Over the course of his frustrating start to the 2013-14 season, we've had times where we haven't heard anything from Brooklyn Nets big man Kevin Garnett, and others where what we have heard has been downright depressing. That's to be expected, considering the 37-year-old former league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year has often looked like a shell of his Hall-of-Fame self on offense (shooting just under 37 percent from the field) and, league-best defensive rebounding rate aside, less of a defensive game-changer than he'd been throughout his years with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics (although there have been some encouraging signs lately).
In addition to shot-making and pick-and-roll destruction, something else has been largely absent from KG's tenure in Brooklyn: his infamous, irrepressible quotability. It's understandable that Garnett hasn't felt particularly talkative as his Nets have stumbled to a dismal start, but losing his unique brand of bon mot has been a pretty big bummer.
Luckily, KG seemed to be in a more positive and giving place after the Nets knocked off the visiting Atlanta Hawks on Monday. In his post-game chat with reporters, Garnett (four points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes) credited the strong play of Nets wing and former Hawks star Joe Johnson, who broke a five-game streak of single-digit scoring with a game-high 23 points on 10 for 22 shooting, including a 3-pointer with 6:22 remaining in the fourth quarter (his first of the game in five tries) that put Brooklyn ahead for good. Johnson's outing — which also included four assists, three rebounds and a steal in 36 minutes of work — even inspired Garnett to share a new nickname for his colleague, as captured in full video glory by Nets Daily:
Quoth the Big Ticket:
It's always dope to see any one of our guys get going. In that particular [situation], Joe. He wasn't real happy with some of the threes he missed, and just to kind of take it over and be "Joe Jesus," as we like to call him ... because he might not be there when you call on him, but he's there when you need him. [The assembled reporters all laugh.] "Joe Jesus." I'mma leave on that note.
For a player who doesn't often overwhelm you with brilliance for the lion's share of NBA games, but has proven an unbelievable shot-maker in the closing moments of tight affairs over the past few years, it's about as perfect a nickname as you can muster. Well played, KG.
Whatever your religious affiliation, I think we can all agree that "Joe Jesus" is an infinitely better nickname than "Joe Cool," "Iso Joe" or "J.J.," which is apparently what will be on the back of the jersey that Johnson will wear when the Nets square off against the Miami Heat on Jan. 10 in the first game of the NBA's grand "nicknames-on-jerseys" experiment.
It's a shame that Johnson won't be wearing "Joe Jesus" on the back of his "Name Collection" tank top, but you can understand it, considering there'll be another, far more popularly recognized dude nicknamed Jesus in that game. Then again, Ray Allen's jersey won't say "Jesus", and Johnson won't be the only player wearing the crushingly bland "J.J." in the contest, so there might not be any real rhyme or reason to this particular decision-making process. (Really, if there was any justice involved, Johnson's "Armadillo Cowboy" jersey would've been locked and loaded months ago. Alas.)
After leading the Nets to their third straight victory, Johnson said Brooklyn head coach Jason Kidd called on him to step up to fill the scoring and playmaking void left by the absence of point guard Deron Williams, who has suffered another left ankle sprain and received injections of cortisone and platelet-rich plasma in both of his ankles on Monday. From Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press:
"Jason told me I was going to have to pick it up," Johnson said. "And he told me in the fourth quarter when I came back in that he wanted me to be very assertive and make plays and kind of take over the game, which is what I tried to do."
Another prayer answered, and with it, a move to within one game of the No. 8 seed in the woeful Eastern Conference.
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