Johnson 'would love' to stay with Hawks

DALLAS -- Joe Johnson stood up from an All-Star media session, ready to leave after sitting for 45 minutes of questions.

So did he get many inquiries from reporters about his potential status as an unrestricted free agent after the season?

“Yeah,” he said, smiling wearily.

And what did he tell them?

“I told them the truth: Who knows what’s going to happen in July?” he said, repeating the standard response he has given to visiting reporters who corner him on the subject.

But since he approached the Hawks about an extension last summer, doesn’t that indicate he would prefer to remain with the Hawks?

“I’d love to,” he said, “but who knows what happens, man.”

That’s about as close as Johnson will come to saying he intends to re-sign with the Hawks. There’s no business incentive for Johnson to commit until he sees how the Hawks finish the season. He then can wait for another offer from the Hawks and see how the open market plays out.

The Hawks understand there’s a real chance Johnson might decide to sign elsewhere even after he asked for the extension. He declined their four-year, $60 million offer because the team figures to have more flexibility to give him a richer proposal this summer.

Dominican pride

According to the NBA, Hawks center Al Horford is the first All-Star born in the Dominican Republic.

“It is a big honor,” he said. “It opens the door for other guys. Guys like Felipe Lopez and my dad were never able to establish themselves [in the NBA], but I think they were able to pave the way.”

Horford’s father, Tito, was the first Dominican native to play in the NBA. Al, the No. 3 overall pick by the Hawks in 2007, was the fourth Dominican to be drafted after his dad (No. 39 pick in 1988), Lopez (No. 39, 1998) Luis Flores (No. 55, 2004) and Francisco Garcia (No. 23, 2005).

Al Horford participated in an All-Star basketball clinic Friday for "enebea," the NBA’s promotional effort to reach Hispanic fans in the United States. Horford said he also organizes clinics along with an uncle in Tito’s hometown of La Romana, Dominican Republic.

MVP bid?

Johnson will start the All-Star game Sunday after Eastern Conference coach Stan Van Gundy picked him to replace Allen Iverson. In addition to the fanfare and recognition that comes with being introduced as a starter, Johnson presumably will play enough minutes to have a chance at earning MVP honors.

If there comes a point in the game where it looks as if his statistics could earn him MVP consideration, will he go for it?

“Maybe,” he said. “Anything’s possible.”

Johnson will play in his fourth consecutive All-Star game but his first as a starter.

‘Next question'

The Celtics apparently are still a bit salty about getting swept 4-0 by the Hawks this season.

Boston forward Kevin Garnett cheerfully answered questions during one media session until a reporter asked if the regular-season series against the Hawks would mean anything if the teams were to meet in the postseason.

“Next question,” Garnett snapped.

Celtics guard Rajon Rondo said more on the topic.

“If they see us in the playoffs, they will be confident,” he said. “They probably think they will sweep us again. But the playoffs are different -- well, not too different, but each possession is more important. I think that’s the difference.”

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