Joe Johnson playing off the ball with Nets

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Joe Johnson playing off the ball with Nets

BOSTON The ball isn't in Joe Johnson's hands nearly as much as it was in Atlanta, and both he and his new team -- the Brooklyn Nets -- are better for it.
Although Johnson became a perennial all-star with the Hawks, it's clear that he is at his best when he's off the ball more, like when he was with the Phoenix Suns.
Johnson will be one of the many challenges the Celtics will have to deal with tonight when they host the Nets who are in unfamiliar territory these days -- tops in the Atlantic Division.
"I honestly don't look at it (division standings), I really don't," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "I know it's a lot of good things. Philly and Brooklyn, New York, I mean everybody is pretty good now. But I honestly can't tell you were anyone's at. I never look."
However, Rivers has seen enough of the Nets to know that Johnson's play with the Nets is similar to how he played with the Suns.
"Joe, in Atlanta, handled the ball a lot," Rivers said. "He was the point guard, you could make the case in many games, especially in the fourth quarter. Joe Johnson was the point guard in the fourth."
Because of that, Johnson's nickname in NBA circles was "Iso" Joe for frequent number of times the Hawks would call isolation plays for Johnson.
But things are different now that he has teamed up with Deron Williams to form one of the top backcourts in the NBA.
"Now he has a guy that can facilitate the offense for him, which makes him even better," Rivers said.
Playing off the ball more appears a role that Johnson is quite comfortable in playing.
Although his scoring numbers have taken a dip -- he's averaging 15.2 points per game -- there's no mistaking the impact that his mere presence has on the game.
At 6-foot-7 playing shooting guard, Johnson has a size advantage just about every time he steps on the floor.
And with the ball not having to be in his hands as much as it was with the Hawks, he's using his size more in the post than ever.
Nets coach Avery Johnson said his team has become more of a half court squad in part because it fits in better with Johnson's strengths.
"I don't think Joe wants to play at a break-neck speed," said Avery Johnson. "So we have to adjust to Joe, we have to adjust to our big guys, playing with two big guys."
Brooklyn averages 95.6 points per game, which ranks 18th in the league. However, they are giving up just 91.3 points, which is the second-fewest points allowed in the NBA this season.
"It's been working for us, obviously," said Joe Johnson when told of Avery Johnson's comments. "No need to change anything. I don't know if it was beneficial or not. I just try to do what I'm asked, come out and play hard every night."