Brooklyn Nets: Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson set to return, will face Sixers

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
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NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Johnson will return to the lineup following a two-game absence due to the flu, the team announced prior to Friday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center.

Power forward Kevin Garnett, who has a sore left foot, will also play. Reserve shooter Mirza Teletovic (right hip pointer) remains out, as does center Brook Lopez (strained lower back). Nets GM Billy King said the team would have an update on Lopez Monday.

The Nets will start point guard Deron Williams, shooting guard Sergey Karasev, Johnson, Garnett and center Mason Plumlee against the Sixers.

Cutting payroll: With their trade of Andrei Kirilenko, Brooklyn’s payroll dropped to $91 million and their total with payroll and luxury taxes adds up to about $118 million. So in essence they saved about $12 million in payroll and luxury taxes by shedding Kirilenko’s $3.3 million wage off their books. Previously the Nets were at $94 million and $130 million.

Why trading Nets' big three would be tough

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
2:59
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Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez form the highest-paid trio in the NBA, but are just 16-30 together against .500 or better opponents.

You can see why the Brooklyn Nets have made the three former All-Stars available via trade.

Here's a detailed look at the tough task facing GM Billy King.

Bloated salaries

Though the Nets are just 8-12 -- including 1-10 against .500 or better teams -- Williams, Johnson and Lopez will make a combined $58.7 million this season.

Williams ($19.8 million in 2014-15) is owed $21 million next season and $22.3 million in 2016-17, assuming he doesn't opt out of the final year of his deal. Lopez ($15.7 million) has a $16.7 million player option for 2016-17, which he is expected to exercise. And Johnson ($23.2 million) will make $24.9 million in 2015-16.

And even if the Nets can find a team willing to take on these massive contracts, they'd have to do so without sacrificing their cap space for the summer of 2016, when Kevin Durant and Joakim Noah are expected to headline a potentially strong free-agent class.

Injuries, age and diminished skills

Williams, 30, just underwent offseason surgery to clean out both of his ankles and has battled injuries ever since he became a Net in February 2011. He is moving better this season, but has yet to dunk.

While he has had a fairly productive season (17.1 points per game, 41 percent 3-point range), it isn't unreasonable to wonder whether Williams really makes his teammates better. He’s averaged just 6.4 assists per game despite ranking fifth in the NBA in time of possession (the amount of time a player holds the ball during a game). He is sometimes guilty of making head-scratching decisions in crucial times during games, and has struggled in the clutch, shooting 5-for-17 this season in the last five minutes of games in which the Nets are ahead or behind by five.

It seems like team chemistry is always an issue when Williams is involved, too. He has developed the reputation of a “coach killer,” and has never been touted for his leadership skills.

Lopez, 26, has missed 138 games and counting since 2011-12. He has had multiple foot surgeries, and recently came down with a strained lower back injury. He is clearly gifted offensively, but also disrupts the offensive flow with his ball-stopping ways. Lopez has recorded just 12 assists on 629 touches.

Frequently on the receiving end of criticism from hard-nosed coach Lionel Hollins, the easy-going Lopez has struggled to protect the rim (50.3 percent against) and rebound (6.2 per game).

Johnson, 33, has been quite durable but he’s getting up there in age and has said his body is starting to feel it.

Johnson was at his best during the 2013-14 playoffs, when he served as the focal point of the offense. An excellent spot-up shooter and competent defender, the swingman has had a hard time finding a rhythm with Williams and Lopez healthy. He’s been the most productive of the trio, but has always had to deal with the burden that comes with a max deal some believe he didn't deserve. Since calling out his teammates for being selfish, Johnson is averaging just 13.6 points per game while shooting 27 percent from 3-point territory.

Asked why his big three hasn't worked out, King replied, “If I knew, they’d be doing it, because I’d tell them to do what they’re not doing. I don’t know.”

The Nets are in no-man’s land

In the NBA, you either want to be really good or really bad. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle.

But because of questionable decision-making by management, including dealing away a bevy of future first-round picks and adding on several onerous contracts in an effort to win now, that’s exactly where the Nets are.

Rebuilding would be tough. Remember: Atlanta can swap firsts with Brooklyn in 2015 (as a part of the Johnson trade), and Boston owns Brooklyn’s unprotected firsts in 2016 and 2018 and can swap firsts with the Nets in 2017 (Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade).

And even though they've been bad so far this season, they're currently still in line for a playoff spot in the downtrodden Eastern Conference.

"Fortunately we're in the East. In the West we’d be thinking a little differently," King said. "My job is talk on the phones. Does that mean we’re having a fire sale? Absolutely not. My job is to work the phones, see what’s available, and if things make sense, we’ll make a trade."

He added: “Well, we haven’t played like we expected to play, but I don’t think it’s over. I think last year this time I think we were having the same conversation and then we turned it around. But I don’t think we wanna wait until that point (again). We have to start playing better as a group.”

But the trio is on the block. Let’s see what moves King has up his sleeve.

Joe Johnson plans to play on Friday

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
3:48
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Johnson plans to return to action Friday night against the Philadelphia 76ers after missing the last two games with a severe case of the flu.

“I’m definitely going to play,” Johnson said Thursday. “Came in today -- I got here a little early -- so I can try and get a little workout in before the guys got in because I knew they probably wouldn’t do it as much on the court. I felt pretty good. Still a little low on energy, but for the most part, I’ll be all right.”

Johnson started feeling under the weather before Friday's game against Atlanta and his condition got much worse from there.

