Hawks whiff again as Joe Johnson plans to sign with…Miami?

Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brett Davis)

Hawks head coach and president Mike Budenholzer reportedly failed to convince Joe Johnson to return to Atlanta. (AP photo)

First, about Joe Johnson.

He is 34 years old and staring at the finish line of his career. So it wasn’t surprising that he was anxious to take a buyout of the final season of his contract in the NBA’s black hole that is Brooklyn, with the apparent intent to sign with a title contender. But if reports are true that Johnson will sign with Miami this weekend after officially clearing waivers, a championship ring clearly wasn’t high on his agenda or he would’ve signed with Cleveland.

The Heat are among the afterthought teams in the Eastern Conference. When Johnson made his decision, they were in fourth place at 1½ games ahead of the Hawks and they might be even more of a longshot in the playoffs than Atlanta given Chris Bosh’s unlikely return. I’m not sure where the Heat fit in the pecking order among the teams interested in Johnson but they’re definitely not in the top three (Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Toronto), which tells you the biggest concern about Johnson’s potential return to the Hawks — that he just wants his shots and his minutes — has been reaffirmed.

Joe loves Joe. And possibly the beach.

“Joe had a lot of options and I think it’s stone crab season,” Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said on the “Dukes and Bell” show on 92.9 FM.

Now , about the Hawks.

They went 0-for-2. They’re not going to admit this publicly, but a source said they had strong interest in signing Anderson Varejao when Cleveland waived the power forward/center, only to see Varejao opt to sign with Golden State. (Conclusion: Winning a title was a high priority for Varejao, unlike Johnson.) They also badly wanted Johnson to give them another viable scoring option, especially given their struggles on the wings with Kent Bazemore and Kyle Korver.

So what’s the plan now? Hold hands and pray for a group healing?

These Hawks don’t remotely look like the team of a year ago. Since a high-water mark of 26-17 on Jan. 20, they’re 6-10, even with Friday night’s win over Chicago, and spiraling down in the standings. They weren’t an overly physical team last season when they won 60 games but they’ve lost their edge at both ends of the court and they’ve been erratic.

At times, they lack passion.

At times, they lack defense.

The sense of urgency they played with a year ago: it comes and goes.

I don’t believe Mike Budenholzer became a bad coach overnight, but in situations like this it’s common for some to wonder if players have started to tune out their coach. Budenholzer shot down that theory when I asked him about it Thursday and Al Horford similarly came to his coach’s defense: “No, the coaches have been great with us. It’s about us as players taking that next step with this team. I really think once we start winning a couple of games, we’ll be fine.”

When asked about the attitude in the locker room, Horford also maintained, “Guys are in a good place. Obviously we’re frustrated with the way things are going. But the coach has been great. He’s supporting us. Guys are getting in their work.”

The results haven’t been there, however. I’ve addressed likely reasons for this before but I think it comes down to personnel issues.  Budenholzer and general manager Wes Wilcox did not adequately replace DeMarre Carroll, who left in free agency.

A case could be made they also miss the edge and physical presence that Pero Antic supplied. Tiago Splitter was expected to help as a big off the bench but his play was mediocre to average and then he suffered a season-ending hip injury.

None of this means the Hawks won’t suddenly get on a roll and maybe even a round of playoffs. But a return to the Eastern Conference finals is a longshot. Johnson might’ve helped them a little but he likely wouldn’t have changed the big picture.

I doubt Johnson would change Miami’s fortunes, either. But what does it say that he apparently chose the Heat over the Hawks? Or maybe it’s just about the beach.

Recent ramblings from the Digital Jukebox

Reader Comments 0

15 comments
DamonH
DamonH

"it’s common for some to wonder if players have started to tune out their coach. Budenholzer shot down that theory when I asked him about it Thursday and Al Horford similarly came to his coach’s defense"

yeah, good job Jeff thinking a coach would publicly admit players tune him out and also thinking the players would publicly admit that as well. I mean come on, this organization isn't THAT dysfunctional right now

Atlanta Man's Peachtree
Atlanta Man's Peachtree

Oh and how good is your memory? As I recall, the old owners saw Johnson as a poor clutch player (he sure as hell didn't save Brooklyn) and dumped his expensive contract to get better players, and you're saying bring this guy back? Man...!?!


Atlanta Man's Peachtree
Atlanta Man's Peachtree

Hey Schultzie, You looking for answers to the Hawks?  Lemme ask you, what is different about this year's Hawks and last year's  Hawks? Yes? C'mon, I'll give you a hint. It aint the roster or on the court. Still stumped? Okay, for you, let's make it easier. Rhymes with toners. Yeah, the guys you railed against time after time after time. Frothing at the mouth some would say. Sheeesh. Say what you may, but Levenson and co. were at most of the games cheering the team on, not in a sky box hiding away from the fans, but down there in the seats, until people by the likes of you--started writing some imperial BS about him, which was totally wrong, and chased him away. Good work Schultzie. Good work. (BTW, I am being sarcastic in case you didn't know.)

afx
afx

@Atlanta Man's Peachtree it been joy and happiness upon receiving news that Hawks sold to new owners. it seemed to me worse group not exist. I been wrong, just one, current Hawks owners.  

Atlanta Man's Peachtree
Atlanta Man's Peachtree

@afx @Atlanta Man's Peachtree How worse group not exist? Levenson and co. made NBA history with most consecutive playoffs, and their best record in history last year and hired Danny Ferry who helped build the team. If that is your idea of poor ownership, what is your idea of good ownership? 

Jaycraw
Jaycraw

Please, Joe Johnson is the definition of a black hole. The Hawks don't need another person who never drives to the basket, which is extremely important in playoff basketball. Remember the problem with Joe when he was here is that the ball stuck and he was a superstar that drew no fouls.

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

That is one pitch I am glad they whiffed on.


They need a GM desperately. Didn't replace Carroll, mangled the 2015 draft, signing old guys out of desparation.

They are descending into  the NBA limbo, good enough to maybe make the playoffs or just miss, and not bad enough to get to the lottery to get the difference maker. Unless the GM (and we need one) can convince a difference makes to sign with Atlanta as a free agent, we are going to be in a not so good place.


It is too bad for Bud too, he is a good coach, but running the entire franchise, I think not.


I miss my Ferry.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@WhopperDawg: "Unless the GM (and we need one) can convince a difference makes to sign . . . , we are going to be in a not so good place."

______________________

GOING to be???

Where have we already BEEN the past 48 years--in which we've never appeared in the finals?!

tyger
tyger

It's Obama's fault nobody signs w ATL

Stinger2
Stinger2

For the Hawks, this was no big deal either way at this point in the season. 

UGAdawg34
UGAdawg34

I will never go to another Hawks game after they unceremoniously fired Danny Ferry who was one of the best things to ever happen to the Hawks. I know they don't care but I frequently went and my two tickets cost $565. Well, they figured out a good way for me to save $565 a game.

FairValue
FairValue

ATL went cheap---joe got all the millions he wanted in miami---he can party down there at the south beach clubs with some very hot ladies!!!

Codex
Codex

Who cares about Joe. The sad thing however is you never really hear any athlete in all 3 of ATL's sports teams say "I want to be Atlanta". Can anyone remember the last time this was said? Is this the Atlanta Sports Stigma?

Another comment
Another comment

Joe used to come every single off day back to Atlanta. My daughter would see him frequently in Sandy Springs/ Buckhead during the day. He would fly into town and run errands. So that is not the case. Many atheletes continue to make Atlanta their hometown, even after traded.