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."

Report: Rajon Rondo preparing to attempt to play in Game 5

Report: Rajon Rondo preparing to attempt to play in Game 5

Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo is putting in the work in an attempt to play in Game 5 Wednesday, according to The Vertical's Shams Charania.

Rondo, who fractured his right thumb and wore a forearm cast during Game 4, was spotted at practice Tuesday dribbling and shooting in a much smaller thumb splint. There's a chance he'll play against his former team in the Boston Celtics. Here's what The Vertical wrote on Rondo.

Around Rondo and the Bulls, there’s belief that the four-time All-Star has a chance to return but a final determination has not been made, league sources said.

The guard originally received a two-week timetable from doctors on April 21. However, he has a history of making improbable returns from injuries. In 2011, he played through a dislocated elbow. In 2013, he played a few minutes after tearing his ACL.

The 31-year-old point guard averaged 7.8 points, 6.7 assists and 5.1 rebounds in 69 games this season. In two games this postseason, he has averaged 11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 10 assists and has shot 42.3 percent from the field.

And the Bulls, who are tied with the Celtics 2-2 in the series after jumping out to a 2-0 lead, are desperate for his return. They've cycled players like Michael Carter-William, Jerian Grant and Isaiah Canaan in and out of Rondo's role in the Bulls starting lineup.

Isaiah Thomas on Fred Hoiberg's complaints: 'I don’t carry the ball'

Isaiah Thomas on Fred Hoiberg's complaints: 'I don’t carry the ball'

WALTHAM, Mass. – Following Boston’s Game 4 win at Chicago on Sunday, Isaiah Thomas was asked about Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg’s comments that he carried the ball.

The question drew instant laughter from Thomas’ two sons who sat next to him on the podium. 

“It’s not that funny,” Thomas told them which drew a chuckle or two from the assembled media members on hand. 

Thomas is right, especially if Hoiberg’s complaints result in officials looking closer at Thomas’ ball-handling and do in fact take Hoiberg’s comments to heart as Boston and Chicago gear up for a pivotal Game 5 matchup. 

“I only know one way how to dribble,” Thomas said following Boston’s practice on Thursday. “I’ve been dribbling the same way my whole life. Maybe it was strategic or something. I don’t think they’ll call it on me.”

Thomas said he was watching NBA TV recently where he saw that he had been called for carrying two times this season. 

And just to get a sense of how often the ball is in Thomas’ hands, he made 4,234 passes while averaging 55.7 passes per game during the regular season which ranked 15th and 24th, respectively, in the NBA.  

When Thomas heard about Hoiberg’s complaint, he admits it was an unexpected rationale behind how Thomas torched his roster in Games 3 and 4. 

“I was very surprised,” Thomas said. “Out of everything else that I do on the court, you want to bring that up. It is what it is. I’m going to continue to dribble the ball the way I know how.”

Hoiberg may not realize it, but forcing the refs to pay more attention to Thomas’ ball-handling will also result in increased attention paid to Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo (right thumb) who is listed as out for Game 5 but may return to the lineup for Game 6. 

“Dwyane Wade, Rondo, LeBron (James) … I dribble just like everybody else,” Thomas said. 

Thomas added, “I don’t know what he (Hoiberg) was trying to get at. on. And if I do, every other point guard or every other guard that dribbles the ball, carries as well.” 

This time of year, with the way the series has played out of late, Thomas understands that Hoiberg’s comments may be nothing more than playoff politics with Hoiberg shifting the conversation away from what he has failed to do – limit Thomas – and put the focus on something else.

“It may be,” Thomas said. “I don’t know what he was getting at. There’s a lot of games, a lot of dribbles I made and didn’t carry. I’m gonna play the same way I know how. And that’s giving it my all and doing what I need to do for this team to win.”