“I probably texted Timmy [trainer Tim Walsh] at about 5 o’clock Sunday morning,” Johnson said. “Five o’clock a.m. I couldn’t sleep. I was breathing out of my mouth because my nose was stopped up. I had cold chills. It was bad. I literally didn't get out of bed for two days. Yesterday was the first time I got up and starting walking around, moving around.”

Nets coach Lionel Hollins, meanwhile, wasn't as sure about the 33-year-old veteran playing against Philadelphia.

“I don't know. I can't even call it out. He's back ... I don't think he has his strength,” Hollins said.

Hollins said the Nets didn’t really practice much on Thursday, using their time to watch film and get up some shots. Power forward Kevin Garnett (sore left foot) and center Brook Lopez (lower back strain) did not practice, according to the team, but reserve Mirza Teletovic (right hip pointer) was able to return.

Nets' big three struggles against the best

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
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videoCHICAGO -- Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson are 51-38 in the regular season when playing together.

Not bad.

But the NBA’s most expensive trio ($58.7 million) has struggled mightily against quality opponents.

Williams, Lopez and Johnson are just 16-30 in the regular season when playing against teams with .500 or better records, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

This season, Williams, Johnson and Lopez rank 64th in net efficiency rating among three-man lineups that have played at least 15 games and 350 minutes together (102 points per 100 possessions for vs. 101.5 points per 100 possessions against).

As far as any criticism of the trio is concerned -- they have played together in just 89 of 183 available games over the past three seasons -- Williams said: “I don’t worry about it. It is what it is. People are gonna write stuff. People are gonna love you and people are gonna hate you. If you get caught up in that, if you worry about it, that’s on you.”

Williams, who has been arguably the team’s most productive player this season, ranks 13th in the NBA with 6.5 assists per game, but 39th in assist rate and 28th in assist-to-turnover ratio. Lopez, who was beginning to hit a stride before straining his lower back (19.7 points, 10 rebounds averages in his past three games), has a career-low 17.48 player efficiency rating (PER) and just 12 assists all season. Johnson is averaging just 13.6 points while shooting 27 percent from 3-point range in his past 12 games.

With an 8-11 record and a 1-9 mark against .500 or better teams, can this group still compete?

“I mean, I don’t know how to answer that," Kevin Garnett said. "I’m just trying to keep the guys upbeat, positive and control what we can control and give maximum effort when you’re on the floor."

Nets try to avoid becoming 76ers' first win

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- Coach Lionel Hollins says he doesn’t have to inform his team of the Philadelphia 76ers’ record.

Hollins believes the Nets are well aware of the situation they’re facing Wednesday night in Philly against the 0-14 Sixers.

“They know what it is,” Hollins said. “I don’t have to mention it. Hell, everybody’s got Twitter and people [are] on Facebook and the news.

“It’s not a big deal. Not having a win doesn’t mean that they can’t beat you. They just haven’t beaten anybody yet.”

The Nets (5-8) want to avoid becoming the first win of the season for lowly Philadelphia. If Brooklyn can extend the Sixers’ misery, Philadelphia would be one step closer to the Nets’ record for worst start in NBA history when the team opened the 2009-10 season at 0-18.

“All those records in the record books, nobody that’s playing now was on that New Jersey team,” Hollins said when asked about the Nets’ record.

When Hollins was told that Brook Lopez was on that record-setting Nets team, the first-year Brooklyn coach could only laugh at his honest oversight.

“Brook was? Oh!” Hollins said. “You know, you just go out and play and try to be as good as you can be and try to compete every night and not worry about what the other team’s record is.”

The Nets hit Philadelphia with plenty of their own concerns. They’ve have won just once in their last seven tries and a loss to the Sixers would certainly be the low point of a slow start.

The Nets are still adjusting to having to learn a new system and coach, some players have yet to find a rhythm and Lopez, who did not talk to reporters on Tuesday, has struggled returning from foot surgery while seeing his fourth-quarter minutes fluctuate.

Meanwhile, Hollins said he also has to adjust to his new team as he learns about his roster with each game.

“Oh, a lot,” Hollins said when asked how much he has had to adjust to his new team. “A lot. I mean, I can't play the way I would totally like to play because that's not the personality of this team. But also, after these first 13 games, I've learned a lot about the individuals.

“I've learned a lot about the team as a group. And so I've kind of changed even what I started out with, with this group, system-wise, because it seems like we need something a little different.”

Hollins would not elaborate on what he’s altered in his system. The Nets are still a work in progress, but they know what they have to do on Wednesday -- take the air and hope out of the Sixers right away.

“Yeah, anytime you play a team that’s on a losing streak, searching for a win, those are desperate teams,” point guard Deron Williams said. “They really have nothing to lose, so they’re a dangerous team.

"We have to impose our will early.”

Joe Johnson hopes the Nets know what kind of effort it will take to avoid becoming the Sixers’ first bright spot of their season.

“If they come out and lose tomorrow, it is nothing to them,” Johnson said. “They are going to play hard, we get that.”

“We just can’t take it for granted, can’t take those guys lightly,” Johnson added. “And it is going to take every man for us to get this win tomorrow.”

Staying home: Markel Brown (hip pointer) and Andrei Kirilenko (personal) did not make the trip to Philadelphia.

Nets reeling after brutal 1-6 stretch

November, 23, 2014
Nov 23
2:18
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Brooklyn Nets coach Lionel Hollins wants to see rookie Bojan Bogdanovic attack more.

Bogdanovic did not make a shot on the team’s two-game road trip through Oklahoma City and San Antonio, going 0-for-12 from the field -- including 0-for-6 from 3-point range.

