He had surpassed that mark just six times in his previous 23 outings.
“Building confidence and me just playing more,” Johnson said via Jameelah Johnson’s atlhawksfans channel on YouTube about his newfound role as the de facto ninth man in the Hawks’ rotation, a trend started by new head coach Quin Snyder. “I think that’s all it comes down to essentially. …It helps because, especially coach, he tells me, ‘on to the next play’. He’s giving me advice, I’m going to halfcourt to talk to him at a free throw or something. He’s giving me pointers on what to do. So, just having that communication has been great and I’m looking forward to keep building and having a strong relationship too.”
Part of that building actually began under assistant Joe Prunty during his time as the interim head coach. Johnson said Prunty had gotten on him about pushing the ball in transition more and he has done just that.
But Johnson’s activity off the ball has even led to second-chance opportunities.
“Coach telling us [to] crash the offensive glass so that’s what I did,” Johnson said with a smile.
Johnson with 10 points and four rebounds while knocking down 2-of-3 triples.
He has averaged 6.3 points 65.8% true shooting with 4.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in the last four games. Most importantly, he has finished with a positive plus/minus in three of the four contests. He averaged 5.2 points on 61.5% true shooting with 4.0 boards per game over the aforementioned previous stretch.
The 6-foot-8 playmaking forward cited an increased emphasis on ball movement for making things “fun” under Snyder.
Johnson’s comments are damning with praise – that is, praise for Snyder but damning for his predecessor, Nate McMillan, whose stance on younger players certainly did him few favors in an organization that would prefer to build organically.
McMillin felt there was not time to develop players in-season preferring to focus on winning.
That did not happen enough to justify not getting more out of the younger players, while it was Johnson who asked to go down to the G League last season.
The fact that Prunty began the process only makes his former boss look that much worse.
Johnson’s path is also a good reminder for rookie AJ Griffin who burst onto the scene bolstered by hot shooting from downtown but cooled off considerably in the recent weeks and has logged three consecutive DNPs.
Jalen Johnson on Wizards’ Kristaps Porzingis: ‘He’s like 7-foot-5’
The Hawks did a better job on Wizards star Bradley Beal who finished with 24 points on 42% shooting, down from the 37 points on over 56% shooting from the previous meeting, a 119-116 Washington win on February 28.
Teammate Kyle Kuzma also poured in 25 points to help the Wizards keep pace.
But it was big man Kristaps Porzingis who stole the show even in the loss with a career-high 43 points on the strength of hitting 7-of-10 threes.
“He’s like [7-foot-5],” Johnson said of adjusting to Porzingis. “It’s tough, especially for someone who can do so much, especially being at that height – being able to put the ball on the ground. It’s tough for us, especially with Beal too. There’s a lot of different threats with that team.”
Porzingis – listed at 7-foot-3 – also chipped in five assists and five rebounds.
The Hawks better figure something out quickly because they face Washington again on Friday, March 10.
Atlanta has gone 1-2 on this four-game road trip and Friday’s tilt offers them the opportunity to finish with a split and put some more distance between them and the 10th-place Wizards in the East standings.