Joe Johnson has always been better than people have thought he was and never as good as he thought he was. Today is likely to be a significant moment of examination in his career.
Johnson will opt-out this summer and join the greatest free agency class ever, and will likely end up as the best shooting guard available with Dwyane Wade likely to re-sign with Miami. He will be seeking a max contract, which few media members think he deserves. Bulls fans I’ve talked with actually shudder at the thought of giving Johnson that level of money. He’ll be approaching his 30’s and his efficiency has tailed off significantly in Atlanta, as his role in the offense has expanded.
So today is really his big moment to prove he’s worthy of the acclaim and paycheck he seems to think he is, or at least that his supporters think he is.
The Magic dominated the Hawks completely in Game 1, then fought back from a deficit to take Game 2. A loss by the Hawks today in their own building would likely seal the deal on a sweep. Johnson is going to have to take control of his matchup with Vince Carter, go all 2008-Celtics on the Magic and showcase his scoring ability. When Johnson is on, he really is a dominant player. He’s a guy you can put in ISO and say “get us a bucket.” And he’ll get it. When he’s not, he’s a chucker that freezes the offense. If Johnson really wants to hit the next level, he should try and drive and dish to Al Horford and Josh Smith, opening the offense up and showing that he can be versatile. Johnson is a big, tall two-guard, and those are hard to find.
He’s got the body of a three but plays at the two, and his crossover pull-up is as deadly as any player in the league. But he’s got to show he has control over the offense and won’t simply absorb possessions. Some lock down defense on Vince Carter would go a long way as well.
Johnson’s paycheck this summer is unlikely to be effected by today’s game. The market itself will demand a high price for him. But Johnson has a chance to show that he belongs among the league’s best, something he hasn’t done since early in the season on a national stage, really.
This is his moment, and it may be his last as a Hawk. We’ll see what kind of show he gives on his way out.
Magic Johnson has a statue outside Staples Center.
He’s now also in control of the product inside it — Magic is head of the Lakers’ basketball operations after Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak were let go on Tuesday. The shakeup was expected, although the timing caught the league off guard.
It also raises questions about how the Lakers’ front office will now operate with Magic and former agent Rob Pelinka in charge, and what direction do they want to take a team with a quality young core?
Mark Media, the Laker insider and beat reporter for the Los Angeles Daily News joins me to break down all the questions around the Lakers moves, from why now to what next. He has some great insight into where the Lakers are headed.
As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (check there to see all the NBC Sports podcasts), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.
The moves you see teams make at the NBA trade deadline are the best indicator of what they think their chances are come the playoffs. Do they stand pat and decide to wait a year, or are they aggressive going for win-now moves?
Based on that, the Rockets think they can make a deep run this season. They have already traded for Lou Williams from the Lakers, who should thrive in Mike D’Antoni’s system and add scoring punch to the bench.
But the Rockets may not be not done, they have been talking to the Cavaliers about Iman Shumpert, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
LeBron has been asking for depth at the point guard spot, Beverley would be a great fit for them. He could shoot the three and score, plus he defends very well.
He’d be a great fit for a lot of teams, which is why the Cavaliers are not the only team with their eyes on Beverley, reports Calvin Watkins who covers the Rockets for ESPN.
According to a source, several teams have expressed interest in Rockets guard Patrick Beverley. Chicago, New York and Cleveland are the main suitors. Rockets front office and coaches value what Beverley brings to the team and that’s being noticed by others. Beverley, according to a source, has a desire to remain with the Rockets.
The Rockets have played have played much better defense since Beverley returned from injury, and they should be hesitant to move him. Watkins tweeted this:
How much of that is a bluff trying to drive up the price and how much of that is serious remains to be seen. The Rockets like Beverley and don’t want to move him, but there is a price for everyone in the league and if some team comes in over the top the Rockets have to listen.
I just don’t think Shumpert is far enough over that top.
Let this be a reminder: If you are 6’11” with impressive athleticism, you are going to get second (and third, and fourth, and…) chances in the NBA.
Larry Sanders has been out of the NBA for a couple of seasons after a mutual parting of the ways with the Bucks, a buyout of his contract that let him get away from basketball. He had personal demons to deal with and checked himself into a hospital program for anxiety, depression, and mood disorders.
He’s said now he wants to make a comeback, and the Cavaliers are going to at least take a look, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.
A solo workout implies this is not going to lead to him being signed soon, it’s just more of a progress check. Sanders reportedly has looked in some previous settings like a guy who has been out of the league for a couple of years.
Sanders averaged 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks a game, which led to him getting a big extension with the Bucks (and that’s the Sanders teams hope to see in workouts). Sanders wrote later he struggled with the pressure and how to cope with it after signing that deal, which led to things such as a nightclub brawl left him with an injured thumb in need of surgery, being charged with animal cruelty, and being suspended a couple of times by the league for marijuana use.
Hopefully, Sanders has found the balance he sought in his life. He’s trying to turn that into a return to the NBA.
As teams return from the All-Star break, the Denver Nuggets are holding on to the eighth seed in the West. They have an underperforming Trail Blazers team two games back, and a Pelicans team two-and-a-half back that just added DeMarcus Cousins.
Which leads to the question, how eager will Denver be to move players that can help them hold on to the eight seed? There have been trade rumors around veteran forward Wilson Chandler for a couple of seasons, but will they move him at the deadline?
At least a couple of teams are interested, the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video about trades (video below).
“Watch both of those teams with Denver’s Wilson Chandler. Oklahoma City had been very much in pursuit of Rudy Gay before his season-ending injury. They’d love to get a four-man, a versatile forward, as would the Clippers. Both teams think that kind of player maybe gets them over the hump in a first-round series.”
The Thunder simply need more playmakers and guys who can score around Russell Westbrook. Chandler can do that, he’s averaging 15.6 points a game playing 30 minutes a night in Denver, he has to be respected from three, can score inside, and overall he’s a slightly above-average (or above replacement level, if you will) NBA forward who can play the three or the four.
For the Clippers, he could slide right into the three, which has long been a weak spot in their rotations.
Of course, the real question is what does Denver want in return? And this is where it gets tricky because the Nuggets want to win and Chandler is part of that, so the price has gone up for him in Denver’s estimation. Neither the Clippers or Thunder have obvious players that they would be willing to move that the Thunder likely want, and would either team give up a future first rounder for Chandler?
This trade may well not happen, but it’s something to watch.