Joe Johnson calls himself ‘decoy’ ahead of Nets’ Game 6

Deron Williams and Joe Johnson could both be in the lineup Friday. Credit: Getty Images
Joe Johnson, right, admitted he is playing through quite a bit of pain.
Credit: Getty Images

Joe Johnson has accepted the fate of playing with a sore foot, especially with at least one elimination game looming. There’s little he can do but spot up and hope for the best when he releases a shot.

“It’s kind of like I’m out there on one leg, honestly, man,” Johnson said after Wednesday’s practice. “I can’t really push the basketball if I get a rebound. I can’t really run pick and rolls, so basically I’m a decoy, a spot-up shooter, I can’t really do a whole lot. I’ll be the bailout guy if you get into a sticky situation just try and find me.”

Interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo also has accepted that fact while expressing the belief Johnson can’t be injured any further. He also has an appreciation for what Johnson is doing, especially since without naming names, there might be others in the league that would not do the same.

“That’s what warriors do,” Carlesimo said. “Everybody doesn’t do that. That’s what guys who are warriors, guy who really are competitors, that’s what they do.

Carlesimo said those who see the treatments, shooting drills and other routines would gain the same level of appreciation.

“Players always know,” Carlesimo said. “They’re in there, they dress together, they know what guys are going through particularly this time of the year and more. … It’s not just a matter of going out there.

“Obviously he’s got a lot of pain the next day and in this case we had two days which helps a little bit. So they know what he’s going through and they appreciate it.”

Johnson has competed through the injury, which first appeared in late-February, with mixed results.

Johnson has shot 50 percent (12-for-24) in the two wins and 42.3 percent (22-for-52) in the three losses. It also seemed to impact his 3-point shooting at least early in the series.

Johnson knows the Bulls will attempt to exploit his limitation by running him off picks and high screens while getting him to chase on defense.

“The adrenaline factors in a lot,” Johnson said. “Once I get moving on the court and it feels loose it feels better, but toward the end of the game I’m just really so focused and I try to block it out as much as I can and just try to make a big play.

“Late in games it’s just one of those times, I might have to push off and do what I have to do to get us over the hump or come up with a big play for us so I just have a tendency to play through it and gut it out.”

During the regular season, Johnson shot 9-for-10 from the field in games the Nets were tied or trailing by three points or fewer with less than a minute remaining.

In this series, he is 2-for-5, with the two baskets coming in the second overtime on Saturday. In the five games, he is shooting 13-for-27 after the third quarter.

“I think it’s a process that can make us tougher and stronger as a team,” Johnson said. “Fighting through adversity in this first round, it definitely can build character and make us much more stronger mentally. We’ll see how it goes. We definitely feel like we can win this series.”

Johnson couldn’t put a percentage on how he’s feeling but indicated that if this was a regular-season game, he probably wouldn’t play. But now that his first season in Brooklyn is on the line, that’s a concern for another time.

“I’m just giving them everything I can at this point,” Johnson said.

Right calf strain for Blatche

Since Game 4, Andray Blatche has been dealing with a strained right calf. Although he thought it was a cramp down the stretch of Game 5, it was more noticeable during the 11-plus minutes Blatche played.

Like Johnson, Blatche was not going to let an injury that seems to be minor get in the way of his production.

Blatche has been getting treatment for it and said the combination of that and adrenaline will get him on the court Thursday.

“I can give as many as you give me,” Blatche said. “Whatever they give me I’m going to go out there and play hard. I’m really expecting by tomorrow for this thing to be about 90 percent [healed]. I should be ready to play tomorrow.”

More aggression defensively for Lopez

Brook Lopez spoke about defense while his right ankle was taped Wednesday after practice. The tape on his ankle was just routine soreness which probably came from both ends of the court, especially in the shot-blocking department.

Lopez started the series with first-quarter blocks of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer and has averaged 3.4 blocks through the postseason, second only to Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka (3.5). The Nets also are better defensively with him on the court as they allow 95.5 points per 100 possessions this series.

So when asked about his defense, Lopez conceded it has definitely improved while adding that “he was the last line of defense.”

That’s about as boastful Lopez was when touching on the topic, but he was extremely proud it came a year after being limited to five games in 2011-12 due to a foot injury.

“I’m honestly happy to be playing,” he said. “It sucked to not be on the floor playing with my teammates. I wanted to get in a place where I wouldn’t be able to get injured again and go out there and be able to play basketball and have fun.”

Hinrich sheds walking boot

Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich ditched his walking boot but that does not necessarily mean he will play Game 6. Hinrich didn’t practice due to his bruised left calf and told reporters significant improvement had to be made.

“I’m still walking very gingerly,” Hinrich told Chicago reporters at Bulls’ practice. “I haven’t tried to run or cut or jump or anything yet. I’m hoping it improves a lot. … It’s just one of those things where I took a good shot and it’s preventing me from moving very well.”

Former Knick Nate Robinson scored 20 points while playing 43 minutes in Game 5, but had just four points in the fourth quarter. He also struggled to stay in front of Deron Williams and Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau seemed unsure if Robinson would start again.

Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.


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