“He’s in a slump,” Hollins told reporters in San Antonio following Saturday night’s 99-87 loss to the Spurs. “He isn’t making shots, and he doesn’t get to the free throw line, he doesn’t get to the basket, so he’s counting on long shots. And when you miss them, you go 0-fer.”

Bogdanovic got to the charity stripe twice against San Antonio. He hasn’t gotten there at all in six of his first 13 games in the NBA, never attempting more than four free throws in a game.

“All I know is you gotta get to the free throw line, you gotta be tougher and you can’t just stand out there and count on making shots all the time,” Hollins said. “Because sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t. The guys who still score are the ones that drive and attack the basket and get to the free throw line.”

Bogdanovic ranks third in rookie scoring (9.9 points per game), behind only the first two picks in the 2014 NBA draft, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.

He has gone 21-for-28 on shots from less than 5 feet of the basket, according to NBA.com. He’s also been blocked on six attempts from less than 5 feet. On all other shots, Bogdanovic is 26-for-84 (31 percent).

More Brook points: Saturday night, using statistical evidence, we suggested that the Nets might want to bring Brook Lopez off the bench. A couple of points we missed:

• Only two five-man combinations (minimum 10 games played/100 minutes played) in the entire NBA have been worse than Brooklyn’s starting five:

Orlando Magic: Evan Fournier-Channing Frye-Tobias Harris-Elfrid Payton-Nikola Vucevic (minus-15 net rating).

Los Angeles Lakers: Carlos Boozer-Kobe Bryant-Jordan Hill-Wesley Johnson-Jeremy Lin (minus-22.4 net rating).

The Nets’ starters haven’t been that bad, but they’ve still been unproductive compared to the rest of the league.

• Lopez has just seven assists on 425 touches, according to NBA.com. The Nets would be able to dump the ball into him in the post with the second unit and let him operate against reserve bigs when he’s fresh.

• At the very least, Lopez may want to think about moving in his game. He’s 5-for-17 on shots from 16 to 24 feet.

Average Joe: The YES Network showed a nice graphic after the game which showed Joe Johnson’s splits.

First six games: 19.8 PPG/47.9 FG/13-for-28 3-PT

Last seven games: 13.9 PPG/40.7 FG/6-for-13 3-PT

Asked about Johnson’s 5-for-16 shooting night, Hollins pointed out that the 33-year-old veteran had just logged 52 minutes Wednesday, and it may take him some time to get back.

“It’s part of the game. It comes with what we do,” Johnson said. “I would never use that as an excuse. I just didn’t make shots.”

Johnson attempted only five shots against Oklahoma City. It was odd considering he is a good scorer who likes to get up shots and makes them with solid efficiency.

“It’s nothing that I’m worried about,” Johnson said. “I’m just being patient, just letting the game come to me. If I can make a play for the next guy that’s what I try to do -- especially when I’m in pick-and-rolls. If I get a chance to shoot and score, I will, but if not, I just keep playing.”

Sked unkind: The Nets just wrapped up a 1-6 stretch in which they played seven games in 11 days. They’ll only play once in the next seven days -- at Philadelphia on Wednesday night. This will give them some much-needed rest and practice time as they attempt to come together and figure things out.

The Nets (5-8) still haven’t beaten anyone, going 0-6 against teams with winning records. They face Chicago (Nov. 30), San Antonio (Dec. 3) and Atlanta (Dec. 5) coming up.

If you buy into Brooklyn’s annual “new coach, new system, new players, new identity, it takes time and we don’t figure it out until the new year, so relax” tradition, the Nets have 18 games remaining until Jan. 2, 2015, when they face Orlando. So if they tread water until then, they’ll be OK, right?

Can this really work again?

Early drama overshadowing Nets' 4-2 start

November, 12, 2014
Nov 12
9:00
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What the heck is going on in Brooklyn?

The Nets are 4-2 and second in offensive efficiency. Deron Williams is finally healthy and was just named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

Yet you wouldn't know it with some early drama going on. Maybe it's not as much drama as the past season's NBA version of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" -- not by a mile -- but it's enough that it could threaten the harmony of coach Lionel Hollins' first season in Brooklyn.

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Cem Ozdel/Getty ImagesNets guard Joe Johnson is displeased with what he perceives as stagnation on offense.
At Tuesday's practice, the usually soft-spoken Joe Johnson surprisingly unloaded on his teammates and said they were playing "very selfish" basketball," while Hollins wanted to make it abundantly clear his relationship with Brook Lopez is great.

This is certainly not what the Nets want, not with an extremely difficult, three-game West Coast swing of Phoenix (Wednesday), Golden State (Thursday) and Portland (Saturday) in front of them.

They haven't even faced a playoff team yet -- or played a back-to-back, for that matter -- but already it's beginning to feel a little bit like they're a team in turmoil.

It all started Sunday, after Brooklyn's 104-96 victory over Orlando, when Johnson voiced his displeasure with what he felt was a lot of stagnation on offense. He then took to Twitter, tweeting "I'm off this s---."

"Just some frustration, obviously," Johnson said. "I am not hiding anything. I just thought we were 4-2, six games into the season, I know it's early, we haven't played anybody.

"I just didn't think that, as individuals [and] as players, we all have each other's backs out there. I felt I didn't believe it. I go back, and I watch the tape just to try to get a different perspective. My feelings haven't changed."

Johnson shot just 1-for-6 in the second half of that game. He played almost 10 minutes straight in the third quarter before finally attempting his first field goal. His body language reeked of frustration. He believes the Nets aren't as good as their record suggests and their losses to Boston and Minnesota are unacceptable.

