Prior to the season starting, I was the only person I know who wasn't convinced that "contract year Joe Johnson" was a good thing for the Atlanta Hawks. In my season preview I wrote the following:
Everyone is so sure that Joe Johnson playing for a contract can only mean good things for the Hawks. I don't really see it that way. Quite frankly, I'm worried.
Joe already tries to do way too much. This season Joe will try to do even more. He's got to prove that he's worth more than $60 million over 4 years, which is debatable.
The one player in recent history who did not defer to Joe Johnson is no longer here. Flip, (yes I'm talking about Flip Murray) signed with the Bobcats since the Hawks let him go in favor of Jamal Crawford. He was streaky and on any given night he scared the hell out of me, but he was at least proactive about getting his shot. This team needed that because the rest of the guys are far too content with just standing around watching Joe dribble 17 seconds off the shot clock only to end up with a contested jumper. Not that all of Joe's shots are of that nature, but as I pointed out last season, Joe takes bad shots often enough that its noticeable. There was a time when a Joe Johnson contested fade away jumper was a better option than a wide open jumper by anyone else. That is no longer the case because Joe's teammates are better, he just needs to trust them. Will he sacrifice his stats for the good of the team this season? Not in a contract year.....Joe has never been described as a "selfish player", but I'm willing to bet he will display a lot of "selfish player" tendencies this season. I guess we'll have to wait and see what position that leaves the team in when it's all said and done.
I felt like this was worth revisiting because well, Joe is struggling. According to Hoopinionblog "Johnson has taken 66 shots in the last four games. He's made 23 of those shots overall, and just 5 of 19 three-pointers. That's an eFG% of 38.6. He's also turned the ball over nine times while earning just 10 assists in 157 minutes while getting to the line for a grand total of five free throw attempts."
Look, I have not the time nor the desire to go game by game to point out the shortcomings of one Joe Johnson. Just know that even in some of their impressive wins, he's shooting a lot. In their losses, he's shooting a lot. Is he shooting 30 times per game? No, but he's shooting around 18 times per which isn't that bad, but he's only making like 5 shots. That's where the problem arises. Joe has the ability to shoot the team out of the game and everyone seems just fine with it. It's like they've all decided hey, if Joe isn't playing well, then we don't deserve to win anyway. Okay maybe it's not that extreme, but it seems to me that outside of the Philly game, they are content to let Joe shoot, and shoot and shoot even when he's not making shots. No one has the balls to tell him to stop, or at least take the damn ball out of his hands. Early in the season I thought it was odd that Jamal was sort of playing keep away from Joe, now I totally understand why he didn't pass him the ball. Joe has always tried to do too much, and there was a time where that was cool, that time has passed. There have been several games where Joe didn't have it going, but his teammates did and yet they all seemed to be content having to win the game in spite of his bad shot attempts. It's one thing to have to win games in spite of bad coaching, but it's going to be very hard to win games in spite of poor decision making by your "best player".
Someone on this team has to reign Joe in. We all know its not going to be Mike Woodson. He's the same guy who draws up plays for the struggling Johnson out of timeouts, and he wonders why he wasn't extended in the off-season. It's not going to be Joe, because while he's great at pointing out flaws, he rarely acknowledges where he contributes to the struggles of the team. Shooting and shooting and shooting when you aren't hitting shots won't help your team win games. I haven't heard him mention this in any post game quotes. Maybe we should get the ball in the hands of the guy who's actually making shots. He's not said anything like that either.
My point is that it is not okay for Joe to shoot the Hawks out of games. Someone has to stop him, yet no one seems to know how. The logical answer would be for the coach to bench his ass, but since that's not going to happen, the other 4 starters damn well better figure out a way.
Will he play well again? Of course, but in the meantime he needs to find ways to help the team win without shooting.
For more thorough Hawks analysis visit Peachtreehoops, Hoopinion, Hawstr8talk or Humanhighlightblog