The Hawks prepare to press on tonight without their leading scorer Joe Johnson as they host the Philadelphia 76ers at Philips Arena. As crippling as this injury could be for the team, it would appear that coach Drew and company are in better position to weather the storm rather than any other time during Johnson's tenure in Atlanta.
More after the jump
Case in point is the fact that Johnson wasn't playing very well to begin with. While I did write earlier that there was no need to panic, the fact is that he was averaging 17 points a game while hitting on only 40% of his shots. From that standpoint this injury would be a lot more damaging if Johnson had been averaging closer to his career numbers. Coach Drew talked about the Johnson injury as reported by Michael Cunningham of the AJC.
"With the elbow, and just watching him shoot the ball, it wasn't consistent," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "I am glad that the problem has been identified and can be rectified. It is going to take us missing him some games but we need him back. We've got to have him healthy."
While the move to a more motion style of offense was made to help the Hawks become less predictable in the playoffs, its value will be on full display during this Johnson injury. Basically the Hawks won't have to change up a lot of what they do despite being without Johnson. Already this season, Al Horford has assumed more an offensive role and is averaging a career high 16.5 points per game. Coach Drew hinted after Wednesday's victory over the Grizzlies that the Hawks will be looking to Al more down the stretch of game with Joe missing.
While some don't think the Johnson injury will have a profound effect on the team, I am withholding judgement until I see how opposing teams attack the Hawks defensively now with Joe out of the lineup. Despite his shooting woes, Johnson has still been the focal point of opposing defenses and has routinely drew double teams which he has been a willing passer out of. Perhaps now teams focus on Al Horford or Josh Smith. That is the importance of this motion concept because if the defense takes something away it must do so at the expense of leaving something else open. The onus is going to be on the Hawks to execute going forward as the schedule, particularly on the road, is about to get much tougher.