Shortly following the team’s 104-96 victory over the Orlando Magic, Nets guard Joe Johnson set a cryptic, frustrated, NSFW-for-language tweet from his personal account, an account he rarely uses.
I'm off this shit!!
— Joe Johnson 4real (@TheJoeJohnson7) November 9, 2014
Knowing Johnson, the tweet could’ve been about anything — a personal friend, a yoga class, or just randomized venting.
But it wasn’t. It was directed at his team, his Brooklyn Nets, and their penchant for selfishness and poor play early in the season, and it keyed a brutal criticism of his teammates.
“It’s just- as individuals, as players, (we have to) have each other’s backs out there,” Johnson vented to the media after the team’s Tuesday afternoon practice. “I just felt, I didn’t believe it. I go back, and I watch the tape, and I watch film just to try to get a different perspective, and I mean, my feelings haven’t changed.”
“It’s just kind of what it is. Defensively, we help from time to time, offensively, I just think guys kind of exhaust their options and then when there’s nothing else for them, then they’ll pass it when they have to. For the most part, we’ve been very selfish.”
It was a strong statement from the team’s usually quiet offensive leader — Johnson rarely criticizes his teammates, but felt a vigorous need to after what he felt was a lackluster start.
Johnson’s tirade came after he felt that his teammates weren’t playing team basketball in-game, and was reinforced after he watched the game film. “It may not be as important to others or they may have not looked at it the way I’ve looked at it.”
“It wasn’t like that in preseason,” Johnson added. “Preseason, the ball moved freely, it just seems like it’s really not doing that right now.”
From the outside, the team’s in relatively good standing. They’re 4-2 after six games, with the third-most efficient offense in the league, and backcourt mate Deron Williams just won Eastern Conference Player of the Week. But they also haven’t played a playoff-caliber roster, and Johnson pulled no punches about a record that he thought was fool’s gold.
“I’m not hiding anything,” Johnson vented after the team’s practice Tuesday. “We’re 4-2 six games into the season, but it’s early. We haven’t played anybody, and the Minnesota game (is) obviously a game we should’ve won. I thought this last game that we played against Orlando was almost a carbon copy.”
Johnson, a seven-time All-Star who has been the team’s offensive rock, called out unnamed teammates for not defending one another. “It’s a thin line between all of this, winning and losing,” Johnson said. “We can have our psyche feeling pretty good right now, which is great, winning cures a lot, but when you’re playing against pretty good teams or great teams, you have to know that the next guy has your back.”
There wasn’t any finger-pointing on his part, nor has he come to his teammates with these frustrations yet.
With the Nets embarking on a three-game road trip against tough teams — the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, and Portland Trail Blazers — and Johnson demanded change from his team’s offense. “There’s no way you can play like we’ve played, you can’t go out on the road like that and play against these caliber teams — Phoenix, Golden State, Portland — those’ll be double-digit losses. So first test is tomorrow (Wednesday) against Phoenix.”
Johnson added he wasn’t sure how to fix the issues, but he wasn’t blowing smoke.
“Man, first off I just play. I don’t really say much. If I’m speaking on something or saying something, then obviously it has to be something. So I’m not just talking for my health.”