Like it or not, the Hawks can’t afford to dump Joe Johnson

One of these three probably won't be back next season. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

One of these three probably won't be back next season. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It’s danger time for the Hawks, and not as regards the 2010 playoffs. That’s a done deal. The danger lies beyond. The danger lies in overreaction.

With the exception of four well spaced games against Milwaukee in Round 1, the Hawks have been terrible this postseason. To watch them is  to forget they won 53 games and are the East’s No. 3 seed.  But that’s the point: We can’t forget, or we shouldn’t.

At the moment, the temptation is great to say the Hawks need to start over. Of all people in all cities, we should know better. Because we in Atlanta suffered through a wretched half-decade of what starting over means. (Mike Woodson gave a one word-description Sunday: “Hell.”) It means going 13-69. It means depending on the ping-pong balls to bounce your way and depending on your GM not to pick a guy named Williams.

The Hawks are going to lose in Round 2 for the second consecutive season. Last year they were hurt and had no chance; this time they’ve given themselves no chance. They have issues regarding mesh and direction, and it’s possible some of that could be corrected by importing a new coach.

But let’s say you bring in Doug Collins or Avery Johnson or Bryon Scott (or, more likely, Dwane Casey). The best coach cannot win without players. Let’s note that Pat Riley, who has five NBA titles, went 15-67 with the Miami Heat in 2007-2008 when Dwyane Wade got hurt and Shaquille O’Neal got traded.

Which brings us to Joe Johnson. He has averaged 12.3 points against Orlando, missing 71.4 percent of his shots. Off this performance, you wouldn’t re-sign him at 18 cents per season, let alone $18 million. But Johnson just was named third team all-NBA, which by definition makes him one of the league’s 15 best players. If  he leaves, which of the other 14 takes his place? And if none does (and none would), haven’t you weakened your team to the extent it might not be in the playoffs next spring?

The Hawks have ceased meshing. Both Johnson and Al Horford admitted as much after practice Sunday. Said Horford: “The chemistry is OK at times … At times it’s not so good. At times we mesh, but sometimes when things don’t go our way we crawl in our own little hole.”

About chemistry: The Bucks had it, and they rode it to a 3-2 series lead over these Hawks. Then Milwaukee lost Games 6 and 7 by an aggregate 35 points for the simple reason its mesh couldn’t override a lack of talent. This is the NBA. It’s a players’ league. You can have the happiest locker room in the world, but if there aren’t enough big-timers in it you won’t win anything.

Who needs to go?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

This doesn’t excuse the performances the Hawks have offered this postseason. Said Horford: “The last thing we should worry about is effort. That should be a given.”

Said Woodson: “I’m not here to coach effort.”

And there’s your disconnect. Too many guys in this locker room have tuned out this coach, who for many of them is the only pro coach they’ve known. It’s not clear if Red Auerbach reincarnate could guide these Hawks past Orlando, but when you’ve lost three games by an average of 29 points it is clear someone’s message isn’t taking hold.

Woodson again: “At the end of the day, this team is still headed in the right direction. I sure hope they don’t go back the other way and bust it up.”

To break apart this roster now would be tantamount to surrender, and we know too well what that’s like. But to expect these players to respond more positively to this coach in his seventh season on the job is likewise folly. We Atlantans saw the same thing happen more than two decades ago when a good young team grew up around Mike Fratello but eventually stopped listening.

Now as then, it comes down to one question: Is it easier to change the team or change the coach? And the answer, now as then, is that the Hawks can conceivably find an upgrade on Mike Woodson. They might not find another Joe Johnson. This summer isn’t the time to subtract talent. It’s the time to do as the elite teams do and add, add, add.

229 comments Add your comment

BONE

May 9th, 2010
2:35 pm

JJJJOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOE—————-BRICKCITY—-JOHNSONNNNNNNNN

BONE

May 9th, 2010
2:35 pm

WE NEED TRYON LUE

BONE

May 9th, 2010
2:35 pm

Enter your comments hereJOEW

JeJe

May 9th, 2010
2:37 pm

JeJe

May 9th, 2010
2:37 pm

FIRST.

