Joe Johnson is kind of a contradiction of what the Brooklyn Nets were, what they wanted to be. The Brooklyn Nets were flashy, and loud, and splashy at seemingly every turn.
Joe Johnson? Not so flashy or splashy or, God knows, loud. He has been the epitome of consistency and durability in his three-plus year stint with the Nets, missing only 15 games and averaging solid numbers of 15 points, four rebounds and assists, shooting 47% from the field and 37% from deep since 2012.
Is he worth $24 million dollars a year? Probably not. But has he been the only thing stable about the Nets since their move to Brooklyn? Absolutely.
Johnson is in the midst of his worst season with the Nets, his legs seeming to get heavier with each step. After all, he's played the second most minutes to LeBron James over the past dozen years, regular season and playoffs, and he seems to be more frustrated with each passing loss.
But sitting here at the All Star break and looking at the sorry state of the Nets, I can't help but think about Joe Johnson and his play for the Nets over the past several seasons. Through thick and thin, Johnson has bailed out the Nets in times of need. He has the most game winners over the past decade by a wide margin, leading to the nickname "Joe Jesus." Oh, you don't remember?
The step-back three against the Pistons at Barclays to lift the Nets in double overtime? The two against the Bucks (also at home) that sent the game to a second extra session and then the clincher? The runner that sunk the Oklahoma City Thunder last season in their first game of 2015, prompting a second half push to the playoffs? You get the point. Johnson did it time after time.
Now way out in Wisconsin, it's harder for me to find time to watch the Nets, especially with the product on the court, but I still tune into as many games as I can. I happened to catch the second half of the Nets game against the Nuggets last week. The Nets were playing their usual ho-hum game, feeding Lopez and letting Young reek havoc while another poor defensive performance kept Denver in the game. Then in the second half, that quiet, bulky wing got going.
It started with his ankle breaking crossover on Jusuf Nurkic at the end of the third quarter that reminded everyone of a similar move that burned Chris Bosh a few years back.
Johnson doesn't need much space to get his shot off, but he is still great at creating separation, as seen above. The move was so good that Nurkic tweeted after the game that his ankles were indeed not broken.
And then it all came to a head when the Nets needed another bail out from the seven-time All Star. Brooklyn had just blown their lead by letting Kenneth Faried lay the ball in with just over one second on the clock and it seemed they were heading for another gut-wrenching loss, until Jesus rose again.
It wasn't easy, but he did it ... again. A running one-legged heave from 30 feet out? Nets fans will take it in a year that has been nothing short of a disaster ... to say the least. Now on their fifth coach in four seasons in their new arena, looking for a GM and a coach to salvage the franchise, the Nets needed another prayer answered by #7.
Johnson may or may not be on the verge of being bought out in the coming weeks, and even though his play has diminished quite a bit since he first formed "Brooklyn's Backcourt," it is good to see him still turn back the clock and give Nets' fans something to smile about.
As for his buyout, I think if it doesn't happen, he will be done wearing the black-and-white after the season. The truth of the matter is that Johnson is no longer needed in Brooklyn. The Nets need young talent that can grow in a system led by a new GM and Head Coach, and Johnson is past his prime and should (and probably will) go chase a championship.
If the Nets want to keep him around as a veteran presence, Sure, but I'm not sure he would be interested-the team could sign him to a two-year deal or something in the short term, but Johnson would still command a higher price tag due to his reputation in the league. I think it is best for both sides to call it square and go their separate ways.
As for Johnson's legacy in Brooklyn, it will probably be marred by the Coney Island roller-coaster it has been. There was the Deron Williams woes, the Celtics trade, the Kidd "issue," and now the reconstruction. Somewhere in there is that soft-spoken Johnson. People will forget just how much he did for this franchise that has failed to reach the lofty goals ownership has set, whether it be guard LeBron James in the second round of the 2014 playoffs, or heat up in the fourth quarter and carry the team home, Johnson did his fair share of heavy lifting.
Despite all the dysfunction, Joe Johnson has been there the entire time, pushing the Nets as far as he could. It may not seem it, but Johnson has been the best player in Brooklyn Nets history due to his consistency and clutch play. Maybe Lopez takes that title from him soon enough, but for now I say Johnson.
It's not in the Brooklyn Nets culture to be quiet. In the league's biggest market it's all about being loud and showing off, and beating the team across the river. Maybe Joe Johnson's personality wasn't meant for this market, but his game was, that's for sure.