You might think that the last thing Joe Johnson would want to do on his free nights is watch more basketball. Wrong.
"Not me," said Johnson, the All-Star guard who watches the NBA almost nightly when he's not toiling for the Hawks. "I'm a different breed."
Actually, among his teammates, Johnson is a fairly common breed. When ABC showcases its two Christmas Day matchups – Boston vs. Orlando and Cleveland vs. Los Angeles Lakers – more than a few Hawks will be watching. They play the game for a living, practicing or playing almost every day from training camp in September through the playoffs in the spring. And they still can't get enough.
Said Johnson, "I just like watching the game of basketball."
Among the Hawks, guard Jamal Crawford is probably the most avid fan. Crawford said he'll watch six or seven games a night, flipping between games on his NBA League Pass subscription. He'll stay up until the games on the West Coast are over, often about 1 a.m.
"I like when the games are staggered. One comes on at 8 o'clock, one comes on at 7," Crawford said. "Then I'm able to watch more of each game."
Johnson, Crawford and swingman Mo Evans, among the most frequent viewers, all watch to some extent to scout upcoming opponents.
"I recommend it to these guys all the time," coach Mike Woodson said.
Woodson watched as much as he could during his playing career in the days before League Pass or TiVo. He often asked his team's video staff to make him tapes of opponents. (No, Woodson's ride was not a horse and buggy, nor did he clear his mind before games by firing up his Victrola phonograph. He retired in the 1990-91 season.)
"I go home [now] and I'll sit there until that [darn] last game," said Woodson, always on the lookout for a play to pilfer. "It's silly, but I do."
Before the Hawks played the Bulls two weeks ago, Crawford watched them for one game and noted how they ran a certain pick-and-roll play six times in the first quarter alone.
But, Evans said, "I would say about 75 percent is still entertainment and 25 percent is scouting."
Evans looks for good matchups, even recording games to watch at his leisure. Johnson and Crawford have particular players they like to watch. Johnson wouldn't divulge his, but some of Crawford's favorites are Portland's Brandon Roy, Utah's Deron Williams and Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings. Roy is one of Crawford's closest friends.
"I watch all of Brandon Roy's games, every single one," Crawford said.
Unlike Crawford, who watches with the sound down, forward Zaza Pachulia likes to listen to analysts Doug Collins (TNT) and Hubie Brown (ESPN), as well as the TNT studio crew of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson.
He watches and listens like a student, hoping to glean anything that might boost his basketball IQ.
"Strategy, decisions, right moves, right decisions, time and score, everything," said Pachulia of what he listens for. "Both Hubie and Doug have been coaches at the NBA level for a long time."
When the Hawks have played on ESPN, Pachulia has gone back to watch the broadcasts to hear what Brown had to say about the team.
"There's always something to learn," Pachulia said. "You never know enough. There's always something new coming out, or a detail. Success is all about the details."
Not all of the Hawks, however, are such keen fans. Forward Marvin Williams will catch games if he's flipping channels and an Eastern Conference team or a former college teammate from North Carolina pops up. Center Al Horford will watch to study an opponent but, he said, "I don't really watch the NBA."
Horford would rather play ping-pong or hang out friends or family to relax. But for some of his teammates, more basketball is relaxation.
"It's fun to watch everybody else go to work," Evans said. "You already did your work. Let me see you guys work."
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