Doubt, Injury No Longer Slowing Former Razorback Joe Johnson With Atlanta Hawks

by Chris Bahn  on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011 5:55 pm  

Joe Johnson (Photo by NBA)

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Joe Johnson signed one of the biggest deals in NBA history in the offseason when he agreed to a contract worth more than $123 million. There were times in the first half of the NBA season Johnson might have doubted he was worth it.

Johnson, a former standout at Little Rock Central and Arkansas, struggled during the first half of the season. Confidence and injury slowed him down. Here’s more from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The Hawks were playing the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 2. With Johnson at the line for a free throw and the arena quiet, Darrell Bailey, better known as super fan (and playful heckler) "Clipper Darrell," let him have it.

"Joe, be honest: Do you really think you are worth $120 million?" Bailey shouted.

Johnson didn't react to the barbs, which isn't surprising considering his stoic demeanor. But in the weeks before that game, the honest answer to Bailey's question looked to be: "No."

Months after signing the richest contract in the NBA (worth $123.7 million), Johnson wasn't even the best player on his team. His scoring production, steady for so many seasons, took a steep decline. Johnson's shooting percentage plummeted to the point that the leader of the Hawks' offense was dragging it down.

Johnson and everyone in the organization said he eventually would get on track, but their words sounded more hopeful than assured. Johnson insisted that the pressure to live up to the new contract didn't affect his play.

Johnson has improved since the first few months of 2010-11. He was selected to the All-Star game (scoring 11 on Sunday) and seems to be healed from an elbow injury that bothered him earlier this season.

Currently, Johnson is averaging 19.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.




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