FIRE WOODY

FIRST

Delbert D.

May 9th, 2010
2:39 pm

I hate to say it, but it’s time to bring in another coach. I respect the job that Woody did building this team from almost nothing, with year-by-year improvement. It’s time.

Tony from Stone Mountain

May 9th, 2010
2:45 pm

I like Woodson. But even I have to admit it’s time to change coaches.

Craig

May 9th, 2010
2:46 pm

If you want to keep Johnson, and I am not sold this will help, then Woodson has to go. If I was king for a day I would let both go and roll out the money carpet for D Wade. The guy has more heart then JJ. and better in the clutch.

Mtn Hawk

May 9th, 2010
2:48 pm

Like it or not, I believe MB is about to get slammed by the fans like MW and JJ. lol.

hawksfan

May 9th, 2010
2:52 pm

Trade josh smith. It’s clear he can’t give effort throughout the whole game. I don’t care how talented he is. Josh has no heart and he takes off so many plays that really hurt this team.

Dr. Warren

May 9th, 2010
2:52 pm

Kevin Loughery is barely 70, and he’s available. He’s won everywhere he’s been, including taking the Hawks to the playoffs twice. Apparently, he’s open to a return to coaching. Why not give him a shot? Ageism is a thing of the past.

Steve

May 9th, 2010
2:53 pm

The Hawks are terrible! What a bunch of thugs. It will be hilarious to see Phillips half empty on Monday. The Hawks will only get worse now. Atlanta does not care about the NBA anything. The Hawks should leave with the Thrashers.

evan

May 9th, 2010
2:53 pm

Mark, have you noticed not many people responding to this blog because this team has pissed the fan base off, i know joe has. You can’t tell me they had effort yesterday, i can live with getting beat by a better team but this team is immature and that is a direct result of coaching… Still need a point guard… so very hard to evaluate

Reggie

May 9th, 2010
2:55 pm

Mark
I disagree, I would agree with you, if the Hawk would have shown more heart & effort in this series. I agree that Mike Woodson should be gone, but there is NO WAY i’m paying Joe Johnson big money. He hasn’t gotten the job done. If you pay Joe Johnosn, you are basically stuck with this team that is a second round team at best. Its time to start over & build around Al Horford & Josh Smith

Dr. Warren

May 9th, 2010
2:56 pm

For those who suggest Hubie Brown would be better than Loughery, remember Hubie is 77, and there’s a big difference between 77 and 70, as everyone knows.

Some Sense

May 9th, 2010
2:58 pm

Keeping Joe Johnson “keeps” the Hawks where they are right now. O. K., so he’s third team NBA, nominally one of the best fifteen players in the league, BUT the Hawks will never win much of anything w/ Joe as their best player. Even if the team fails to get dollar for dollar or player for player value, the team must let him walk.

Woody, too, must go. A coach is as good as his players play hard for him. Unfortunately, see freuent disinterest during the season foreshadowing the current meltdown.

Give Josh Smith, Horford, Marvin Williams, Teague, a couple others a chance w/a new coach, just not a retread, please.

Dr. Warren

May 9th, 2010
2:59 pm

Steve–no one on the Hawks is a “thug.” That’s racist language.

JohninDC

May 9th, 2010
2:59 pm

Mark…you make some good points, but how can ATL “ADD” to their roster to be competitive, if they have OVERPAY for JJ (and anything he asks for will be TOO MUCH). Yeah, he was 3rd team All NBA…that does NOT make him one of the best 15 players in the league…lol. His turnovers and lack of heart is maddening. His absolute non-existence in big games is maddening! Atlanta would not go back to less than 20 wins without JJ…no way! Woodson is definitely gone (THANK HEAVENS)…but Atlanta can use that money wisely instead of giving it to JJ. He’s not needed, and quite honestly, he’s not wanted here anymore.

