It's just about time for us to do our Spring pivot from hurried playoff recapper to astute off-season handicapper. Raja Bell has already been covered, so let's delve into a situation that's blossomed very quickly: Is Joe Johnson already packing up his bags and ready to leave Atlanta? Just over three weeks ago, the Atlanta Hawks seemed like a young team really ready to shine on the big stage. After what seems like a century ago, when the entire sports world laughed at Joe Johnson for having the audacity to claim he wanted to be the man for a winner, then subsequently signed a contract with the embarassing Atlanta Hawks, it seemed like his bet finally was paying off. The Phoenix Suns never quite got over the hump without him, and appeared headed for an ugly break-up at season's end, the final nail in the coffin of the D'Antoni seven-seconds-or-less era. All the while, the Hawks were a resurgent three-seed team looking to claim a prized scalp after so many years of obscurity. And it was largely to Johnson's credit that the franchise was in that position. Now, less than a month later, the Suns are in the Western Conference Final while Johnson was booed off the court, over three minutes before the end of the most lopsided NBA Playoff series in history. In just three weeks, he has lead a team that was demolished by the Orlando Magic and ticked off a sputtering-to-begin-with fanbase in the process, thanks in part to his poor playoff performance, and in part to this:
"We could care less if [fans] showed up."That lead to the booing, and that led to this: "It doesn't bother me, man," said Johnson, whose last shot was a 25-foot air ball as the shot clock ran down. "I've got thick skin. I've been booed louder than that." Certainly doesn't sound like a man who's concerned too much about being stuck in a bad location, does it? Now that Johnson's situation in Atlanta has so clearly soured, the question for Heat followers is how his apparent availability in the Free Agent market affects the Heat's decision-making. He was a bit of a dark horse before this week, but does now knowing it'll be a much easier shake to get him off the tree affect whether Pat Riley will pick him up? He's a bit of an oddball as a player. He's a shooting guard by trade, but plays pretty big for that position at 6'7", 240 according to Wikipedia. Some have argued he can play the 3, but the general feeling on the part of mosts, including Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, is that it would be a less-than-perfect fit at best. In a way, the struggle to decide what to do with Michael Beasley could also be had on a Heat team that still has Dwyane Wade. As you've seen for the last two years, one "tweener" is enough. And this isn't even getting into his actual statistics. Coming off such an abysmal playoff series, it's likely best to let that simmer for a couple of days. So it's out there. One of the forbidden-until-July-1 appears ripe and ready to be plucked by someone outside of Georgia. Certainly we all will tie ourselves into little-tiny knots before the off-season opens up on July 1 about every single available player, but now that serious players are being sent fishing, the post-season frenzy can officially start.