Joe Johnson: "I don't have any regrets"
team like Atlanta?
Joe Johnson: It's been tough, but at the same time, I see the progress we are making and we are getting better and better every day. We're such a young team that it takes time.
You can play both guard positions and small forward, but this season you have seen considerable time at point guard. How about your adjustment to playing point guard?
JJ: It was a tough adjustment because of the fact, it took away a lot of my scoring ability and I became such a big playmaker, but I felt taking me off the ball was the best decision because I could score and then open it up for my teammates. It's been pretty good so far and fun and I'm enjoying it right now.
Charles Barkley has suggested that in two years the Hawks could be a playoff team. Could you see that?
JJ: I can see it. We put ourselves behind the eight ball losing 16 of the first 20. For the most part, it has taken time for us to get confident in each other, believing in each other and having fun.
Would games such as Atlanta's 100-94 win at Cleveland do wonders for the team's confidence?
JJ: No doubt, a big road win like that against a great ball club means a lot to us. We have to keep working hard and improve.
Is the toughest thing from Phoenix to Atlanta, the losing?
JJ: Oh. Yes. Coming from winning 62 games, it's tough, but this is the route I chose and I believe in my teammates.
Are there any regrets in leaving Phoenix for the Hawks?
JJ: I don't have any regrets in my decision. If I could do it all over again, I would make the same decision. I really think we are going to be a great ballclub.
How much has your game grown because you have to do more for the Hawks?
JJ: I have grown a lot. Just being more assertive on both ends of the court and trying to keep my teammates involved in the game. And just going out and having fun.
You played all 82 games for the previous three seasons and haven't missed a game this year. How can you explain such durability?
JJ: I try to take care of my body. I love the game. I think we all have injuries and get nicked up, but we have to play through it. I value this moment in my life where I am able to play this great game that I love and I want to try to cherish the ways I get to play.
Are the Olympics something you have thought about?
JJ: No, I haven't thought about it. The only thing I'm thinking about now is helping get wins for the Atlanta Hawks. I think right now, that is our main priority. We've got to stay focused.
How has your role changed leadership-wise this season with Atlanta?
JJ: It has changed a lot. I got to try to keep us going. Keep the guys' heads up when things aren't going so well. I have to be that guy who says something and does something about it. Normally it is the other way around, but I have got to take initiative and just make things happen.
Even though you are 24, this is your fifth NBA season and on the Hawks that constitutes being an old man. Do you feel old in Atlanta?
JJ: I do kind of feel old. We have 18, 19, 20. This is crazy. I remember when I was that age. This game makes you grow up so fast.
This is a roster that has some young talented players, whose biggest problem is that they lack experience. Do you see it that way?
JJ: Oh yes, no doubt. We have a bounce of talented guys. Right now we are kind of, I don't want to say in a rebuilding stage, because we have our team, but we probably need another piece or two. For the most part this is our team and we have to make it happen.
How has the team handled the losing?
JJ: We are playing hard. We will have our ups and downs and things won't be easy. We know we won't have any breaks and we know we have to keep fighting.
Has coach Mike Woodson been a good influence on this young team?
JJ: Oh yes. He is a great coach, a great mentor. He is doing everything he can. We just have to buy into what he is telling us.
Is basketball still fun, despite the losses?
JJ: No doubt. It's the greatest game in the world. I enjoy doing it and love it and regardless of our record, I am still having fun.
Marc Narducci covers the NBA for the Philadelphia Inquirer and is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com
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