Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stop the Presses: We Have an Ivan Johnson Update

Chris Bernucca posted a list of the top 20 remaining free agents over at Sheridan Hoops. Ivan Johnson made the list and Bernucca had the following comments:

Given the energy he displayed as an absolute unknown rookie last season, it’s hard to believe the restricted free agent has received no offers. At this point, he probably won’t get one. But you gotta love anyone who plays as hard as he does and gives the finger to Celtics fans. INTERESTED: Atlanta, which is taking its sweet time and still could use him in a sign-and-trade.

I'm glad Bernucca said it, because this is the first mention of Johnson I have seen this offseason. In my opinion, the turning point of the Hawks-Celtics playoff series happened with 8:25 to play in Game 2. Jason Collins fouled out with the score tied 66-66. Although Ivan Johnson had a poor shooting night and made defensive mistakes, he had shut down Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass on consecutive isolation plays in the post. With Collins done for the night, Larry Drew had to decide whom to play at center. Marvin Williams checked in as Johnson remained on the bench and Josh Smith shifted to the post.

With 4:20 to play and the Hawks trailing 74-72, Garnett hip-checked Smith and Josh's knee buckled. This was the same knee with which Smith had ongoing tendinitis issues, a circumstance Drew was well acquainted with. If Drew had placed his trust in Johnson, who won Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month to close the season while playing primarily backup center, the course of the series might have been altered. Garnett is known to be over-aggressive toward players he thinks will back down while shying away from players who are more physically imposing than he is. Ivan Johnson is among the latter.

Bernucca also listed Matt Barnes, whom I mentioned Sunday as a potential target for the Hawks at small forward. Quoth Bernucca of Barnes:

Was the best of a bad bunch of small forwards last season for the Lakers, who have added Antawn Jamison and re-signed Devin Ebanks to back up Metta World Peace. That might make Barnes the odd man out despite his toughness, willingness to defend and erratic 3-ball. Has bounced around a lot and has played on some good teams. INTERESTED: No one, really.

Again, I'm really mystified as to why there wouldn't be a ton of interest in Barnes, especially on the part of Danny Ferry. With defense on the wing being the most obvious deficiency for the Hawks as presently constructed, Barnes is a guy you go get before someone else snatches him up. His deficiency as an outside shooter doesn't cause much concern on a squad overloaded with outside shooters. I just hope there are no issues in the locker room that we haven't heard about.

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