Can Joe Johnson Be the Spark the Brooklyn Nets Desperately Need?

Thomas Duffy@@TJDhoopsFeatured ColumnistNovember 29, 2013

Jan 16, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson (7) reacts during a time out in the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 109-95. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets are in the midst of a season full of injuries, struggle and disappointment. But in Joe Johnson, they possess the capability to turn it all around.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have proven that they’re no longer superstars, while Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko have all missed significant chunks of time with various injuries.

No. 7 can get the Nets back on track.
No. 7 can get the Nets back on track.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

A perfect storm of health issues has plagued Brooklyn, and first-year head coach Jason Kidd has struggled to improvise without having his go-to guys in the lineup every night.

This is certainly not the team that billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov expected to see when he set an NBA record by going $80 million over the luxury cap.

With his team in shambles, Johnson needs to carry the Nets until they can get healthy and develop some chemistry.


Consistent health is key

Johnson missed just 10 games in 2012-13 and has been the only member of Brooklyn’s roster to check into every single contest this season.

D-Will’s ankles have caused him to miss several games, but injuries have also hindered the star guard’s effectiveness when he has gotten on the court. He’s putting up just over nine points a night on 40 percent shooting from the field and a clip of 37 percent from three-point land.

Lopez, KG and the Truth have all been hurt this year.
Lopez, KG and the Truth have all been hurt this year.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Lopez, Brooklyn’s best overall player, has also been hobbled with ankle trouble. When on the floor, the sixth-year center has put up over 20 points an outing and provided the team with a viable low-post presence.

Although they’re tremendous players and two of the most crucial parts of the team, Lopez and Williams can’t be counted on right now. And the Nets also can’t use their absence as the sole reason for flopping.

It’s time for Johnson to step up, demand the ball and win Brooklyn some games.


Johnson needs to earn his money

Johnson needs to earn that huge paycheck with his team hurting.
Johnson needs to earn that huge paycheck with his team hurting.Rocky Widner/Getty Images

It may be surprising to some to learn that Johnson is actually the Nets’ highest-paid player. And if Brooklyn is going to get back on track anytime soon, he’s going to have to start playing like it.

Although he’s not a full-fledged superstar, Johnson has shown flashes of star potential throughout his career. He’s one of the most cold-blooded players in the league and has hit several game-winning buzzer beaters over the course of his 12 years in the NBA.

Against the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 11, Johnson forced overtime and then won the game with a pair of teardrops, giving Brooklyn its first road win of the 2013-14 season.

That wasn’t first of Johnson’s game-winners, and it probably won’t be the last. Last season, analyzed just how clutch Johnson was in his first year with the Nets.

Johnson shot .514 (19-37 FGs) in the final five minutes of close games, ones in which the Nets were tied or trailing by as many as five points. He shot .565 (13-25) in the final three minutes of those games, and .769 (10-13) in the final minute.


While Johnson has proven himself to be one of the best closers in the game, a 48-minute effort from Brooklyn’s costliest player will be needed if the team is to remain afloat.


Easy offense for J-Kidd

Back in his days with the Atlanta Hawks, Johnson was known as “Iso Joe.”

Mike Woodson’s offense revolved around isolations, and Johnson was at the core of the attack. He put up close to 20 points a game while shooting 45 percent from the field during his five seasons as a Hawk under Woodson.

"Hey Joe, can you help me out here?"
"Hey Joe, can you help me out here?"Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

In his first year as a head coach, Kidd has struggled mightily with the transition from being an on-court general to leading from the sidelines.

As per Synergy Sports, Iso Joe is going one-on-one just 17 percent of the time that the ball is in his hands this season. With the offense lacking any type of life, Kidd would be wise to get Johnson in space.

That’s easy to do for the first-year coach, and especially necessary being that nearly all of his offensive weapons are getting hurt. Johnson thrives while working one-on-one, and the Nets need scoring.

Running the offense through Iso Joe—at least until Kidd has a full roster at his disposal—is the best solution for the struggling Nets.


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