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Joe Johnson Watch: The Day Before

It's the day before the league catching up to Joe Johnson?
It's the day before the league catching up to Joe Johnson?

It's fitting that, as we near the kickoff for free agency, it's looking and sounding like Joe Johnson has slipped to second banana status even in the context of "where will they go" discussions currently flooding all corners of NBA coverage.

Oh yes, he is mentioned on all the shows, but further down the list than even a month ago, and on ESPN's 1950's-ish Free Agency Summit last night, but not in a "he's the man" way. Heck, he didn't even merit a banner in the background of ESPN's McLaughlin Group homage.

It's become clear, in all of these conversations, that Joe is a fallback plan piece, a Plan B or C, to all these teams that have cleared a path for the real big hitters of this free agency forum. Michael Wilbon, during the course of free agent discussion on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, mentioned that Johnson "isn't a #1", but as a #3, he'd be great! Wilbon is not alone around the league on this assessment.

Wonderful. So now, as the Hawks maintain that they will do all they can to resign Johnson, it stands to mention that the Hawks might end up mortgaging the next six seasons for a player who is better suited as a second or third option on a team today, at 29 years old, but get paid like a #1, and be paid that way until he's 34. Scary.

Joe is/has been a great player, but has always been miscast as some sort of superstar, even in star-starved Atlanta. His numbers, beyond All-Star game count, has never proven that reputation out. He's a great shot maker, plays a very physical brand of basketball, but it seems the rest of the league and those who watch the NBA is getting around to the same conclusions as Bird Watchers have....Joe is not a max player, doesn't quite rise to the level of a top-shelf free agent, candidate, and is, at best a fallback plan for a team that has the financial resources to swallow an above market contact well beyond the years of peak performance.