3) Joe Johnson: not the only crunch time guy.
We’ve seen it time and time again in the last two years. Nets in a close game. Nets need win. Nets give Joe Johnson the ball. Joe Johnson saves the day. Kevin Garnett calls him Joe Jesus. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
But when talking about how the Nets would look in close and late games, Hollins didn’t unequivocally say that Johnson would be the go-to guy.
This isn’t an uncommon thing for coaches and players to say before the season starts — they don’t want to shift focus to just one guy at the end of games, preferring the best play over the best player. Jason Kidd said as much last season. “I can’t say we’re going to give the ball to Joe every time,” Hollins said. “We have a lot of people that can play, and if someone has made all their shots in a game, that’s the guy we’ll give the ball in that moment. If we determine that he can’t handle that moment, then we’ll go to someone else. Ultimately, there will be three or four guys you can count on in the clutch.”
Still, teams tend to fall into regular crunch-time patterns, and the Nets have relied on Johnson time and time again in the last few seasons, with eerie success. Indeed, in the last ten seconds of games within one possession over the last two seasons, Johnson has hit seven of eight shots, most of them game-winners.
Hollins is an old-school coach, and my guess is that when the chips are down, he’ll go to his best player — in this case, Joe Johnson — and tell him to make a play. That doesn’t necessarily mean Johnson takes the shot, it means he’s the one that gets to make the decision. It’s possible that could change over the course of the season, but of now, it’s his job to lose.