Johnson leads the Nets in shots per game (16.0) and usage rate (25.1), but he's clearly not happy. Johnson was the focal point of Brooklyn's offense last season, after Lopez went down to a season-ending injury, but now that Williams and Lopez are healthy, that's no longer the case.

Williams is playing at an All-Star level but ranks fourth in the league in time of possession (total amount of time a player has the ball), according to NBA.com. Lopez, never known as a passer, despite being a force in the low-post, has just one assist so far.

For as many motion plays as the Nets run, there are other times when Johnson is isolating, Williams is dribbling and running a pick-and-roll with one of the bigs, or Lopez is backing a defender down and everyone else is just standing there, watching.

Throw in the fact that Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson are keen on shooting -- as is Bojan Bogdanovic -- and you can at least begin to understand where Johnson is coming from.

When you have three max players who can dominate the ball at times, it can be a difficult and delicate balancing act, perhaps something Hollins will want to address with the team going forward. It's tough when you have so many mouths to feed and only so much food with which to feed them.

As for the Hollins-Lopez dynamic, Hollins sat his center for the entire fourth quarter Sunday, after the 7-footer was outplayed by Nikola Vucevic. The Nets went small and were able neutralize Vucevic and win the game as a result.

Hollins has gotten on Lopez throughout training camp, the preseason and the regular season because he wants to make the 26-year-old center a better player. Hollins wants Lopez to be tougher, to be more aggressive, to be a better defender and rebounder. Lopez has had a label of being soft, and
Hollins wants him to shed that.

But their personalities are different -- Hollins old-school, no-nonsense; Lopez quiet, laid-back -- and their relationship will be something to keep an eye on this season.

"Too much is made of it that I sat Brook, that I'm upset because Brook didn't guard," Hollins said. "It wasn't that he didn't guard ... the guy made a lot of jump shots, and Brook couldn't get out there and match up with him. And when you have those situations, you got to do something as a coach to give yourself a chance to win. I thought going small gave us the best chance."

The Nets desperately need a win or two out West, but it's going to be tough. The Suns have quick guards who like to get out and run, while the Warriors and Trail Blazers have been dominant at home in recent years. Brooklyn then returns to Barclays Center and gets the Miami Heat and Jason Kidd's Milwaukee Bucks.

The Nets don't want any bad feelings to linger or losses to mount. Otherwise, they could find themselves in an early hole for the second straight season.

Nets 110, Knicks 99: Round 1 to Brooklyn

November, 7, 2014
Nov 7
10:06
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video
NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets kicked off the 2014-15 edition of the East River rivalry with an easy 110-99 win over the New York Knicks Friday night at Barclays Center. The Nets are 3-2. They led by as many as 22.

Player of the game: Deron Williams (29 points, 6 assists), Brook Lopez (20 points, 9 rebounds) and Joe Johnson (18 points) share this honor. Williams for running the team like an All-Star despite the reappearance of tape on his right wrist; Lopez for rebounding from a poor showing Wednesday (10 points, 5 rebounds); and Johnson for his defense on Carmelo Anthony (5-for-20 shooting, 19 points). It was the first time Williams and Lopez have scored 20 or more points in the same game since Dec. 10, 2013.

Stats of the game: The Nets went 14-for-24 from 3-point range and held the Knicks to just 41.1 percent shooting.

History made: Kevin Garnett moved into ninth place all-time in rebounding, passing Walt Bellamy.

Play of the game: This.

Who’s in the house? Mike D from the Beastie Boys (he did the pregame player intros for the Nets #nosleeptilbrooklyn), Ben Stiller and Spike Lee.

Up next: The Nets wrap up their four-game homestand against the Orlando Magic Sunday afternoon.

Joe Johnson on 'Joe Jesus,' Nets' future

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
10:00
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Joe JohnsonAP Photo/Jonathan BachmanDespite a bumpy summer in Brooklyn, Joe Johnson says he has a lot to look forward to in 2014-15.
Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Johnson is 33 now, and he frequently jokes about just how old he feels. Almost 1,000 NBA games and almost 36,000 NBA minutes will do that.

But his spirits remain high. He says he lost "at least" 10 pounds over the summer, in large part because of his infatuation with Hot Yoga. And he's coming off his best postseason yet, averaging 21.2 points per game and tying his career-high in playoff games played. His hopes remain high for the Nets in 2014-15, too, despite mild expectations from prognosticators.

Before his 14th season begins, Johnson sat down with ESPN.com to discuss his personality, his thoughts on Kevin Garnett calling him "Joe Jesus" and why he likes others believing that the Nets are "done."

Q: Many All-Stars in the NBA have egos. Despite all the points you’ve scored [more than 17,000], All-Star teams you've made [seven] and money you've earned [more than $150 million], you don’t seem to. How did you develop your personality?

A: Just growing up, being an only child, I've been quiet pretty much my whole life. I’m not expressive, but I’ll have my moments. I fell in love with the game of basketball and was very passionate about it. But my thing in this game is I never get too high and I never get too low. I like to stay on an even-keel, and that’s to keep my opponents off-balance.

I think one of the key things my mom [Diane, a single parent] taught me growing up was, "Never let anybody know what you’re thinking." And that’s how I play. You don’t know if I've got 30-40 points or I've got six points. I’m gonna keep the same demeanor pretty much and I’m gonna just enjoy the game. I mean, I might not always like the results, but if that’s what I had that night, that’s what I had. I've got to move on and get on to the next one.

Q: OK, let’s go back to last season. You’re having one of the best games of your career in Game 5 against Miami [34 points on 15-for-23 shooting], and you lose the ball on the last possession and you guys get eliminated from the playoffs. How tough was that?