M Byrd

May 9th, 2010
2:59 pm

Picking a Williams would have been fine had his first name been Deron.

hawks fan 33

May 9th, 2010
3:00 pm

FIRE WOODY….that feels great.

Now, I still am a fan of Joe Johnson, even if he has stunk these playoffs. But something has to be said about the fact that Johnson has a tendency to disappear during the playoffs when he is the main cog (he was productive in Phoenix until the face incident, which is why Joe Johnson dunking is sporadic at best). I’m worried he’ll leave and go someplace where he doesn’t have to be the focal point, but will still average 20, 5, and 5 silently and continue to make the all star team. I still think our core is strong.

A new coach would get more out of these Hawks. Even Marvin, whom fans loathe with a passion and Josh, who causes fans to pull their hair out. I can only imagine what a fresh perspective would do, and also a coach who doesn’t mind developing young players. So many answers, hopefully Sund already has a list in mind. I don’t think we can afford Avery (remember, this is the Spirit group). But there has to be someone out there…..

Personnel moves: Offer LeBron a max contract, part ownership of the team, the key to the city, a percentage of tickets and merchandise sold…lol kidding.

Seriously, Mark has a point. Who would we get outside of Joe? I don’t think its anyway D Wade comes here. Rudy Gay is more so a “3″. Can we rely on Jamal to start at the 2 when he’s so good for us off the Bench? Would Bosh come back to ATL? (then how would lineups go?) Then, what about J Chil?

It is going to be an interesting off season.

druid hills hawks fan

May 9th, 2010
3:02 pm

The Hawks should go after Chris Bosh and let Johnson go to make room. He’s a great player, but he’s a not a leader. I don’t know if Bosh would end up being a player who can carry a team, but he might be. That’s a better prospect than expecting Johnson to suddenly change and become an A-1 level player who can win a series by himself.

niqueforever

May 9th, 2010
3:03 pm

Just like sins of the fathers it effects you for generations, J Notso smoove is like many in his generation, no backbone, spoiled by money , no passion, joe johnson not a leader passive verbally, michael jordan would lose his damn mind! Marvin was the worst player you could get from UNC, Bibby was never a leader just a role sixth man, And Woodson you dont Coach effort, come on you better say something run suicides or something use the mdeia attack their manhood publicly or something what a joke. It was as if they would have rather been at the varsity eating a damn hotdog! Atlanta Hawks man up and win a game! Nique schooled them every night hurt money or no money, he used to play for food on the streets, you have no idea! And as fans we pay for your jerseys and tickets and salaries while the economy still sucks and yet you have your millions but dont care what we think, Never will I watch another game or pay for a ticket to watch your no effort__ __ __, find some backbone and work ethic if it wasn’t for basketball you would be picking up trash or bush axing down in jackson with that kind of effort!

druid hills hawks fan

May 9th, 2010
3:04 pm

As for lineups, you could play a front line of Bosh, Horford and Smith, or you could also move Smith.

In any case, it’s likely Marvin Williams would go to the bench. Having him as a sixth man and moving Crawford to the starting line up to replace Johnson might work.

Texas Hawk

May 9th, 2010
3:04 pm

Actually they need both Woody and Joe Jonhson but the Hawks need to seriously look into getting a good to better big man to play center. Hortford is a suitable center but really needs to be at Forward. Atlanta needs to find and develop a big man before just blowing up this team. Before anyone jumps all over me about this, I have watched these last few playoff games against Orlando but the biggest problem is the amount of people we have to use on Dwight Howard. This does take away from the offense and the cohesion because of the people being switched in and out at the Center position. Us having a solid big man and not just Hortford would eleviate a lot of these problems. I would start Crawford and Johnson at the guards (bring Teague & Bibby off the bench), I would also start Hortford and Josh Smith at the Forward (bring Marvin Williams & Zaza off the bench) then use our big man at center and rotate him with the other 7 footer we have on the squad.

Someone on the internet is WRONG.

