As the final buzzer sounded at Fiserv Forum Tuesday night in the Milwaukee Bucks’ 124-118 win over the first place Brooklyn Nets, two things stood out:
1. The Nets need James Harden back ASAP.
2. The third place 41-22 Bucks are underestimated and clicking at the right time with a nucleus that includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez and P.J. Tucker.
But here’s the million-dollar question: Do the Bucks need additional fire power heading into the NBA Playoffs?
NBA free agent Joe Johnson is a name that has been mentioned a few times. A seven-time NBA All-Star, Johnson, 39, has career averages of 16 points, four rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
Johnson had a workout with the Bucks last month and I was told that Milwaukee was impressed.
A second workout was scheduled. No word on if it happened, or how it went.
Johnson has a familiarity with Bucks’ personnel. Bucks owner Marc Lasry was once a minority owner of the Nets, a team that Johnson suited up for, hit memorable buzzer beaters for and received an All-Star nod for. During his four-year Brooklyn tenure, Johnson was Nets teammates with Brook Lopez.
“He’s absolutely one of the best teammates that I ever played with,” Lopez said in a 2016 interview with YES Network. “Fortunately, he left us with a lot of good memories, lots of great buzzer beaters.
“He’s just a guy you enjoyed being out on the court with. He definitely tried to make everyone better.
“He brought such a great energy to our group, he’s always been known as quiet, we knew when he spoke up it was either important or he had something ridiculous or funny to say.”
Joe Johnson’s last NBA Playoff appearance was in 2018, during a short stint with the Houston Rockets. The Arkansas native does keep in excellent shape, keeps a strict regimen and when he left the NBA, spent time in Ice Cube’s BIG3 basketball league where he was awarded the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2019. Johnson averaged 21.9 points per game that year.
While the Bucks are interested in the 17-year NBA veteran, the Miami Heat have light interest. The Heat struggled early this season with injuries and COVID-19.
The NBA’s reigning Eastern Conference Champions, the Heat, who were without Jimmy Butler in Tuesday night’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks, have been an intriguing team to watch in an NBA Eastern Conference that’s been dominated by the Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.
Key in-season Heat additions like Trevor Ariza, could prove fruitful in the NBA Playoffs.
“I would like to win another championship,” Ariza said recently. “I would like to play for as long as I feel like I can play at an elite level, however long that is, that is how long I would like to play.”
The belief by those in Johnson’s circle is that he is intrigued by the Heat, the veterans they have and their ability against younger and less-experienced teams in the Playoffs. Johnson is believed to like Jimmy Butler’s role with the team as a hard-nosed veteran.
Heat big man Bam Adebayo is also having a career-year; averaging 18.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game
Every championship team needs a veteran voice in their locker room. Think: Jared Dudley with the Lakers last year. Johnson checks a similar box.
That said, other teams who have inquired about Johnson include the Nets, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.
The Nets could use Johnson’s scoring help as well. LaMarcus Aldridge abruptly retired on Thursday, April 15, due to an irregular heartbeat. That left the Nets with an open roster spot to fill.
Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie has hinted that could return soon after sitting out this season while rehabbing his ACL injury. He’s been rehabbing his injury out in Los Angeles, and most notably with NFL Hall of Famer, Terrell Owens.
Other than playing for the Nets, Johnson who averaged 11 points, nine rebounds and 6.5 assists per game earlier this year in USA Basketball AmeriCup Qualifying Team, played for Nets assistant coach Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix with the Suns.
The swingman was also Suns teammates with Nets head coach, Steve Nash and Brooklyn’s assistant coach, Amare Stoudemire.
As the NBA’s regular season winds down, it comes down to fit and need for veteran leadership.
“I am hopeful to get back,” Johnson told ESPN’s The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears in 2019.
“I had a great career. I enjoyed the process. The only thing that keeps the NBA fire in the belly is how it ended in Houston. That just does not sit well with me. So, if an opportunity comes along and I feel that it is worth it, yeah, I’ll take that chance.”