Josh Newman, SNYNets.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J – The best way to describe Joe Johnson is laid back. The Nets’ 6-foot-7 Nets shooting guard is typically very calm, very mellow and very quiet. If it wasn’t for the fact he was 6-foot-7, you may not even realize the Little Rock, Ark. native is in the room.
Those same attributes describe him on the floor as well, but add to that a stern demeanor. It may not look like Johnson, who was traded to the Nets in July in exchange for Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, Jordan Williams, Johan Petro, DeShawn Stevenson and a 2013 first round draft pick, is having fun, but he promises you he is.
“This is a different opportunity for me, a new chapter in my career, there’s no way I’m gonna take a day for granted and not come in here and have a good time,” said Johnson, who is owed approximately $90 million over four years from the 6-year, $119 million contract he signed with the Atlanta Hawks in 2010. “I know I don’t show it, express it a lot, it’s my demeanor, it’s just who I am. I try to come out, have a great time. We all get frustrated at times, but I love and enjoy it.”
The point Johnson was making stems from the fact that he doesn’t think any of his teammates are having fun these days, and with good reason.
After an 11-4 start, the Nets are just 2-8 in their past 10 games and simply have not looked like that 11-4 team since Brook Lopez went down with a sprained right foot on Nov. 28 and missed seven games. With Lopez out, the Nets went 2-5, including five straight losses. Since the 7-foot center’s return, the Nets are just 1-3, including a 100-86 loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.
“It just seems like guys are not having fun, that’s the main thing,” Johnson said in one of his more open interview sessions this season. “We shouldn’t look at this as a job, we should look at this as just going out and having a great time. We’ve got the best job in America. There’s no way we should not have fun. Going back to training camp, to the first 15-16 games of the season, man, we were having fun. It just seems like guys are really not having that much fun for whatever reason. I think our coaches do a great job of preparing us for games. We need to get back to helping the coaches just as well as they help us and just try and fix this thing. We’re in a pretty good funk right now.”
The bright spot for Johnson right now is that he appears to be coming out of a season-long slump. In the last six games, the six-time All-Star is averaging 20.2 points per game and has gone for at least 21 points in three of those contests.
His 17.0 points per game is not far off his career average of 17.7 over his 11-plus seasons after he struggled mightily early in Avery Johnson‘s motion offense. In 15 games in the month of November, Johnson, very much an isolation player with the Hawks, averaged just 15.8 points per game and was held to 14 points or fewer eight times.
The numbers are getting there, but it is still a struggle, not only for Johnson, but for everybody to get on the same page. Within the team concept, people are still waiting for Johnson and Deron Williams to jell.
Viewed potentially as the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference in the preseason, Johnson and Williams have not lived up to that billing. Williams’ numbers are down, he has said publicly that he hasn’t played a good game yet and has even gone as far as to say he’s not comfortable in Avery Johnson’s offense.
“I think it’s still a learning phase for both of us,” Joe Johnson said. “I just try to do whatever’s asked of me, and that’s come out, work hard night in and night out. We’re still just trying to learn, feel each other out. It’s not just me and Deron. It’s me and Brook, Gerald, Hump. It almost seems we had some cohesiveness to start, but somewhere along the line, we kinda lost it, so we gotta get it back.”
Johnson continued, “We’ve got all the pieces we need to do something big. There’s no reason we should be sitting at 13-12. It is mind-boggling, and I’m sure we’ll get us a streak together of where we win 10, 11, 12 in a row. I know what we’re capable of, I know what I’ve seen us do and if we stick together, we can do something real special.
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