Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Crawford to discuss Bulls with Johnson
By Nick Friedell
ATLANTA -- Hawks guard Joe Johnson said Monday that he hasn't even started thinking about all the possibilities surrounding his free agency this summer, but he didn't sound like someone who was very enthused about the possibility of staying in Atlanta.
The Hawks were swept by the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"It's been great," Johnson said when asked to sum up his feelings about the season's end. "I've had a great five years here. We had an unbelievable year here. We've accomplished so much. We ain't got nothing to hang our heads about.
"Yeah, we came up short of our goal, but it's no reason to walk around here with our head down."
The 28-year-old was expected to be one of the more sought after second-tier free agents after LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But after a dreadful playoff series against the Magic in which Johnson averaged just 13 points, some wonder whether his value may have decreased to the point of scaring some teams away.
The Chicago Bulls have positioned themselves to be one of the major players in the free-agent market. Johnson's Hawks teammate Jamal Crawford spent his first four years with the Bulls, and Crawford said he'll advise Johnson about playing in Chicago.
"I'll just tell him about my experiences personally and be honest with him about everything," Crawford said. "I'm sure we'll have conversations over the summer."
Crawford is hopeful that Johnson will re-sign with the Hawks over the summer, but he knows the Bulls and several other teams could come calling. He said he has no idea what the All-Star forward will decide to do.
"Not at all," Crawford said. "He's such a quiet guy that it's hard to gauge.
"You just support and hope that things work out for him. You hope he comes back, but you never know. It's a long summer. Decisions have to be made, but we'll see what happens. But I hope he comes back."
Crawford isn't going to hold back anything if and when the possibility of playing in Chicago comes up with Johnson.
"I had good experiences, but I had some bad experiences, too," Crawford said. "I was young. I was 19 years old when I went there, but it got better as time went on. I would tell him everything."
When asked specifically if he had problems with the city or the organization, Crawford didn't elaborate.
"It was tough," he said. "They were both great, but the city was tough, being a 19-year-old kid, learning the city, that was tough at first, but I'll talk to him."
Johnson, a four-time All-Star, said he did not have a list of teams he would be considering.
"I'll take some time off, clear my head, spend some time with my family, and then when it gets close I'm sure me and my agent [Arn Tellem] will sit down here in the next couple weeks or so and probably just talk and just kind of see what's out there," he said.
Johnson said he would "definitely" consider staying in Atlanta, but he was not as vocal as teammates and coaches who hoped that management would bring its core back next season.
"Probably everybody wants everybody to come back," Johnson said. "We won 53 games, finished third in the East, yet still we come up short. We just got to take some time to really clear our heads and really re-think this whole thing and see where we're at."
Atlanta fans booed Johnson the first time he touched the ball on Monday night as a response to critical comments he made regarding fans' reactions after the Hawks were blown out of Game 3 on Saturday.
"It doesn't bother me, man," Johnson said. "I got thick skin. I've been booed louder than that."
While Johnson tried to play off the cold reception, he acknowledged that the final few games of the Magic series left a sour taste in his mouth and would have an impact on his decision this summer.
"Definitely," he said. "I take a lot of criticism and credit for this series, the way we played as a team and the way I played. No excuses, but we gave everything we had."
Is Johnson the missing piece that the Bulls need?
"I hope he's the player we need," Crawford said with a smile. "So I'm hoping he stays here."
Nick Friedell covers the Bullls for ESPNChicago.com.