Josh Newman, SNYNets.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It won’t get the attention of Deron Williams going back to Utah for the first time or Andray Blatche heading back to Washington earlier this month, but when Joe Johnson goes back to Atlanta on Wednesday night when the Nets play the Hawks, he isn’t quite sure what to expect.
Not only does Johnson, a member of the Hawks from 2005-06 until this past offseason, not know what to expect from the Philips Arena crowd after seven seasons of mostly outstanding service, but he sounds like he doesn’t fully care either.
As usual, the only thing on the six-time All-Star shooting guard’s mind appears to be the task at hand, not the sideshow that may happen with a homecoming of sorts.
“For me, not to downplay it, but it’ll just be another game,” Johnson said at shootaround on Tuesday morning as the Nets prepared for the Toronto Raptors. “It’ll just be a little different because it’s a familiar place. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll be great to see some familiar faces and old friends, but I still got one goal and that’s to try and get a win.”
Johnson scored 10,606 of his 15, 392 career points with the Hawks. He averaged at least 18.2 points per game in all seven seasons, capping out at 25.o points per game to go along with 4.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game in 2006-07. One of the premier scorers in the Eastern Conference, Johnson’s teams went to the playoffs five consecutive seasons from 2008-2012.
In the end, it wasn’t enough for some. Johnson’s Hawks teams never made serious waves in the Eastern Conference and when then-general manager Rick Sund re-upped Johnson for six years and a whopping $119 million during the LeBron James-headlined summer of 2010, the notion that Johnson couldn’t carry a team only grew stronger.
When new Hawks general manager Danny Ferry took over last June, he gladly traded that contract, viewed by many as an albatross. Nets general manager Billy King took on Johnson, along with the four years and roughly $90 million remaining on the deal in exchange for Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, DeShawn Stevenson, Jordan Williams and draft picks.
“I wasn’t upset at all,” Johnson said. “That’s the direction they wanted to go with the organization, I’m fine with that. I understand in this game of basketball, it’s a business and they done what they had to do. I’m glad they were able to trade me and put me in a great situation.”
What has occurred since Johnson came to Brooklyn to pair up with Deron Williams in the backcourt is a mixed bag of early struggles, flashes of consistency and flashes of brilliance. All the while, the Nets started off hot, struggled, fired head coach Avery Johnson and are currently flourishing under interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo, having won seven straight and nine of 10 to sit just two games out of first-place in the Atlantic Division.
Johnson has picked up his scoring after a slow start and is now averaging 17.2 points per game, just five-tenths of a point below his career average of 17.7. In his last five games, the 10th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics is averaging 17.4 points.
“Joe, as long as he was there, was the face of the franchise,” Carlesimo said. “Just knowing Joe, the way he likes to take shots at the end of the game and perform at the end of the game, I would expect him to just come out, be Joe Johnson and have a good game.”
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA