NEW YORK -- Eventually, Father Time gets every athlete.
And lately, Father Time has locked onto Joe Johnson.
It is unfortunate, really, because Johnson has always been one of the good ones, a guy who has played through nagging injuries throughout his career.
But he is 34 now, playing in his 15th season, and all the minutes he has logged, almost 39,000 of them, have taken their toll on his aging body.
Johnson, the NBA’s second-highest paid player ($24.9 million), no longer drops 25 points a night. He has struggled to shoot the ball, connecting on less than a third of his field goal attempts, and he doesn’t dominate games the way he once did.
Nevertheless, he still has value. And that value to the Brooklyn Nets comes mainly in the form of a facilitator -- probing the paint as a point forward, drawing double-teams and getting the ball to his open teammates.
From Iso Joe to Facilitator Joe.
“I gotta facilitate and try to make these guys better. When you’re not making shots, you’ve got to do other things -- whether it’s rebounding, passing the ball or putting guys in position to score -- and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
Johnson, a seven-time All-Star who is 1,566 points away from 20,000 for his career, logged 39 minutes on Tuesday, finishing with 13 points (5-for-14), nine assists, seven rebounds and no turnovers. For the season, he has a 3.5-to-1 assist-turnover ratio.
With 1.4 seconds remaining in regulation and the game tied, Johnson hit Thaddeus Young with a perfect pass on a fast break. Young was fouled hard and made two free throws, which proved to be the difference in Brooklyn's victory.
“I think that’s one of the more underappreciated things about him throughout most of his career,” said Jarrett Jack, who is Johnson’s good friend.
“People make such a big thing about him being such a dominant scorer, but being his teammate these past two years, he’s such a willing passer. Joe being selfless enough to make those plays and take advantage of those opportunities speaks volumes about him as a person and a player.”
Johnson has definitely been frustrated with his play and his team’s record, which now is 2-9. But he’s still out there giving it his all, doing whatever his team needs him to do in order to put it in the best position to win.
“It doesn’t matter,” Johnson said of no longer being the No. 1 scoring option. “I just do what I’m asked to do, and give them what I got.”