and if you’re going to draft a rookie PG and start scheming for the future then you better have a Head Coach with more than 1 year left on his contract. Moving some eggs from the JJ basket to that of any of these “they have potential” players screams of a semi-rebuilding effort and why would any coach with a single year left on his deal want to do that? Woody isn’t some crazed UGA professor looking to commit (professional) suicide.

Mark Bradley

May 12th, 2009
2:37 pm

I’m sorry. But Marvin just isn’t what the Hawks thought he’d be. And I don’t think he’ll be worth what he’s apt to ask as a restricted free agent.

mj23

May 12th, 2009
2:38 pm

Joe, will be back, but i don’t think Bibby will. If he agrees to a 1 yr. deal, then bring him back, but Bibby’s best days are behind him and he is a liability on defense. Woody has stunted Acie’s development because he doesn’t trust him Woody prefers to play vets, and Acie plays like he’s scared. Bring in a Jarret Jack or Javaris Crittenton to run this team.

smartguy

May 12th, 2009
2:39 pm

To those saying: “watch out for Joe next year,” I would say, I wanted to watch Joe this year. If he’d played worth a darn, we could still be watching him play.

TRADE NO SHOW JOE.
FIRE STUPID WOODSON.

Magic

May 12th, 2009
2:39 pm

Mark you wimped out with Bill Martin

J.J.M.

May 12th, 2009
2:41 pm

trave Marvin. Release speedy. keep joe and zaza…Im not sold on Horford but maybe because hes still young(rookie here was real good thoug) as much as i like bibby to stay I would let him go only if ACIE can step up or we trade for a much better point guard(why point guards we sign or draft never work out for us?) overall I would love to keep this team chemistry together

Mark Bradley

May 12th, 2009
2:42 pm

OK, let’s say the Hawks trade Joe. For whom?

jg

May 12th, 2009
2:43 pm

i would just like to thanks these hawks for making my basketball season very interesting. i watched every tv game that was on from my home in chattanooga, tn with my three boys ages 7, 5 and well 9-months. we were also able to watch one game in philips arena–a W against a very good Denver team in January. we really had a blast all year!

personally i enjoyed this team a lot! i feel like they’re a good group of guys who are still developing their basketball skill and IQ. i’m not going to make much of this series with cleveland because i knew we weren’t quite good enough to win a series against them especially without home court..my only problem is that we didn’t play our best ball. i truly think we peaked a little early and the injuries really hit us at a horrible time. yea we got through injuries here and there during the season–but two or three during the same time is too much to overcome. i really thought us playing our best basketball could extend the cavs series to atleast 6 or even 7 games. i hate that we didn’t give our best play to the national fans that now might see this hawk team as over-rated. we won 47 games because of really good team play and hustle and i’m sad no one got to see much of this in the playoffs.

for the future–i hope we keep most of these guys together. obviously i would love to add a quality center such as a chris bosh. if it means we lose a marvin or even joe i think we have to do it. marvin was really playing well before the injury and i think that injury really destroyed our chemistry late in the year. as far as joe goes–yea i really love jj too–but it’s so painful to watch how much effort he has to put forth to score. some guys make it look real easy–but poor joe has to scratch and claw for everything. and that’s really not his fault per say–but i feel like his outside shot is declining and his ft percentage is going down as well–probably because of fatigue!

finally, whoever we bring in or keep–know this–me and my three sons will be rooting hard for the hawks up here in chattanooga. you guys should have seen them when we knocked out miami!!!!!!

jg
chattanooga

Mark Bradley

May 12th, 2009
2:43 pm

And don’t say LeBron. Or Kobe. Or D-Wade.

Mark Bradley

May 12th, 2009
2:45 pm

Bibby’s not going to take a one-year deal.

J.J.M.

May 12th, 2009
2:45 pm

people keep saying trade joe like its fault but yall wasnt saying trade him when he was on yop of his game(bandwagon fans) coach worked joe to hard he was tired. If we had a better bench and better role players joe wouldnt be so tired and have played better but dont forget he was double teamed meaning it was his job to hit the open players which he did but the players couldnt hit the open shot most times…Horford not comfortable in his mid range shot. I seen him pass up the wide open shot to much.

STRETCH

May 12th, 2009
2:46 pm

freshd,
Good point! You got a 1st round pick point guard sitting on the bench…found out what the guy has next season. Bibby needs to take a pay cut for sure. And Joe needs less minutes next season as well, so that when he comes back in the game, he has that killer instinct he showed last season.

Gotta get a big man like Sir Charles said last night. Until they get big, the are always gonna lose big.

Harry Hawk

May 12th, 2009
2:47 pm

LeBron, Kobe, and D-Wade.

The Cavs, Lakers and Heat can work out a timeshare deal for Joe.

J.J.M.

May 12th, 2009
2:47 pm

if i had to trade joe for a player it would be LaMarcus Aldridge

Barry

May 12th, 2009
2:47 pm

Mark, I completely agree. How many Hawks possessions wound up with Joe dribbling and dribbling, then either a turnover or someone heaving up a desparation shot. And that is no knock on Joe. I think Joe is a really good player, and a good offensive player. But he isn’t a dominant player that commands the attention of a LeBron or DWade. He can score, but within the context of the offense. He can’t consistently force the action. There is no way the Hawks will go to the next level with this basic roster if they don’t share the ball any better. I like Marvin Williams, but he doesn’t really make much of a difference. What do you think they could get for him if they were able to trade him? Mike Bibby absolutely needs to stay, and they either need to get another, younger point guard, or allow Acie Law to play and develop. What’s up with him? It seemed to me he played alright when given the chance. He’s different than Bibby, but more up tempo.

allan in texas

May 12th, 2009
2:50 pm

Mark, what or who can we get for Marvin Williams? Any ideas? Thanks and have a nice day.

