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Joe is anything but average: No Nets sub can cover for Johnson

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Does Joe Johnson mean more to the Nets than Deron Williams?

Judging from the past two weeks, the answer is ‘yes’ — but that says more about the back court backups filling in for Johnson and Williams than it does about the stars themselves.

D-Will sat out two games in mid-February to receive platelet-rich plasma injections for his hobbled ankles after being thoroughly embarrassed by San Antonio’s Tony Parker. Without their franchise player, the Nets promptly beat the Indiana Pacers — one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference — on the road before returning to the Barclays Center to soundly defeat the Denver Nuggets, a West contender with an athletic, fast-paced style that should be a tough matchup for Brooklyn.

During those Williams-less wins, first Tyshawn Taylor and then C.J. Watson stepped up big to fill the void at point.

But when Johnson sat out two games last week with a sore left heel, the Nets sputtered, losing at home to the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets, ranked fourth and eighth in the West, respectively.

With Johnson sidelined, the game against shooter-laden Houston seemed to be the perfect time to give backup shooting guard MarShon Brooks more playing time to build on last year’s promising rookie campaign. Instead, Coach P.J. “Peej” Carlesimo allotted Brooks 11 minutes.

In the Memphis game, Brooks was on the floor for 32 minutes, but disappointed by sinking only four of 13 shots and getting stuck under a double screen that allowed opposing guard Mike Conley to tie the game with a jumper down the stretch.

This column pushed for the Nets to grab shooting guard Ben Gordon before the trade deadline to give Brooklyn another weapon at the two-spot in the playoffs. If Joe Johnson had been sidelined just a couple days earlier, exposing this need, maybe general manager Billy King would have been more willing to pull the trigger.

Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with a middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.

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