Joe Johnson: Brooklyn Nets Player Preview

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Joe Johnson on Twitter

Height: 6’7″
Weight: 240 lbs.
Date of Birth: June 29, 1981
Years Pro: 13
Before NBA: University of Arkansas
Drafted: 10th overall, 2001 NBA Draft
Nickname: Joe Jesus, Joe Cool, Armadillo Cowboy
– Full Stats –

Joe Johnson is the only Brooklyn Net that matters at this point. He’s really the only Brooklyn Net who’s ever mattered.

Since the Nets entered the borough with the fury, bravado and pedigree of a preschooler determined to spell his name correctly for the first time ever, they’ve been in over their heads (even if they didn’t know it and certainly didn’t act like it). They claimed they were aiming at immortality, but the barrel of the gun has been pointing squarely at mediocrity the entire time. And the dude who’s been successfully pulling the trigger on ordinary for his first two years as a Net, and the rest of his NBA career? Joe Marcus Johnson from Little Rock, Arkansas.

It’s near impossible to say what Joe will do this season or what Joe needs to do this season, because that all depends on how everyone else performs. Joe is the Jenga block holding this entire tower upright. He may not always stand out from the other blocks, but please believe that he is weight-bearing.

No matter what the Nets have needed in Brooklyn to become or remain slightly above average, Joe has delivered. If they were tied with the Pistons at the end of the second overtime and needed a win to impress Jerry Seinfeld (sitting courtside) and enrage Lawrence Frank (coaching the Detroit), Joe was there. If they needed a 10 three-pointers and 29 points in a quarter against the 76ers, Joe was there. If they needed someone to post up the young guys on Toronto in the playoffs and score on nearly every play, Joe was there. If they needed nothing more than like nine points because the rest of the team was playing well, Joe was there, too.

For the first season, all the Nets needed from Joe to become a middling basketball team was a very steady stream of very average basketball. And Joe flooded Brooklyn with average basketball. Most of his stats, both standard and advanced, were his least impressive since his Phoenix days. After having built a career primarily on his scoring ability, he averaged 16.3 points on 42 percent shooting in the inaugural Brooklyn season, his lowest marks since he was a spry 22-year-old in Phoenix. But the Nets won 49 games, so Joe could gaze upon harvest with pride. He had put in another year of honest work for a playoff basketball team. He could smile, close the screen door and head up to bed.

But the following season, the Nets were reeling. Their offseason fireworks weren’t yielding the instant championship caliber team that Mikhail is constantly chasing. And then Brook Lopez broke. By January 2, the Nets had earned a 10-21 record. If they were going to ever reclaim mediocrity, they were going to need a superhero who could yank them back up to the middle. So Joe Johnson asked Jason Kidd for the ball in Oklahoma City with the game tied at 93 with just a few seconds left. He crossed up Serge Ibaka twice, and the rest is history.

What exactly the Nets need from Joe this season is still a bit unclear. The team is, once again, hitching their apple wagon to the health of Deron Williams’s ankles and Lopez’s feet. They are, once again, hoping that a handful of unproven-but-promising young guys and past-their-prime veterans over-perform on the aggregate. Again, the discussion about Joe quickly turns to the rest of the team, but that’s because the guy’s sole directive is to serve the team, to fill in or fall back where needed.

As such, Joe doesn’t get too much time in season previews anymore because Joe isn’t the x-factor. So many previews are about “If player X does this, then…” If Williams can revert back to his Utah days and Beşiktaş nights, then the Nets will win some games. If Lopez can stay on the basketball court, then the Nets will win some games. If Garnett can play enough minutes… If Bojan Bogdanovic’s Paul Pierce impression is good enough… If a bench unit of Jarrett Jack, Andrei Kirilenko, Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson can concoct the type of pandemonium needed from a bench unit… If Mason “You’re the man now” Plumdog Millionaire learned some life lessons while in Spain…

But there aren’t any “ifs” for Joe Johnson. There isn’t any point in writing “If Joe Johnson…” because Joe Johnson doesn’t “if,” Joe Johnson “whens.” And when the season starts, Joe Johnson will be there for the Nets, doing whatever he needs to do, just to make sure they’re okay.

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