EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—Discontent apparently doesn't go away overnight. Or over two nights.
"Offensively, I just think guys kind of exhaust their options and then, when there's nothing else for them, then they'll pass when they have to," Johnson critiqued after Tuesday morning's practice. "But for the most part, we've been very selfish. I mean, 4-2 is pretty good, but I wouldn't say it's where we want to be right now against teams that aren't playoff teams. ... And that's basically where I was coming from."
Tuesday's comments weren't shocking, especially after Johnson's postgame comments Sunday, when he had some choice words about his team's offense.
"I just think we get to a point where we get a bit complacent, the ball stops moving, guys get a little selfish, and it makes it hard," the Nets wing explained over the weekend.
Johnson wasn't done once he finished talking to reporters postgame either, sending a PG-13 tweet into the abyss shortly after leaving the locker room.
If anything, the tweet was out of context at the time. It could've meant anything. Tuesday, he clarified his online remarks.
"I'm not hiding anything, you know," Johnson explained. "I just thought, we're 4-2 six games into the season. I know it's early. We haven't played anybody. The Minnesota game, obviously a game we definitely should've won. And I thought that this last game we played against Orlando was almost a carbon copy. It's just, I just didn't think that as individuals, as players that we all have each other's backs out there."
Brooklyn may be 4-2, as Johnson said, but the Nets have only played one 2014 playoff team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, a squad that was missing both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. The rest of their schedule has consisted of the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks and Magic.
Sunday's game may have ended in a 104-96 victory, but Brooklyn actually found itself down to Orlando, a team expected to finish in the bottom part of the Eastern Conference, halfway through the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the spotty play is motivating Johnson's frustration.
Still, he may have diagnosed what he deems as a problem, but even Johnson claims not to have a solution.
"I have no idea how it changes. I don’t know if it’s just the opponents we’re playing, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow. I don’t really, I don’t know."
"It wasn’t like that in preseason. Preseason, the ball moved freely. It just seems like it’s really not doing that right now."
Through six games, the Nets rank 16th in assist rate, but as Johnson mentioned, they have played against relatively low-caliber teams. Still, even as a starter and 14-year vet, Johnson, a usually quiet soul, says it's not in his personality to say anything to the team.
“First off, I just play. I don’t really—you guys know, I don’t really say much," Johnson extrapolated, saying more than he could have known. "If I’m speaking on something or saying something, then obviously, it has to be something. I’m not just talking…I’m trying to do it for the betterment of the team. I try to go out there and play and let my actions or my play speak for itself.”
There's an inherent irony in a player speaking to the media about how he doesn't like to talk about team issues while he talks to the media about team issues. But there were times Tuesday when Johnson went against his own grain.
“I know it’s early, so I’ve tried not to make a big deal of it. This is my third year here, and I just felt like saying something about it. That’s just kind of how it is.”
With the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers on Brooklyn's upcoming road slate, Johnson will finally get an idea of exactly how this team plays against the big boys. All of those teams are playoff contenders, and at the moment, Johnson is nervous about the potential results.
"There’s no way you can play like we’ve played," Johnson baffled. "You can’t go on the road like that and play against these caliber teams."
There were a few running themes in Johnson's diatribe, but there was a phrase he used twice which stood out particularly:
"You have to know that the next guy has your back."
Maybe that's what irks him most. The ball sticks in plenty of offenses, especially early in the season with teams learning new schemes while adjusting to incoming players and coaches. Such offensive problems are fixable, but not having your teammate's back—whatever that means—slices a bit deeper into a group's fabric.
"We’ll see what happens the next few games. If we can be a better team on the road, because on the road, man, the coaches and the players is all you have to get you going. We’ll see what happens."
Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade but maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at WashingtonPost.com or on ESPN's TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.