Joe Johnson needs elbow surgery

ATLANTA -- Hawks star Joe Johnson will be sidelined four to six weeks with an injured right elbow.

Atlanta announced at the start of Wednesday night's game against Memphis that Johnson will need arthroscopic surgery to remove a "loose body" in the elbow.

Johnson visited orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in Alabama on Wednesday morning. The Hawks said Andrews will perform the surgery on the four-time All-Star on Thursday in Pensacola, Fla.

Johnson said the elbow has caused discomfort "off and on" this season.

"It just got unbearable yesterday," Johnson told The Associated Press at halftime.

Johnson returned from Birmingham shortly before the start of the game and wore a suit as he watched from the bench.

Hawks coach Larry Drew said Johnson "could not extend his arm" at Tuesday's practice.

"This is clearly something that has to be addressed," Drew said before the game.

Maurice Evans replaced Johnson in the starting lineup against Memphis.

Johnson has been held under double figures in two of the last five games. He averages a team-best 17.1 points but has made only 40.9 percent of his shots.

He signed a six-year deal worth almost $124 million before the season. He has scored more than 20 points per game in each of his first five seasons with the team.

Johnson's injury will have ramifications throughout the lineup.

Jamal Crawford, the NBA's Sixth Man of the year last season, plays behind Johnson at shooting guard. Crawford averaged 18 points despite not starting last season and is averaging 13.9 points this season.

The Hawks also will rely more on Al Horford and Josh Smith, the team's second- and third-leading scorers, respectively.

Evans, respected for his defense and all-around skills, has not been a big scorer. He is averaging 4.7 points and has scored in double figures only once this season. He missed eight games with a right knee injury.

Even before the plan for the surgery was announced, Drew was prepared for the possibility Johnson could miss a significant amount of time.

"This is clearly something that we have to allow to happen, whatever has to happen," Drew said.

In his first year as coach, Drew has installed a motion offense designed to generate more balanced scoring. Five players are scoring in double figures, followed closely by starting small forward Marvin Williams at 9.3 points per game.