By the time the Hawks made it back to Atlanta from Friday's win in Charlotte, Joe Johnson had already worked up a good lather on the practice court.It was a little past midnight, and the Hawks' captain and All-Star was trying to get his stroke back after missing the entire week, including two road wins, with the flu.
So Hawks coach Mike Woodson wasn't surprised at all Saturday morning to get a call from Johnson.
"He had the nerve to ask me if I needed him (Saturday night against the Los Angeles Clippers)," a smiling Woodson said from his office an hour before tip-off. "I won't tell you what I told him. But let's just say I'm glad he's back."
Johnson scored 17 points in his first game back, which came roughly 24 hours after he made it out of bed for the first time in a week.
"Since we came back from Milwaukee (last weekend) I've been in bed," Johnson said. "I wasn't able to do anything. I'm still trying to get right. I feel a lot better, but it takes some starch out of you."
Johnson came back on the same night Mike Bibby went on the inactive list with a sprained left foot. The Hawks point guard said he suffered the injury in the second quarter of the Bobcats win when he got tangled up with Raymond Felton.
Bibby could match Johnson's two-game absence by missing not only Saturday's game against the Clippers but also Tuesday's game against Washington.
"We don't know anything just yet," Woodson said. "Mike's day-to-day and we'll just see how he feels after the weekend."
Acie Law IV started in place of Bibby against the Clippers. Not even Johnson's return could make up for that loss.
CLIPPERS 121, HAWKS 97: The Hawks play just fine without Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford or anybody else on the roster other than Mike Bibby.
They couldn't shoot straight without Bibby Saturday night and got smashed by the Los Angeles Clippers at Philips Arena.
Bibby sat out the game with a sprained left foot, the first game he's missed since joining the Hawks last season in a trade deadline deal that changed the face of this team.
Saturday night's gruesome finish was a reminder of what life was like before Bibby arrived.
The Clippers led from wire to wire, leading by as many as 29 points before it was over and shooting a wicked 57 percent from the floor in the process.
"Their starting five, and you can't look at the record, is as good as any starting five in the league," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said after his team's worst home loss of this season. "We came out very flat. We couldn't make shots early. They made shots and once they build the lead we had no answer for them."
Bibby suffered his injury in the Hawks' win over Charlotte Friday, leaving the point guard duties to Acie Law IV, who started six games as a rookie but hasn't been a fixture in the playing rotation this season.
Law finished with eight points and six assists in his 28 minutes. But without Bibby at the controls, the Hawks looked disjointed throughout. They couldn't seem to find their rhythm on offense, not even Johnson's return helped. And their defense was as porous as it's been at any time all season.
"Only time will tell," Woodson said when asked if Bibby's absence was as significant as it seemed. "I don't know how long Bibby's going to be out. And we missed him tonight, obviously. I don't know that he would have made that big a difference. Because they shot lights out and our defense was in Charlotte."