May 9th, 2010
3:05 pm

“But Johnson just was named third team all-NBA, which by definition makes him one of the league’s 15 best players.”

I may be nitpicking, but being named 3rd team all-NBA means he’s perceived as being one of the 15 best, not that he actually is one of the 15 best.

Texas Hawk

May 9th, 2010
3:05 pm

“druid hills hawks fan ”
We have some of the same ideas I see.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajc dot com, Shawn D and Iz'E Ahanotu, Al Horford Fans. Al Horford Fans said: RT @ajc: Mark Bradley — Like it or not, the Hawks can’t afford to dump Joe Johnson http://bit.ly/c6XvlI [...]

H

May 9th, 2010
3:12 pm

Joe’s gotta go. He’s selfish, unproductive, and overrated. He’ll get you 40-50 games, but he does nothing in big games. We need a bigtime player in Joe’s place–someone who moves the ball and creates offense, rather than someone who dribbles for 14 seconds doing this iso-nonsense.

O'Brien

May 9th, 2010
3:13 pm

Mark,

If the Chemistry is bad, then wihy did Rick Sund resign Marvin, Bibby and ZaZa? I thought Chemistry and continuity was supposed to be our model.

I agree that the Hawks should not dump Joe Johnson, and I think the ASG will agree. But you did not say anything about his max contract status?

Because the problem will be, how much do you offer him? If I’m not mistaken, if the Hawks offer him a max contract, it works out to 6 years, $120 mil (based on annual raises etc.). Is he worth that much money?

I would love to see JJ stay with the Hawks, but I’m not sure if I would offer him more than 5 years, $80 mil. If another team offers him more money and he decides to leave, then so be it.

Becuase if that happens, that does not mean that he was dumped. That meant for whatever reason, he decided to sign elsewehere.

Grumpy

May 9th, 2010
3:15 pm

Woody has to go. Offer Joe the same deal as you did in the fall – $60 million, 4 years.

JohninDC

May 9th, 2010
3:15 pm

I love the ideas of Bosh coming here…but I have a funny feeling he’s all but a Houston Rocket already (that’s home for him). They cleared money trading TMAC just to make a run at Bosh. I think Bosh will go home to Texas…Wade definitely not coming to Atlanta…LeBron..people are being silly even thinking there’s a remote chance he’s play for the Hawks. Atlanta doesn’t need a max free agent! They just need a solid 7-footer (I know, easier said than done), but if they could get that either in the draft, trade or euro league…but JJ does need to go. I’d take John Salmons over him…hate to admit it, but I truly would.

Real Talk

May 9th, 2010
3:17 pm

I had a lot of respect for JJ up until Last Night for him to disrespect paying fans like he did buy saying he didn’t care if they come out or not is totally unprofessional. The Hawks franchise should fine him for a comment like that. That comment was disrespectful to me as a season ticket holder. I am seriously thinking about not renewing my tickets for next season if they bring Joe back. What good is winning 53 games in a season and choking in the playoffs this team needs a makeover and I am pretty sure Rick Snud want make dumb Draft picks like Billy knight did. Even in defeat I loved the Heart Al and Jamal showed throughout this series. Jamal was more professional with his comments after the game when he said the fans were just showing tough love with the booing I can respect that. Bottom Line is if they bring Joe Johnson back next I will not renew my tickets, and I will not purchase anymore tickets for my family, coworkers, or friends. We’ll see who cares who shows up if the Hawks franchise show #2 Johnson in uniform for next year

Nohearthawks

May 9th, 2010
3:18 pm

Joe Johnson is an All Star not a Super Star. The Hawks desperately need a big man and I honestly believe Crawford could do just as good if not better than Johnson. He dribbles entirely too much and you can tell that once he puts the ball on the floor that he is going to shoot it. He is not the person to build a team around. And as for his attitude towards the fans here in Atlanta, let him go to New York and pull the same stunts, He will most definately here it.