A: When I first caught the ball, I was kinda in the corner, so I knew I was in a tough spot. I think [LeBron James] crowded me, and I think I tried to put it on the floor a few times, but I bobbled it a little bit. I know Ray Allen was in there helping. All I wanted to was just get a look at the basket. That’s all I wanted. I thought we had a chance to pull that one out, and that was a game that got away from us and it shouldn't come down to that, to be honest with you.

Q: You came to Brooklyn in 2012 with a lot of expectations. How would you evaluate your tenure as a Net so far?

A: I think each and every year we've progressed, especially in the postseason. Obviously, with the second year, last year, Brook [Lopez] being hurt a lot, Deron [Williams] being hurt a lot, the lineup kinda fluctuated a bit and it was hard to get any type of chemistry, plus adding KG and Paul [Pierce], I thought guys were a bit too unselfish at times and it kinda hurt us a little bit.

But I don’t know, man, my tenure here has been decent. It hasn’t obviously been what I would've liked throughout the regular season -- especially the first year and the first postseason being hurt -- but this year should hopefully be different.

Q: Why is this year going to be different?

A: I just think the focus is a little different. Obviously, we’re trying to keep Brook healthy and everybody’s mindset is different. We don’t have a lot of attention on us, which I think honestly it’s great. The first year, it was all about the Nets going to Brooklyn, so we had so much attention on us. Then, the second year, we got Paul and KG, so now we’re this championship team and now it’s like, "All right, the Nets are done. It’s over with." We’ll be quiet and just play basketball the right way, have fun and I think we’re gonna have great results.

Q: Recently at practice, you made a shot and KG yelled, “Good shot, Jesus!” Looks like the nickname [coined for his clutch scoring] has stuck, huh?

A: I told KG: His tongue is power. When he says something, people listen, and they kinda have a tendency to run with it.

Q: Do you like being called “Joe Jesus?”

It is what it is. I don’t look forward to anybody calling me that. It’s just at this moment or point in time it kinda is what it is. It’s just KG and he does it from time-to-time. It’s not an everyday thing.

Q: Many players shrink up in big moments. You’ve hit four game-winning buzzer-beaters as a Net. Why do you relish those moments?

A: Man, it goes back to my days in Phoenix, even playing with three All-Stars in Amar'e [Stoudemire], Steve [Nash] and Shawn [Marion]. I was still the guy who would take the big shot and make the big shot, and that’s kinda how it was. And as I went to different teams, that wasn’t necessarily my M.O. coming into those teams. It kinda developed that way, it just kinda happened that way. Even going back to when I first got here [and my first buzzer-beater against Detroit in 2012].

We had momentum going into that game. I think I made the shots to get us into overtime and Coach Avery [Johnson] was just like, "All right, we’re just gonna keep going to you," and he just kept coming to me. It came down to the last play of the game, and he came to me. And from that point on, it was just if it comes down to the end of the game, we’re gonna see if he can keep doing that.

Q: What’s the key to being cool, calm and collected in those moments?

A: It’s just focus, man. It’s just focus and determination, knowing that this could be the last play of the game. And you wanna do anything and everything that you can to get to that sweet spot or get a great look at the basket, and that’s all I try to do.”

Q: You’re 33 and entering your 14th season in the NBA. Have you started thinking about how much time you have left?

A: I’ve been in pretty good health. So I just hope, first and foremost, that continues, and I think everything else will take care of itself.

Q: You've accomplished a lot in your career. What’s left?

A: Obviously, a championship. And I think we have the ingredients here to do just that. We have to all be on the same page, man. And we all have to want it.

Q: How much longer would you like to play?

A: I haven’t put a limit on it, how long I wanna go. But when I’m done here, after my contract is up, I’ll be 35. We’ll see. I don't really know. Honestly, I don’t even like imagining it. But it’s coming. It’s approaching, and I understand that and I’m fine with it. I’m gonna give them everything I got.

Q: Have you ever thought about your candidacy for the Hall of Fame? ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton recently noted that only one player who has scored 20,000 or more points [Tom Chambers] has ever been left out of the Hall so far.

A: We’ll see, man. Hopefully, but I got a lot to go. Me being a Hall of Famer would be great, that would be a huge accomplishment, but obviously I wanna be labeled as a great teammate, a winner, and that’s what I’m trying to approach.

I know I’ve been a great teammate. I know I’ve done any and everything in my power to help the team -- whichever team -- whatever they’ve asked me to do. I just try to do my job, man. I don’t always come up with the best results, but I give them everything I’ve got.

Q: Obviously things can change, but would you prefer to end your career in Brooklyn if possible?

A: As long as things are going in the right direction. At this point in my career, I would hate to take a step back. We’ll see. I don’t know what the future holds to be honest with you. I just want to make this year the best year that we have in front of us, and next year we’ll think about that.

Johnson's long-range shooting buoys Nets

May, 11, 2014
May 11
2:25
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On Saturday night, it didn’t matter if it was from the corner, the wing or the top of the key.

Joe Johnson was spotting up beyond the arc, receiving on-time, on-target passes from Deron Williams, and draining 3-pointers all over the court.

Johnson went 5-for-7 from downtown in Game 3, leading the Brooklyn Nets to a 104-90 victory over the Miami Heat. The Nets hit a franchise playoff-record 15 3s overall on 25 attempts.

“I thought the reason was because we were able to get stops and get out in transition, and it worked great for us,” Johnson said Sunday.

Quietly, as always, Johnson remains Brooklyn’s best postseason performer.

“You know, Joe’s been great for us all year,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “He’s one of the leaders on this team. You know, he probably doesn’t say a lot, on the court or to you guys, but in that locker room, those guys look to Joe as a leader, and he’s playing extremely well for us.”