Harry Hawk

May 12th, 2009
2:50 pm

I’m sure I could figure something out on the ol’ ESPN Trade Machine.

mountain_jim

May 12th, 2009
2:55 pm

Replace Woodson, bring in the 7 footer from Euro, trade Chills rights and change for another defensive Center and Joe and Marvin probably get a whole lot better. Or if it takes either of them to get a real Center then do that trade also.

Woodson burned out Joe and did not develop Acie. He needs to be replaced with a coach willing to build for the long term, not just burn everybody out pre-playoffs just to keep his job each year.

Ellis St. John

May 12th, 2009
2:59 pm

If you don’t at least try to trade Joe now, he walks next summer (unrestricted free agent) to play second fiddle (his desired role) with D-Wade or Lebron or Bosh. Move him now if you can.

Larry

May 12th, 2009
2:59 pm

Mark,

The Hawks can become elite with addition without major overhaul.

1. Resign Flip & Bibby to reasonable short term deals, 2 years.
2. Trade Marvin, we need a Tyson Chandler, or Andris Biedrins type player. Who need few touches, rebounds and block shots, and can finish (Unlike ZaZa, Solo)
3. Draft a PG, I’m not sold on Maynor yet, but he is an excellent shooter for a PG and that always transitions well.
4. Make NICE with Josh Childress.
5. FIRE WOODY, because no matter how well the Hawks play from here on out, we will always be out coached. He doesnt deserve to be fired for this season’s performance, but this team is alteast 1 year behind schedule, if not two.

Mark Bradley

May 12th, 2009
3:00 pm

OK, let’s say the Hawks do find a big man. Does Horford move to power forward and Josh to small forward? Where would Marvin play then? And wouldn’t you like your small forward to have some capacity to make a jump shot? Wouldn’t the redone front line be too much bulk and not enough quicks?

BoricuaHawkFan

May 12th, 2009
3:01 pm

Nice article and perspective. That just sounds like a nice dream, which I’d take any day if it came true. It seems like most high-scoring stars do tend to pick up the bulk of minutes and shooting. Mark: Any comparison (mins. & shots) numbers with the likes of say DWade, Kobe, Dirk? My guess is that they also tend to carry their teams and will likely have comparable numbers.

Great season though a bit dissapointed at the lack of fight during the playoffs.

Mark Bradley

May 12th, 2009
3:02 pm

Good idea. Trade the leading scorer off a playoff team because he might — might — leave in a year. That’s not the way it happens in the NBA. This isn’t baseball.

mike

May 12th, 2009
3:04 pm

Mark,

Good article. I agree with your theory about Joe but I dont agree with the idea about Marvin. I think he has made great strides this past year with his shooting and rebounding. A healthy Marvin produces numbers and his size and length is great (sorry for using the favorite word of Billy Knight, length). Who is the weakest link then? Josh Smith! (And Bibby’s defense.. and Woody’s offense). Josh Smith does not make enough good plays to make up for his bad plays and turnovers. He has a big enough name to get some trade value, perhaps a big man (i refuse to use the word “true center” because there are virtually non-existant anymore). Then we can move Al to his true position at 4. What’s your take on that MB?

Dan

May 12th, 2009
3:07 pm

I really do not think the Hawks need a superstar big man. I think they just need one that can come in and do the dirty work, bang people around, get boards, and score a few hoops a game. Kawamie (sp?) Brown would have fit that role perfect, but the Pistons outbid the Hawks in the end.

It would be great to land a superstar big, but that is not going to happen. There are only like three of them on the planet anyways. Just get a big player (or two) to come off the bench and be able to hold their own. The big does not have to start.

And, if the big does start, like Mark said, do you really want Josh Smith playing the 3. I am in the not only no, but h#ll no catagory on that one. I can’t stomach anymore of his possession killing jump shots.

Mark Bradley

May 12th, 2009
3:09 pm

Good question, Boricua. Joe took 1,420 shots. Kobe took 1,710. D-Wade took 1,739. LeBron took 1,613. Nowitzki took 1,614.

But let me also note that those four were the league’s top four scorers. Joe finished 16th. And played more minutes than anybody.

Gerald Williams

May 12th, 2009
3:09 pm

Bradley needs to step back for this paper to move forward!

How about those Gwinnett Braves-

http://minorsandmajors.com/2009/674/gwinnett-braves-win-medlens-streak-intact

J.J.M.

May 12th, 2009
3:09 pm

Larry none of that is possible..first you are assuming that the players will accept a short term deal. “Trade Marvin, we need a Tyson Chandler, or Andris Biedrins type” come on now lol

shannon

May 12th, 2009
3:09 pm

We finally make it back to the 2nd round and get beat by a Cavs Team that is Really Dominant right now and everybody wants to get rid of Johnson.. Celtics and the magic wont stand a chance either.. He was constantly doubled team.. U know why Lebron wasnt Doubled team? Because he can dish it out to someone else to score..Think about it. The cavs picked up Mo Williams and that changed the way they played because u have a consistent 2nd option in Mo williams.. Josh Smith isnt Consistent enough.. The Cavs kept giving him the Open Jumper cause they knew it would be a bad shot.But yet he still would take it.Joe Johnson is the Star not on Kobe or Lebrons Level,he Got us here but until the Hawks have a True 2nd threat he will always be doubled team when we play better teams because they will make someone else beat them.