Championship first, legacy second for Johnson

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Championship first, legacy second for Johnson

ATLANTA Joe Johnson's game has always spoke louder than the man, prompting some to wonder if he has the chops to lead a team deep into the playoffs.

The former Celtic understands that his play will go far in dictating whether the Atlanta Hawks can move past the Boston Celtics and into the next round of the playoffs.

For Johnson, every playoff win brings him closer to the reality that at some point, all the pull-up jumpers, the cross-over dribbles, the 3-pointers, it'll all be nothing but a memory.

He'll be 31 in June, making him old enough to at least contemplate his basketball legacy while still young enough to add to it.

Johnson said he hasn't given any thought to how he'll be viewed once his career is over.

"My main goal and the main thing I want to do now, is try and help bring a championship to Atlanta," he said.

For most basketball purists, the idea sounds just plain crazy.

This is Atlanta after all, a place where the road teams often feel at home with a crowd that on many nights, spends more time cheering for them than the home team.

Johnson's goal, while extremely difficult to fathom, isn't as off the mark as it might seem.

If the Hawks manage to get past Boston, they'll most likely face a Chicago Bulls team that will be without reigning league MVP Derrick Rose who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the closing moments of the Bulls' Game 1 win over Philadelphia.

For Atlanta to have such thoughts would be looking past the C's, something they have gone out of their way to avoid all weekend.

"You have to respect that team for who they are, and all that they've done," Atlanta's Josh Smith told CSNNE.com. "They've been where we want to get to, and that's win a championship."

The Hawks (then in St. Louis) haven't brought home a title since 1958 which they defeated the Celtics after Boston beat them for the C's first NBA title in 1957.

Since moving to Atlanta in 1968, the Hawks have never even been to the NBA Finals let alone winning it all.

"This city is well overdue," Johnson said.

The Hawks took a step towards that goal with an 83-74 Game 1 win over Boston on Sunday, a game in which Johnson only scored 11 points on 3-for-15 shooting which included him missing all nine of his 3-point attempts.

While it wasn't his best effort, Johnson's presence often creates scoring opportunities for his teammates which in essence, is what great players are supposed to do.

"He's one of the better one-on-one players in the league," Pierce said of Johnson. "He's right up there with (Oklahoma City's) Kevin Durant and Carmelo (Anthony of the New York Knicks)."

Like those players, Johnson is also seeking that first elusive championship - a pipe dream in the eyes of many when talking about the Atlanta Hawks.

Johnson doesn't mind.

All he knows is that the Hawks have the deepest bench they've had since he's been here, a much-improved point guard in Jeff Teague, and a maturing running mate for him in Smith who had 22 points and 18 rebounds in Sunday's win.

Slowly but surely, he's starting to see an Atlanta franchise putting together the kind of pieces that can do more than just get to the playoffs and win a series or two.

And if they were to do the seemingly impossible and break the 64-year title drought, it would indeed provide a sizable brick towards building a case for him as one of the NBA's better players once he's done playing.

"A championship would solidify a lot," Johnson said. "Would I be satisfied? No. But it would be a goal of mine."

Crowder on Wizards' all-black 'funeral' plans for Celtics: 'That's cute!'

Crowder on Wizards' all-black 'funeral' plans for Celtics: 'That's cute!'

The Washington Wizards plan to roll into tonight’s game against the Celtics donning all-black clothes, as in a funeral procession, a sign of solidarity and an omen of sorts for a game that they hope ends with them burying the Celtics.
 
When Jae Crowder was asked about the Wizards all-black gear, his initial response...“That’s cute!”
 
More than anything, the Wizards (24-20) are putting a significant amount of value into tonight’s game. A victory would extend their home winning streak to 14.

Meanwhile, the Celtics (26-17) come in looking to snap a two-game losing streak.
 
“This is definitely not Game 7 or the playoffs,” said Isaiah Thomas. “But if they want to take it that serious, they can.”
 
The idea to arrive at the Verizon Center donning all-black was hatched by Bradley Beal, who has some contentious moments, to say the least, with the Celtics recently.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens knows all about the funeral talk which to him is just that, talk. He’s more concerned with his team doing what they need to do in order to win.
 
Nothing more.
 
Nothing less.
 
“At the end of the day, good basketball teams are physical,” he said. “There’s a line you don’t want to cross. Ultimately, you have to be appropriately physical at a high level. It’s about playing well, focus on your next task at hand. This is a great opportunity to see where we’re at.”

In the Celtics' 117-108 win over the Wizards on Jan. 11, Beal was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after getting into it with Marcus Smart.
 
Last season, Beal was on the receiving end of a left forearm to the face from Smart, who was driving to the basket at the time. The blow resulted in a broken nose for Beal in addition to spending time in the league’s concussion protocol program.
 
And then there’s his backcourt mate John Wall.
 
He was fined $15,000 for his role in a postgame incident with Jae Crowder (who was fined $25,000). Crowder pushed Wall’s nose with his finger, which led to Wall retaliating with a slap towards Crowder’s face.
 
And when the two met back on Nov. 9, Wall was hit with a flagrant-2 foul (an automatic ejection) when he threw Smart down hard to floor in the final moments of a Wizards win.
 
The Celtics have a few games that have become more physical than others recently, but there’s something about this Celtics-Wizards matchup that brings out an elevated level of feistiness.
 
“It’s just all talk; that’s all it is,” Thomas said. “I guess they taking it and running with it. I don’t know what it is. I [saw] the funeral and the all-black thing last night and I just laughed about it. We’ll be there tonight for a game, not a funeral.”
 

WATCH: Celtics vs. Wizards

WATCH: Celtics vs. Wizards

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