All Signs Point to Joe Johnson's Return to Boston

Frances WhiteAnalyst IIFebruary 3, 2010

ATLANTA - JANUARY 08:  Ray Allen #20 of the Boston Celtics against Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on January 8, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It seems Ray Allen's days as the Boston Celtics' designated sniper are about to be over. His name is being bandied in trade rumors and his inconsistent play is fueling the talks that the Celtics are shopping him.

This season, Ray has been at once goat and hero. His seven point pedestrian performance against the Lakers on Jan. 31 and his lack of clock awareness have cost the Celtics several games.

This is the final year of his contract and the Celtics want to make sure that his replacement part can equal the chutzpah Allen has demonstrated during his career. 

The Celtics understand that they do not have a chance at the LeBron's and Wade's of the world.  They are, or should, be targeting the next tier of stars which includes Joe Johnson. As is so often stated, he is no ordinary Joe. His previous experience as a free agent will weigh heavily on his decision.

Joe Johnson was part of the nucleus of Mike D'Antoni's Phoenix Sun's run and gun style. He demonstrated his value, but Phoenix did not want to pay him; the Hawks, hungry for a star, did. The rest is history, as they say.

He finds himself in a similar situation, in control of his NBA and financial future. Money will not lure him because he left Phoenix for that reason. No, this time it will be about his best opportunity to win a championship.

The Eastern Conference has more teams that fit that criteria. Three of the top contenders reside in the East this year. Miami may have an outside chance if Wade remains in the South's version of 'sin city'.

If LeBron stays in Cleveland, he might take less money if they are guaranteed to get him. Imagine a backcourt of Johnson and Moe Williams with LeBron leading the front court? That is a very scary proposition; Johnson would allow James to get more rest during the regular season. 

Orlando may have an outside chance if they can convince someone to take the player formerly known as "half-man, half-amazing," Vince Carter, off their hands this summer. Orlando has a young nucleus that has been to the mountaintop but failed to conquer it. Joe Johnson could replace the intangibles they lost with Hedo Turgkolu's defection.

Then there is the team that drafted him and lost patience with him all in the same year. Rick Pitino's legacy has left the Celtics with an unathletic roster. He unceremoniously dumped Johnson and Chauncey Billups because he failed to grasp the nuances of developing players.

It is a known fact that every player that has been traded in the NBA loves to stick it to his former team. Over the years, things of that nature subside and it becomes another day and game on the NBA landscape. Joe Johnson, however, seems to play with a super-infused chip on his shoulder when he encounters the Celtics.

Boston has the most glaring need at the two-guard position and the question stands: Would he voluntarily return to the green? Last year, I wrote about this very thing. The Celtics seem like the best place for him next season, despite Atlanta's recent successes. 

It seems like Comcast New Englands' Gary Tanquay agrees with me, as well.

The Atlanta Hawks, of course, will have first dibs on his services. However, they have not been able to beat the Orlando Magic or Cleveland Cavaliers. They better pray that they see the Celtics in the second round and not the aforementioned teams.

I do believe that Atlanta's inability to beat the other contending teams will see Joe Johnson in Boston this summer.