Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — One thing we know for sure about most NBA players is that they don’t like talking about injuries. Most are too proud and most are too tough to admit when an ailment is having an adverse effect on their performance on the floor.
Sometimes, though, the cat is let out of the bag and the combination of what P.J. Carlesimo said and what Joe Johnson wouldn’t say tell you all you need to know about Joe Johnson’s health.
Johnson recently missed three straight games after being diagnosed with what was called a “sore heel.” Since Johnson’s return to the lineup on March 1, his shooting percentage (46 percent) and rebounding (3.8) and assists (3.8) per game are here they should be, but he is averaging just 12.5 points.
Obviously, diminished production is to be expected when a player just returns from injury, but after the Nets defeated the Washington Wizards on Friday night, Carlesimo let it be known that he believes that Johnson is still struggling with his injury.
“Joe will not say it,” Carlesimo said. “But I’m not convinced Joe’s back yet. I think Joe’s going through a little bit of what Deron went through.”
And what was probably more telling was Joe Johnson’s overall reluctance to discuss how his heel was responding to the workload. Such a question is especially important considering the Nets are playing three games over the next four nights.
When I asked how his heel felt, Johnson’s body language indicated that he had no desire to discuss it. He responded with a defiant one word answer. “Fine,” he said in the Nets Locker Room. And on the way out, when I asked him whether or not his heel was at 100 percent, Johnson, while walking away, responded by saying “No, it’s not 100 percent, but I’ll be alright.”
When asked whether the Nets were struggling with injuries at this point, Gerald Wallace told SNY.tv that they were, but he also said that he felt most teams were at this point in the season.
“At this point in the season, nobody is 100 percent,” Wallace said. “But I don’t think we’re the only team dealing with that right now. We just gotta fight through it.”
Wallace also told SNY.tv that he, Johnson and Williams were all still dealing with their own individual ailments. “I think [Williams] has had some nagging injuries all season long,” he said. “But we’re all just playing ball now.”
And playing ball is what Wallace says his teammates need to be focused on. “Every game counts and every team is playing like they’re in a playoff race,” he told SNY.tv.
“We gotta be consistent because we can easily go from a third seed to sixth or seventh, so we gotta play every game with urgency.”
Wallace clearly sees the complete the picture. The Nets may only trail the Knicks by 2.5 games for the Atlantic Division lead, but they are also just 1.5 games away from being the seventh seed. In fact, in theory, if the Nets were to lose their next three games, they could very well find themselves battling with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks for the seventh and eighth seeds.
All the Nets can do at this point is play hard every game. Wallace understands that, perhaps his team does, as well.