Against the Heat, Johnson is averaging 16.3 points per game on 57.1 percent shooting -- including 47.1 percent from 3. Overall in the playoffs, he’s averaging 20.2 points on 53.4 percent shooting -- including 42.3 percent from downtown.

“He’s an unbelievable player,” LeBron James said of Johnson. “He plays at his own tempo. You can’t speed him up. And he’s a big body, too, so he can get physical with us as well.”

Asked why he’s been able to have so much success, Johnson said, “It’s just about staying focused on both ends of the court. Just picking my spots offensively and defensively, and helping my teammates.”

Johnson enjoys going up against James, Dwyane Wade and the rest of the two-time defending champions.

“This is what we asked for, so now that we’re here, we have to make the most of it,” Johnson said. “This is basketball at the highest level.”
The Brooklyn Nets may have been outclassed in their 107-86 blowout loss to the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, but their backcourt was not.

Deron Williams and Joe Johnson each scored 17 points, while combining to shoot 14-for-21 from the field -- including 6-for-11 from 3-point range.

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Williams hit a pair of buzzer-beating 3-pointers at the end of the second and third quarters to keep the Nets afloat. He was moving well after recently receiving a pair of injections in his left ankle, though he struggled defensively against Mario Chalmers.

Johnson, the team’s best player in Round 1, started to get into a rhythm in the second quarter, when he scored eight points. Johnson also hit back-to-back shots late in the third, but it was too little, too late.

Still, it’s something for the Nets to build on. Brooklyn shot 47.1 percent from the field and went 10-for-24 from 3-point range, but Nets coach Jason Kidd felt like his team’s offense was too stagnant.

While the Heat were driving and making things happen in the paint, the Nets were settling and taking too many shots from the perimeter.

Much had been made of Brooklyn’s regular-season sweep of Miami, but the Heat were far-and-away the better team in Game 1.

The two-time defending champions mean business, and they came out and showed that the playoffs are a whole different animal.

Brooklyn’s lackluster performance has to concern its fanbase. Still, if the Nets could somehow leave Miami with a split, it would allow them to get over their Game 1 debacle.

Question: How concerned are you about the Nets right now? Let us know in the comments section below.

In case you missed it: Perhaps you may want to delete this game from your TiVo. LeBron James played like the best player on the planet, and the Heat dominated from start to finish. Plus, more on the blog.

Stat to know: According to ESPN Stats & Information, James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to hold the Nets to 33.3 percent shooting when guarding their man. The Nets shot 48.8 percent when guarded by any other members of the Heat.

Up next: The Nets will hold practice on Wednesday. They need to make A LOT of adjustments.


MIAMI -- LeBron James backed down Shaun Livingston with ease, missed a short shot before hauling in his own miss and scoring a layup with no resistance.

Less than a minute later in the third, James shifted into his locomotive gear in transition, buried his shoulder into Andray Blatche and scored easily on a drive that was part of a 15-2 Miami run.

James immediately began jawing and pounding his chest.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesLeBron James drove home a stern message to the Nets in Game 1: This is big boy basketball now, fellas.
The Nets? They looked like they wanted no part of this fight with the defending champs.

In Tuesday’s Game 1, the best player on the planet reminded the Nets they are no longer in Toronto. And this certainly isn’t the regular season anymore, either.

Joe Johnson may like the way the Nets match up with the Heat. But in Game 1, the Nets were completely outmatched and outclassed by the champs in a 107-86 rout at American Airlines Arena.

Brooklyn didn’t look anything like the only team to ever complete a four-game, regular-season sweep of James. Perhaps that’s because the Heat didn’t look anything like the team the Nets beat in the regular season.

The Nets were assembled with the dual goal of beating the Heat and winning a title. They wanted Miami in the playoffs. And in the series opener, the $200 million team looked softer than ice cream melting in the South Beach sun.

Jason Kidd watched as his team allowed the Heat to score 52 points in the paint and shoot 56.8 percent. In other words, the Nets offered zero resistance inside the paint.

“Our defensive game plan wasn’t executed at all,” said Deron Williams, whose 17 points and 7-of-10 shooting was wasted by poor defense. “We made a lot of defensive mistakes. We allowed them to roam free. I know I got beat on a lot of backdoor cuts.

“It was just kind of the theme of the night: Just layups, layups, layups.”

Seeing the Heat win Game 1 wasn’t surprising. But here's the alarming part: A Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett-led team allowed James and the Heat to do whatever they wanted.

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Pierce said before Game 1 that there was a “dislike” between him and James from all their playoff battles in the past, since the two are chasing the same thing -- a title.

It would have been nice to see a hint of that "dislike" on display inside the paint. Charles Oakley would have been disgusted with the fact there wasn’t a single hard foul delivered on James or Dwyane Wade.

This is the playoffs, and yet James barely broke a sweat, scoring just 22 points and going to the line only two times. Wade had 14 points and didn’t even make a trip to the line.

On the other side, Pierce scored eight points and didn’t play in the fourth, with the game mostly out of reach. Garnett played a minute in the final quarter but finished the game scoreless -- the first time he failed to score a point in 139 playoff games.

The Nets looked every bit like a team that needed a series-winning block to survive the inexperienced Raptors, while the Heat looked like a two-time defending champion coming off an eight-day rest between series.

And the Nets didn’t just run into a rested two-time champion. They ran into a motivated one. How many times did the Heat hear about how the Nets had their number in the regular season, Pierce and Garnett play James harder than anybody else in the postseason, and the Nets present all sorts of matchup problems? Probably about as many times as they scored in the paint in Game 1.

