In the grand scheme of things, the play was largely innocuous. After all, the Atlanta Hawks fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 121-109. Two points or even the maximum four points (a made three plus the foul) would have mattered when all was said and done. But it doesn’t make it any less of a teaching moment.
That moment was during the first quarter with a little over 30 seconds remaining on the clock and the Hawks trailing by 10 points.
Second-year forward Jalen Johnson was bringing the ball up the floor and, instead of giving the ball to Trae Young or Dejounte Murray, he traveled. On the way back, Johnson could be seen giving an animated response to something being said by his teammate.
Murray explained what went down.
Atlanta Hawks’ Dejounte Murray to Jalen Johnson: ‘We’ve All Been There’
“Trae was trying to tell him the right thing,” Murray explained via Lauren L. Williams of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “which was if you can’t get it to, one of us guards and you (can) go, in a 2 for 1 situation because those are huge, get a shot up, get the ball back…So I think Trae was trying to let him know that but he thought Trae was saying something else.”
“I just told him you’re gonna learn that we all make mistakes,” Murray said. “We all been in that situation before so just move on.”
Johnson finished with four points, two rebounds, one steal, and three turnovers.
Despite the modest line, he wasn’t just hoisting up shots (2-for-3) and he was not whistled for a foul.
But he has yet to truly make a significant impact in a game outside of the win over the New Orleans Pelicans a week ago. And his lone miss came from beyond the arc leaving him without a make from deep in three attempts across four games.
He was not expected to be a great shooter but 17.6% on threes is below even the expectation.
This is a player that shot 32.4% from deep in the G League regular season and 37.5% in the Showcase Cup tournament last year.
Those are not the NBA, but Johnson is capable of more than he has shown so far. That goes for the mental errors as well, though those can only be ironed out with more reps and, despite the losing effort he did see a few more minutes than last game (as he dealt with injury) with Onyeka Okongwu out due to personal reasons.
As for the way that Johnson responded to Young during the moment, that was probably more due to frustration with himself for the turnover than directly because of what he might have thought Young was saying.
Johnson has been fully bought in since last season when he asked to go to the G League and that goes for both ends of the floor.
The Hawks needed more of this mindset from everyone as Philly shot 55% from the floor. They were led by Joel Embiid’s season-high 42 points as well as 26 points from Tyrese Maxey and 21 points from Tobias Harris as the 76ers got their revenge to even the season series.
Young handled his part of the interaction perfectly by calmly explaining to the talented youngster just what the situation was.
And Murray did his part to try and make sure the message gets driven home.
The Hawks got a steal in Johnson with the 20th overall pick last year. While he has a way to go to reach his full potential, he is in a strong environment to learn the ins and outs while also having a skill set that the Hawks need with his blend of size, length, and athleticism all of which show up on both ends of the floor.
These two teams will meet again in Philadelphia a little over two weeks from now before meeting again for the final time on April 7. The Hawks are next in action on Monday, November 14 on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks.