Johnson struggling for Hawks and in the dumps

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Johnson struggling for Hawks and in the dumps

ATLANTA If the Winnie the Pooh character Eeyore ever had an NBA equal, chances are pretty good it would be Atlanta Hawks swingman Joe Johnson.

Johnson sounded about as depressed as depressed can be prior to tonight's Game 5 matchup against the Boston Celtics who lead the best-of-seven series, 3-1.

Now Johnson wasn't expected to have an ear-to-ear grin or go on and on about how the Hawks are still good enough to win this series. But for Johnson and his seemingly always low-key demeanor, he sounded even more down-in-the-dumps than usual -- even when asked about something that should have brightened his day.

The Hawks are going to start Marvin Williams and Al Horford tonight, which means Johnson will move to the shooting guard position.

Not only will the 6-foot-6 Johnson have a size advantage over Boston's 6-2 Avery Bradley, but he also faces a player in Bradley who has health issues (sore left shoulder) that might limit his effectiveness when he's in the game.

That's great news about Marvin and Al back with the starting group, right Joe?

"Hopefully it works out for the best for us; at this point we really don't know," said Johnson, dejectedly. "Hopefully it helps."

According to Johnson, the Hawks starters haven't really been the issue in this series.

"Hopefully we'll come out with a better effort than we did in Game 4 and give us a chance to go back to Boston (for Game 6)," Johnson said.

Johnson acknowledged that lack of effort was indeed a problem in Game 4, and he's not sure it will be cured in time for tonight's Game 5 battle.

"We haven't had a game like Game 4 in quite some time," Johnson said. "It was mind-boggling. I couldn't get why we came out and played so poorly when we were so close in Game 3. I'm still puzzled from that. Hopefully Game 5 will be different."

While effort certainly has been an issue for the Hawks in this series, so has the inability of Johnson to elevate his game as Atlanta's primary scorer.

Johnson averaged 18.9 points per game during the regular season, one in which he was named as an NBA all-star for the sixth straight season. He's averaging fewer points (17.8) in the playoffs which unfortunately for the Hawks, is fairly consistent with how he has fared in the playoffs.

This is his seventh trip to the postseason, with him averaging fewer points in the playoffs compared to the regular season in four of the previous six postseason runs in Phoenix and now, Atlanta.

"All the guys that have defended him, have stepped up to the challenge," said Boston's Keyon Dooling. "We got great help defenders as well. KG is probably one of the best help-defenders; Rondo sees plays before they happen, so he's always talking, cating and mousing as well. He's (Johnson) the primary focus. We want to stop him, and so we're doing a pretty good job of it."

While Johnson's scoring is down, C's coach Doc Rivers believes those numbers are a bit deceiving.

"I wish there was a stat of points created," Rivers said. "With Joe, even if he's not scoring, he creates points for them. He makes you double team; we're loading to his side. And so when we count, we count that as a point scored for Joe. He's creating a lot of points for them still. He scores on his own; he makes tough shots and we've done a pretty good job with our double teams on him. But we still have to do a better job of eliminating the points that he creates. In all the games, he's done that very well."

But it won't mean anything if the Celtics win tonight and move on to the second round, which means the Hawks' season will end in the playoffs on their home floor for the fourth straight season.

Clearly that's not what Atlanta wants, even if there are few signs from the Hawks players that they indeed want this season to go beyond tonight.

When asked by a reporter if there was a sense in the locker room that tonight's game would be different, Johnson responded:

"Honestly, I'm not sure. Just have to wait until we get between the lines. It's easy to talk it, but it's different when you get on the court."

And with that, Eeyore . . . uh, I mean Joe Johnson, has spoken.

Thomas says NBA 2K wouldn't accept Cousins trade, NBA 2K confirms it wouldn't

Thomas says NBA 2K wouldn't accept Cousins trade, NBA 2K confirms it wouldn't

The Kings have not exactly been celebrated as geniuses since news of Sunday’s DeMarcus Cousins trade broke. 

The deal, which sent Buddy Hield, a top-three-protected 2017 first-round pick, a 2017 second-rounder, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway to Sacramento for Cousins and Omri Casspi, has been widely mocked for how little the Kings fetched for the All-Star center. In handing out trades for the deal, SI gave the Pelicans an A and the Kings an F.

One team that could have easily beaten New Orleans’ offer was the Celtics, who seemingly did not participate in Sunday’s trade talks. On Monday, Isaiah Thomas tweeted his thoughts on the trade: 

Just as good as Thomas’ tweet was the fact that NBA 2K confirmed that it would not allow the trade to happen. 

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

NEW ORLEANS -- There will be a significant faction of Celtics Nation who will see DeMarcus Cousins’ trade to New Orleans as a lost opportunity for the C's, who could have offered a much more enticing trade package than the one the Sacramento Kings accepted.
 
The Kings received nothing even remotely close to a king’s ransom for Cousins, acquiring him in exchange for rookie Buddy Hield, journeyman Langston Galloway and ex-Pelican Tyreke Evans (who has never been the same since his Rookie of the Year season in 2010), along with a protected first-round pick and a future second-round selection.

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While the knee-jerk reaction is to focus on why Boston decided to not pursue a trade for Cousins, more important is what the non-decision means for the moment and going forward.
 
Think about what the Celtics have done in the last three-plus seasons.
 
They went from being a lottery team to one that has the second-best record in the East. They're holding the potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft; at worst, the pick will be in the top four or five. They have three of the most team-friendly contracts (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder) in the NBA. They have promising prospects overseas as well as in the D-League. And they're led by a coach who has improved his coaching acumen -- and the team’s win total -- every year he's been on the job.
 
And it's all enveloped by a culture with a high level of selflessness, which has created a locker-room environment that has been more about fighting for each other than fighting one another or others off the court.
 
Do you really think Cousins’ talent would have trumped the baggage he'd be bringing to the Celtics if they'd acquired him?
 
For him to have fit in with this team would have required him to make the kind of changes that, frankly, I just don’t see him being capable of making at this point.
 
On more than one occasion, “not fitting in” with the Celtics culture was given to me as the reason why a Cousins-to-Boston trade never gained any traction with the team’s brass. Or coaching staff, for that matter.
 
While there's no denying that he's arguably the best center in the NBA, Cousins is a high-risk, high-reward talent that makes sense to pursue if you're a franchise which has nothing to lose by adding him to the mix. Like, say, New Orleans.
 
The Pelicans are 11th in the Western Conference despite having Anthony Davis, who has been asked to carry the weight of a franchise that has yet to figure out the best combination of talent to surround him with and find success.
 
The addition of Cousins not only provides Davis some major help, but serves as a reminder of just how desperate the Pelicans are.
 
While there are mixed reports on whether the package of assets the Kings agreed to was the best they could have received for Cousins, there was no way they were going to get anything close to comparable talent in exchange for him.
 
And that was solely due to the risk that any team was willing to take on in order to acquire him.
 
At some point, the Celtics need to take advantage of an opportunity to go all-in for a superstar player. But this was not that time, or that player.