“You got to think about it,” Garnett said. “If you are a competitor, and you keep hearing it over and over, and you got time to rest and sit back and watch the team and continue to hear that, you got to think competitive juices are going to [take over].”

[+] EnlargeNets
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyThe Nets looked lifeless in Tuesday's Game 1 loss.
“I just thought with that being kind of gasoline on the fire, they came out running at home like they were supposed to,” he added.

Now the Nets must respond with some fight or this series will be over a lot quicker than anybody thought. Kidd has to make the necessary adjustments after Erik Spoelstra had his team coming out in attack mode. Garnett and Pierce have to inject some toughness into this team.

“It was a three-point game at the half, fellas,” said Pierce, who like many of the Nets remained confident after the blowout loss. “We are not overreacting. We feel like we still can get a game in this building.”

LeBron bullied the Nets in Game 1. The Nets offered no resistance. Now they must retaliate in Game 2.

Time to find out what Brooklyn is made of.

'Joe Jesus' healed; big spring on tap?

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
12:57
PM ET
Joe JohnsonAP Photo/Seth Wenig
NEW YORK -- By the end of last season, Joe Johnson had become “Decoy Joe,” the plantar fasciitis in his left foot having significantly worsened, robbing him of his ability to play basketball at a high level in a do-or-die Game 7.

“It was tough, man,” Johnson said, harking back to his six-point, 2-for-14 shooting performance in 38 minutes on May 4. The Brooklyn Nets were eliminated on their home court by the Chicago Bulls, losing 99-93.

“I know what I’m capable of doing, and I couldn’t lift the team in any form or fashion,” Johnson continued. “That’s probably the most frustrating thing.”

But heading into his second playoffs with the Nets, the man Kevin Garnett refers to as Joe Jesus because of his prowess in the clutch is mostly injury-free -- and ready to make a huge impact.

“Obviously, this is a different time for us as Brooklyn Nets because of the players we have and we’re going into the postseason healthy,” Johnson said. “And me not playing on one leg is gonna make a big difference.”

Johnson enjoyed an All-Star campaign in 2013-14, averaging a team-best 15.8 points and shooting 45.4 percent (40.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark of his career) in 79 games.

Brooklyn Nets
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsJoe Johnson makes his money at the buzzer. The Nets' closer finished off Brooklyn's comeback with a dagger in Oklahoma City.
The 32-year-old veteran knocked down 162 3-pointers (second most in team history), hit two game-winning buzzer-beaters -- his second on Jan. 2 in Oklahoma City turned the season around -- and scored 29 points in the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers on Dec. 16. The Nets went 15-5 in games in which he scored 20 or more points.

“He’s carried the load for us all year,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said.

In 2012-13, Johnson was heavily counted on to provide scoring. But this season, his role changed a bit. Johnson, known for his ability to deliver in isolation sets, averaged just 12.9 shots in 2013-14 -- his lowest since 2002-03.

“I think we’ve all had to sacrifice a little bit for the betterment of the team,” Johnson said. “We’ve done that. I think in this postseason we’re not gonna try to come out and do anything that we haven’t been doing. We’re gonna continue to play together, play hard and keep sacrificing so we can keep moving along.”

Perhaps the biggest key to Johnson’s success was his willingness to buy into Kidd’s system from the beginning. In the absence of Brook Lopez (season-ending foot injury), Johnson has become one of the team’s main threats in the post, using his size (6-foot-7, 240 pounds) either to take advantage of smaller guards or facilitate the offense and get one of his teammates an easy basket.

“It didn’t take me long; I’m an easy-going kind of guy,” Johnson said. “If you’re gonna tell me something that’s gonna help us out, then I’m willing to do it.”

For all the talk about Johnson's never living up to the massive six-year, $119 million contract he received from the Atlanta Hawks in 2010, or how he can’t be relied on as a No. 1 option, the native of Little Rock, Ark., has emerged as arguably the best late-game player in the entire NBA.

Over the last two seasons, in the final minute of games in which the Nets were tied or trailing by three points or fewer, Johnson is 13 for 16 from the field with four game-winning buzzer-beaters.

Hence the nickname: Joe Jesus.

“He might not be there when you call on him, but he’s there when you need him,” Garnett said.

The Nets were 10-21 when Johnson’s behind-the-back fadeaway jumper beat the Thunder. They have gone 34-17 since.

"What year was that? 2014? That was a good year,” Kidd joked. “I think that's just Joe. You go back to the Phoenix game [on Nov. 15]. He drove the length of the court, made the floater [to win the game at the buzzer]. There was no emotion. It was just: The game is over. Let's go get ready to play the Clippers.

“Most guys like to a dance, most guys like to celebrate, but Joe just moves on. When Joe made that shot, it was just everybody expected him to make it. And he delivered. And he loves that stage, and that's something we can lean on in the playoffs. I think it kinda kick-started our season."

Johnson put the team on his back during a stretch in mid-January; became the first Net in five years to win Eastern Conference Player of the Week in late March; and closed out the regular season by averaging 18.2 points and 50.2 percent shooting in his last 18 games.

“Last year was fun, but I think this year has been a bit more special because of where we started to where we’ve gotten to now,” Johnson said.

Johnson has played in 69 career playoff games, averaging 16.7 points and 41.4 percent shooting. But he’s never appeared in an NBA Finals before.

The sixth-seeded Nets, who will face the third-seeded Toronto Raptors in the first round (Game 1 is Saturday), certainly aren’t the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference, but given their dominance over the Miami Heat and the way the Indiana Pacers sputtered down the stretch, who knows. They’re certainly better equipped to get there this season than they were a year ago.

