So it appears that all of the recruiting and posturing that has been going on is now finished as far as Joe Johnson is concerned. Word is that he has now accepted the Hawks six year max offer for reportedly around 120 Million Dollars.
Whether it is the right move or the wrong move is still yet to be determined. The only thing that is for certain is that this story will have a sequel. There will be another chapter to the Joe Johnson era.
Joe Johnson came to the Hawks in 2005 and his signing and completed trade nearly tore the Hawks ownership apart. He has overseen a team grow from 26 wins in his first year all the way to 53 wins last season bowing out rather unceremoniously in the second round of the playoffs. He is a four time NBA All Star and has been the mantle piece for the franchise ever since his arrival.
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It was that rather lopsided playoff loss to the Orlando Magic that had many Hawks fans saying that this group as configured had hit it's ceiling. That a Joe Johnson led team wasn't going to be able to lead the Hawks out of the second round of the playoffs. Hawks management didn't seem to agree and wasted no time if offering Johnson a max offer as soon as free agency opened. A Sports Illustrated article by Ian Thomsen says that the Hawks would have destroyed all of their momentum that they have built up over the last few seasons had they lost Johnson to another team. Critics will say that good franchises can retool without missing a beat.
Maybe this decision to retain Johnson would have been met more positively if not for those pesky critical comments that Johnson made following a Game 3 loss to the Magic. Lets keep in perspective that Johnson made those comments in a bout of frustration for a game plan that wasn't working and wasn't going to work. While it is true that Joe reaped the benefits of Mike Woodson's iso heavy system he also shouldered the burden when teams simply were not going to allow him to beat them. That was never more on display than in this year's playoffs. However, that crutch is long gone as Woodson was let go following the season and new coach Larry Drew has promised not to lean on Johnson as much. That will call for Johnson to adjust his game.
If I could give Joe Johnson any advice it would be to get ready. The offense might not be iso Joe driven anymore but the pressure is still squarely on his shoulders. No matter if the Atlanta Hawks bring in more players that are capable, this signing cements the fact that the face of the franchise is Joe Johnson. Joe has to be ready to meet the challenge head on. Much of the criticism surrounding his contract was made because of statistics showing that perimeter players tend to drop off in production in their early thirties. Joe is 29 years old and has to make sure that he is the exception to that rule.
He is going to have to let go of some of that stubbornness that we have seen over the years and is going to have to adapt his game as he gets older. Can he do it? Joe has been an overachiever his whole life but as a Hawks fan this is what we now get to see play out over the next six years. Those critical comments aside, Joe has carried himself as you would want your face of the franchise. He is a quiet leader and a silent assassin. He just must understand that there is no hiding from six years, 120 Million.