Pedro

May 9th, 2010
3:20 pm

I was at the game yesterday. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Simply the Hawks had no energy and desire to compete against Orlando. Honestly, Woodson is gone after this season.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, André Poythress, Michael, Reggie Mickles, Brandon McCoy and others. Brandon McCoy said: Somebody with some sense thank you RT @MarkBradleyAJC: Like it or not, the Hawks can’t afford to dump Joe Johnson http://bit.ly/bKoFm8 [...]

George Foreman 3:16

May 9th, 2010
3:24 pm

Eliminate all the stupid ghetto nicknames…..smooth,chill,home-slice….make all the players get military hair-cuts,fire harry the hawk, get a mexican point guard to fill the seats, sell tall-boy pbrs for 5 dinero a pop, and hire ditka to coach ‘em up…..

david

May 9th, 2010
3:24 pm

Coach Woodson is terrible in my opinion but forget that. This team needs a different coach. Period. Go ahead and call Coach Woodson a great coach. Who cares. This team needs a diffferent coach. Call him Coach Wooden. It doesn’t matter, this team needs a different coach. A different coach. Different coach. The effort, chemistry, adjustments, defense and predictable offense are all terrible. TERRIBLE.

Freshmaker

May 9th, 2010
3:24 pm

Guys we don’t need any more big men. There’s nobody in the league that can guard Dwight Howard 1 on 1 with the exception of maybe Shaq. Horford is 6′10″, that’s plenty big enough. Not like the guy is 6′6″. I want a SF that can put some points on the board and I want Teague to get more minutes because he’s good at penetrating the lane and kicking the ball out. He’s going to be a big upgrade over Bibby in that department in a year or two. Add in a coach that’s a better offensive mind and we should be good to go. We can’t get rid of JJ because we have nobody to replace him. If you put in JC as a starter and bring say Childress back we are a 7th seed.

D Hawks

May 9th, 2010
3:25 pm

MB, you make some valid points, but I think the only way you bring back JJ is if there’s enough money left on the table to get a decent Center and PG, and Woody definitely must go. JJ is one of the top 15 based on your criteria, but more accurately he’s between the 11th and 15th player. There’s not a single player on the first 2 all-NBA teams that he could replace, and I could make a good argument for several of the guys that also received votes replacing him on the 3rd team. If the Hawks Max JJ, they will be destined to stay at about the same level that they are already on.

Different Reggie

May 9th, 2010
3:25 pm

The hawk are in a tough spot. IF you do not resign Joe, who are you going to bring in to reaplace him with? But it does not make since to pay max contract! Needs to be a block buster trade while keeping Josh, Crawford & Horford at 4 as core.. Dwight Howard is not going anywhere. They will always run into this buzzsaw!

Spoke

May 9th, 2010
3:27 pm

Has another Atlanta sports team reached another “plateau?”

Real Talk

May 9th, 2010
3:27 pm

I had a lot of respect for JJ up until Last Night for him to disrespect paying fans like he did buy saying he didn’t care if they come out or not is totally unprofessional. The Hawks franchise should fine him for a comment like that.

That comment was disrespectful to me as a season ticket holder. I am seriously thinking about not renewing my tickets for next season if they bring Joe back. What good is winning 53 games in a season and choking in the playoffs this team needs a makeover and I am pretty sure Rick Snud want make dumb Draft picks like Billy knight did.

Even in defeat I loved the Heart Al and Jamal showed throughout this series. Jamal was more professional with his comments after the game when he said the fans were just showing tough love with the booing I can respect that. Bottom Line is if they bring Joe Johnson back next I will not renew my tickets, and I will not purchase anymore tickets for my family, coworkers, or friends. We’ll see who cares who shows up if the Hawks franchise show #2 Johnson in uniform for next year

Grandad

May 9th, 2010
3:27 pm

Mark – It’s time for you to get on the Mike Budenholzer bandwagon.

