Joe Johnson No Longer Nets Crunch-Time Leader


With the game on the line, the Nets went to their closer, JJ.

…No, the other closer, JJ.

Jarrett Jack curled around the screen from Thaddeus Young, set his feet about 20 feet from the basket, and rimmed out a jumper that would have given the Nets a 94-92 lead with under two seconds left. The Nets went on to lose in overtime, 108-100.

Long before Lionel Hollins signed on as Nets coach, that was Joe Johnson’s domain. But Johnson spent that final play on the bench. As Hollins told the media today (via, tradition shouldn’t matter:

“Why do you think Joe should take the final shot all the time, because he’s been doing it?” Hollins said. “Tradition? And why you let them tear down that [old] building and put a parking lot? … You don’t go to fight for that [expletive]. Things change.”

Johnson, for his part, has handled the situation diplomatically.

“[Jack] has been clutch for us all year, he’s made big shots,” Johnson said. “I thought he got a great look at the end of regulation. I thought it was going in but he didn’t make it. I’m not bitter. I’m not bitter about none of that. I roll with coach 100 percent.”

Johnson’s once-rock-solid crunch-time reputation has begun to crack. In the last four minutes of games within five points, the Nets have been outscored by 55 points with Johnson on the floor, the worst raw plus-minus in the NBA in that situation. He’s shot just 15-for-49 in those moments, well below the league average. Worse yet, with under 30 seconds left and the game within three points, Johnson has missed all five of his attempts this season.

In the same situation, Jack has made six of eight shots, with all of those makes coming from at least sixteen feet out. Some of his looks were difficult, some were easy, but they’ve all been memorable. (Though it’s worth noting: the Nets are -273 this season with Jack on the floor, the worst on the team, and the only players worse play for the Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, or Philadelphia 76ers, the league’s worst four teams by record.)

But the crucial issue might not be who gets the last shot, but that it’s set in stone who gets the last shot. Outside of the quick Thaddeus Young screen, there was little in the way of misdirection on the play, and no other options beyond Jack. Hollins said so himself:

“I knew Jarrett was going to shoot the ball,” Hollins said. “I got asked that last night. It doesn’t matter [who was in the game]. We could have put four people in the stands; Jarrett was going to shoot the ball. If I run a pick and roll for Jarrett, he’s going to shoot the ball and he got a good shot and he missed it. It went in and out. If it goes in, you guys aren’t standing here asking me who gets the last shot.” — Hollins on late-game strategy: ‘Things change’