“I would say so,” Johnson said. “I think because we got the experience and guys have been through the trenches of the playoffs to help us get to where we’re trying to get to, so I think we have what it takes to be the last team standing.”

'Joe Jesus' answers Nets' call in the clutch

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
12:08
AM ET


DALLAS -- Joe Johnson came to the rescue again for the Brooklyn Nets as they gutted out a gritty 107-104 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

Johnson scored five of his team-high 22 points in overtime, including a 3-pointer with 3:57 remaining that gave Brooklyn a lead it would never relinquish.

The Nets needed his heroics just to get to overtime. After Dirk Nowitzki shot an air ball on a fadeway, Johnson drove for a layup to tie the score at 91-all. Monta Ellis missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer in regulation.

"We love giving the ball to Joe, Joe loves having the ball," Nets coach Jason Kidd said after the victory. "Joe has been doing that for us all season. That's why he's an All-Star and one of the best at what he does."

[+] EnlargeJoe Johnson
AP Photo/LM OteroJoe Johnson nailed big shots in his 22-point effort.
Nicknamed "Joe Jesus" by Kevin Garnett, Johnson has delivered in the clutch for his team. Over the past two seasons, Johnson is 7-for-7 in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime when his team is tied or behind by three points or less. This season he is 3-for-3 with two game-winning buzzer-beaters (Nov. 15 in Phoenix and Jan. 1 in Oklahoma City).

"He's clutch, man," guard Deron Williams said of Johnson's ability to deliver. "That's the reason the ball is in his hands at the end of games."

Putting him in a situation to succeed has definitely correlated to success for the Nets. Brooklyn is now 14-4 this season when he scores at least 20 points in a game.

"I just wanted to be aggressive," Johnson said of his performance. "The coaching staff, my teammates were running plays to get me the ball. I just wanted to be effective and make plays."

Just like any scorer, Johnson revels in having the ball in his hands at the end of the game with the game still up for grabs.

"Those are moments I really relish and I love," Johnson said.

In addition to Johnson's heroics, the Nets needed defense, trust and composure to secure the win. They went on a 14-0 run (from the 1:36 mark of the third quarter through the 10:09 mark of the fourth) to turn a 72-59 deficit into a 73-72 advantage. Their defense on Nowitzki allowed them to get back into the game down the stretch. Nowitzki finished the night with 10 points on 2-of-12 shooting. He was 1-of-10 in regulation, including a couple missed, one-legged fadeaways as the Mavericks tried to nurse their lead down the stretch.

The double-teams on Nowitzki from when the two squads met back in January continued to come in this matchup. The mixed coverages, even with smaller lineups, caused Nowitzki to lose his aggression.

"I kind of hesitated too much and I was kind of always waiting on the double-team, instead of just playing my game," Nowitzki said.

Nowitzki only shot 7-of-27 from the field against the Nets this season. Kidd took the conservative approach when grading his team's defensive effort on Nowitzki.

"We got lucky," Kidd said. "Against talented players like Dirk, you just hope that they miss. Guys made it extremely tough. We showed him different looks, gave him different guys on him. He had some great looks that he usually makes. Again, we just got lucky tonight."

Brooklyn's defense certainly bent but didn't break against Dallas, setting the stage for Johnson to do what he does best in the clutch: deliver.

Nets make Simmons' list for worst contracts

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
5:40
PM ET
NetsJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesBrook Lopez, left, Deron Williams, right, and Joe Johnson are a waste of money, says Simmons.
Grantland’s Bill Simmons has put out his annual list of the 30 worst contracts in the NBA -- and, once again, the Brooklyn Nets are featured prominently.

Writes Simmons:

21. Brook Lopez: three years, $47.2 million
Total bummer. I don’t feel good about this. But when you’re a big guy coming off multiple foot breaks and you just underwent a risky foot surgery that saved Zydrunas Ilguaskas’s career but failed to save Yao Ming’s career … you’re on the list. Sorry.

5. Deron Williams: four years, $81.59 million


4. Joe Johnson: three years, $69.54 million
The combined points-per-game, PER, salaries and ages of two different backcourt tandems from these past three seasons.

BACKCOURT A
2011-12: 39.8 PPG … 38.7 PER … $34.4 million … 57 years old
2012-13: 35.2 PPG … 34.4 PER … $36.9 million … 59 years old
2013-14: 28.3 PPG … 30.7 PER … $39.9 million … 61 years old

BACKCOURT B
2011-12: 27.2 PPG … 28.9 PER … $4.6 million … 45 years old
2012-13: 33.2 PPG … 35.2 PER … $5.6 million … 47 years old
2013-14: 33.2 PPG … 30.6 PER … $8.6 million … 49 years old

Backcourt A? Deron and Joe.

Backcourt B? Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson.

How do you say “Holy schnikes!” in Russian? For the 2015-16 season, Brooklyn already has $62.68 million committed to Johnson, Williams and a might-never-be-the-same Lopez. And Boston has its unprotected first-rounders in 2016 and 2018, with a right to swap in 2017.17 I’m starting to think you can’t run an NBA team while living in Russia. As Mark Felten from Sterling Heights wonders, “At what point do you stop calling Mikhail Prokhorov ‘Mutant Russian Mark Cuban’ and start calling him ‘Mutant Russian Ted Stepien?’”


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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Joe Johnson
PTS AST STL MIN
16.7 3.8 1.0 34.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsK. Garnett 8.0
AssistsD. Williams 6.8
StealsD. Williams 1.1
BlocksB. Lopez 1.6