Real Talk

May 9th, 2010
3:30 pm

I had a lot of respect for JJ up until Last Night for him to disrespect paying fans like he did buy saying he didn’t care if they come out or not is totally unprofessional. The Hawks franchise should fine him for a comment like that. That comment was disrespectful to me as a season ticket holder. I am seriously thinking about not renewing my tickets for next season if they bring Joe back.

What good is winning 53 games in a season and choking in the playoffs this team needs a makeover and I am pretty sure Rick Snud want make dumb Draft picks like Billy knight did. Even in defeat I loved the Heart Al and Jamal showed throughout this series. Jamal was more professional with his comments after the game when he said the fans were just showing tough love with the booing I can respect that. Bottom Line is if they bring Joe Johnson back next I will not renew my tickets, and I will not purchase anymore tickets for my family, coworkers, or friends. We’ll see who cares who shows up if the Hawks franchise show #2 Johnson in uniform for next year

BugKiller

May 9th, 2010
3:30 pm

MARK… JOE JOHNSON HAS NO HEART, DAMMIT!!!

HE HAS NO PASSION!

HE HAS NO INTENSITY!

HE IS A SECOND-BANANA MASQUERADING AS A TOP DOG!

THE HAWKS CANNOT AFFORD TO SIGN THIS TIN MAN OF A BASKETBALL PLAYER!

D Hawks

May 9th, 2010
3:30 pm

Freshmaker, I agree with you except for not needing another big man. The problem we have now is that Horford gets killed against strong centers and it has an impact on his offensive game. I think we’d get even more out of Horford if he could face the basket more. We don’t need a Howard or Shaq (and of course there aren’t many of them anyway) to win a championship, but we need someone who can at least offset these guys so that Al and Josh don’t get into foul trouble trying to neutralize them. Also, I don’t want to see Jason Collins and Randolph Morris playing significant playoff minutes next year.

jeff p

May 9th, 2010
3:31 pm

I think this playoff series makes it very clear that the Hawks need someone who can matchup with D Howard. Seems like Bosh could be the answer. Could we actually have the management that could actually get this done as history says no:

PG – Bibby/Teague
SG – Crawford?
SF – J Smith
PF – Horford
C – Bosh

Seems like the Magic has such a great inside/outside game so try and find a few more shooters and I believe this may take them to the “next level>

I agree that Woodson had never gotten a fair shake but again this ridiculous management structure has made it more of a grind for him and so it makes sense to get a fresh person in the mix.

Let’s not forget I agree that we are five years removed from a 13 win season, but the thing that disappointments me is the fact this team hasn’t competed against the Magic – they are not as good as the Magic, but not 30 pts per game worse than them. Show a little pride in this last game of the season.

I will say it again – the Falcons are the only franchise in town that has it figured out in terms of top to bottom mgt in the organization. Barring injuries and bad luck, this is the next team to win a championship in this town again.

dawginDC

May 9th, 2010
3:33 pm

Joe Johnson = overrated Ball Hog..why the heck do we need him Mark? we can certainly do better on the FA market

Justin

May 9th, 2010
3:35 pm

Mark, I consistently enjoy your writing and recognize some valid points you’ve made here, but you have a few premises that I disagree with.
1) Joe is one of the top 15 players in the league. Yes, if you put a lot of stock in All-NBA selections. If you look at his PER, he’s the third best player on the Hawks. Do you really think that Joe is better than both Al and Josh, who weren’t named All-NBA? I don’t. Plus, there is no way anyone could argue tha Joe is going to improve at this point in his career. Sign him for 5 or 6 years at max money and you have no way to improve your roster. He has already alienated himself from his fanbase. I’d say that fans are probably the most disgruntled they’ve been in years. Bring back the same roster with a new coach and you’ll see less fans and you’ll still need a miracle run to get out of the second round. That’s the ceiling I’m afraid with this roser. There’s just no way to improve this roster significantly if Joe is re-signed for max money.

Chad

May 9th, 2010
3:35 pm

D Hawks, to your point, how badly has the Joe Smith idea panned out? He was supposed to be the guy you talked about. Instead, we’ve seen Collins and Morris.