Just how good Joe Johnson is remains one of the more-debated topics in NBA circles.According to an anonymous scout, who spoke to Sports Illustrated, Johnson's not a "lead player ... and not a guy you build a team around."
But his teammates and coaches, not to mention Hawks' fans, disagree with that assessment of their two-time All-Star and captain who just happens to lead the league in scoring through three games.
Marvin Williams might have summed it up best, though, with this: "When you say something like that you would hope it would be anonymous," he said. "I mean, how can you take that seriously? That dude must not have watched any of our games the past few years. Anybody who has seen us knows that Joe is an absolute beast. Go ahead and fall asleep on Joe and he'll give you 30 (points) before you know it."
Per usual, Johnson wasn't particularly interested in debating the merits of his game -- he knows he's good so why make a big deal out of it. Besides, he's trying to lead the Hawks to their first 4-0 start in over a decade as they host Toronto Friday night at Philips Arena.
Already a two-time All-Star and the catalyst for the Hawks' stunning playoff run against Boston last season, Johnson abandoned his quest for individual attention years ago. Yet for anyone that's seen the Hawks this season, it's hard to ignore No. 2.
"I don't worry about it," Johnson said. "This is something that means little to nothing around here. We have to hold each other accountable around here. To hell with what anybody else has to say.
"And that scout is doing his job. He has to come up with something to say. We can't be tuned in to that with all we have at stake. We have to know and believe we're a good team and play like it."
Hawks coach Mike Woodson, who also got a good laugh after hearing about the anonymous scout's take on Johnson, said the Hawks will go as Johnson goes.
The same way they have since he arrived in the summer of 2005 through a sign-and-trade deal with Phoenix.
"Joe every year has gotten better and our team has gotten better," Woodson said. "It's that simple. And we couldn't have scripted a better start to this season. Joe and I have talked about things he has to do to help us win. And I don't want to share that with you, but he knows exactly where I'm coming from in that respect.
"The fact is, he has to play at a high level for us to win big. It's no secret. I've been here with Joe four years now, this is his fourth year. And when he's playing like he's playing now, we're a pretty good basketball team."
HAWKS 87, HORNETS 79: The Hawks are making believers out of anyone that's seen them this year. They are 3-0 for the first time since the 1997-98 season, when they started the season 11-0, courtesy of an impressive 87-79 win over the previously unbeaten New Orleans Hornets here Wednesday night.
Time after time the Hawks' weathered the Hornets' comeback blows to win their second straight road game this season. They opened the season with a win in Orlando two weeks ago last night.
If it wasn't Joe Johnson it was Flip Murray. If it wasn't Murray it was Josh Smith or Marvin Williams or Al Horford. All of them took turns making the huge plays down the stretch to help the Hawks continue an early-season run the likes of which Hawks fans haven't seen since Bill Clinton was in office.
Before the game Hawks coach Mike Woodson insisted that his team's defensive prowess -- they rank among the top two teams in the league in points allowed -- would be tested by Hornets All-Star point guard Chris Paul, the leader of one of the top-scoring teams in the league.
Paul had a huge game, finishing with 22 points and 11 assists. But he wasn't able to beat back the relentless Hawks by himself.
Trailing 62-58 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Hawks went on a 29-17 run to finish the game.
Mo Evans kicked it off with a three-pointer with 11:29 to play and Murray's three-pointer with 4:36 to play for a 78-70 lead was the backbreaker the Hawks needed to make the outcome inevitable.