Having signed a six-year, $119 million contract during free agency in 2010, the final four years and $90 million of which the Nets took on via trade last summer, Joe Johnson is often criticized as not worth or not playing up to that huge price tag.
When the topic of Johnson and his critics was brought up to P.J. Carlesimo on Sunday afternoon, the Nets' interim head coach sounded like he's had enough of the bashing of his star guard.
"Critic is such an ambiguous term, I would call them uninformed or basketball-unintelligent," Carlesimo said via conference call a day after his Nets fell into a 3-1 hole against the Chicago Bulls in their best-of-seven first-round series. "Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but it would be hard for me to think there was an intelligent basketball person making a statement like that about Joe Johnson."
Anyone who wants to say Johnson hasn't had a good season would be justified. His regular season numbers (16.3 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.0 RPG, 42.3 FG%) were all down compared to his career numbers. However, to criticize the six-time All-Star shooting guard when it comes to these playoffs might be unwise.
Johnson has been batting plantar fasciitis in his right foot, but it has not stopped him. He took a cortisone shot before a 79-76 Game 3 loss, gutted out 41 minutes and scored 15 points on 6-for-14 shooting.
Saturday's 142-134 triple-overtime loss in Game 4 is more to the point. He played 48 minutes, scored 22 points and shot 10-for-20 from the field.
Along the way, he beat the second overtime buzzer with an 8-foot pull-up jumper in the lane to send the game to a third overtime after he scored six of his team's 10 points in the first overtime. Of those six points, four of them came on two game-tying jumpers inside the final 30 seconds.
"Has somebody had a better year? Yeah, I'm sure, but he would be right up there near the top this year in terms of clutch plays, game-winning plays, game-tying plays, putting the game into overtime or getting us a win," Carlesimo said. "It's scary to think about what this year would've been like for us without Joe Johnson."
Looking ahead to Monday, not back to Saturday
Carlesimo deemed it very important to take a positive outlook into Monday while trying to forget about Saturday and the reason is clear.
The Nets held a 14-point lead with 3:45 to play. C.J. Watson missed a breakaway, two-handed dunk with 3:16 left, and the Bulls took the momentum and eventually, the win.
After the missed dunk, the Nets finished the fourth quarter 0-for-4 from the field, then proceeded to shoot 8-for-27 from the field and 0-for-9 from 3-point range in the three overtimes.
The toughest pill to swallow came with 20.4 seconds left in the third overtime and the Nets down four. Carlos Boozer missed the second of two free throws, but Andray Blatche failed to box out Nazr Mohammed, who swooped in, grabbed the rebound and finished, plus the foul, to seal the win."We won't watch the last three minutes and say, 'Look, we missed this free throw, we turned the ball over, we did A, B, C, D.' I think they are very acutely aware of the mistakes we made and I don't think we need that for tomorrow," Carlesimo said. "Tomorrow is more positive and I think it's really important for us to be looking ahead, not backwards tomorrow. There will be enough motivation, they're not gonna forget what happened Saturday. We need to dwell on Monday, not Saturday."
Bogans left outside looking in
Carlesimo has shortened the rotation to 10 players, at least for the time being, and it appears Keith Bogans is the odd man out.
The reserve shooting guard did not play in Games 3 and 4 after playing a total of 23 minutes in the first two games of the series."We tightened the rotation and it was a very difficult decision," Carlesimo said. "I just thought we weren't gonna play 10 people and particularly, offensively, we thought MarShon (Brooks), when we were really struggling and became stagnant, that MarShon gave us the chance to break defenses down and create stuff on his own."
Brooks hasn't played much either, registering just three minutes on Saturday after seeing 12 minutes and scoring just two points on Thursday.
A 10-year veteran, Bogans played in 74 games with 23 starts to his credit, averaging 4.2 points in 19 minutes per game.
Signed by the then-New Jersey Nets on Feb. 8 of last season, he tore a deltoid ligament and was lost for the season in just his fifth game. He was waived on Feb. 14, but was brought back for this first season in Brooklyn on July 19 for the veteran's minimum of just over $854,000.
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA