Over the weekend Joe Johnson scored more points than Kobe Bryant, made the difference on defense the way Steve Nash couldn't and collected more rebounds than most forwards.
Yet Johnson’s leading role for the Hawks in their Game 1 victory against the Bucks didn’t seem to gain much national notice. That’s the way it usually goes for Johnson and, as usual, he didn't care.
“It doesn’t bother me, man,” Johnson said. “I am in love with the game. I play this game for fun. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve been blessed to play nine years. I’m at a great point in my life. We are in the playoffs. I could care less what people say or write about me. I’m still going to play the right way.”
Johnson’s indifference to the spotlight is noteworthy. Some of the speculation about him leaving the Hawks as an unrestricted free agent this summer is based on the assumption that Johnson might seek more celebrity.
Johnson said others are always telling him he should get more attention but he shrugs it off.
“I don’t mind flying under the radar,” he said. “I have been like that pretty much my whole life.”
Asked if he thinks opponents view him as a player who can carry a team, Johnson quipped,“I don’t know if they think it, but I sure get double- and triple-teamed like they do.”
Considering his low-key manner, it’s hard to imagine Johnson more comfortable as the star player in a larger market than with the Hawks.
“I’m definitely comfortable, but this is a business and in July that’s how I’ve got to approach it,” he said.
The Hawks spent Monday practice time correcting the errors in execution that contributed to the Bucks whittling a 22-point lead to seven in the second half. But coach Mike Woodson also tried to keep things in perspective.
The Hawks were just one of several home teams to gain big leads before the visitors rallied. All of the home teams except the Suns held on to win.
“Nobody wants to go home in the playoffs,” Woodson said. “This is the fun time of the season where everybody is trying to advance. Milwaukee, they are going to keep playing, and we have to keep playing. We get first shot to handle our business at home. That’s what you play for.”
Over the past few days workers in Hawks gear handed out vouchers that can be redeemed for two free tickets to Games 1 and 2. The vouchers contained a password that can be used to reserve tickets at a Web site.
During the regular season the Hawks averaged 16,545 in attendance and 88.3-percent capacity, second worst to Milwaukee among playoff teams.
“The fans were fantastic the other night so please come out and support us,” Woodson said.
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution