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Hawks get Joe Johnson from Suns





| Aug. 19, 2005

Joe JohnsonGaining the services of their most talented free agent acquisition since Dikembe Mutombo (’96), the Atlanta Hawks have obtained Joe Johnson from the Phoenix Suns for Boris Diaw and two conditional first round picks, it was announced today by Executive Vice President/General Manager Billy Knight.

The high-flying Johnson, who begins his fifth NBA season in 2005-06, was one of the catalysts behind the resurgence of the Suns and their 62-20 record, which garnered the franchise’s first Pacific Division title since 1994-95. The 33-game improvement ranks as the third-best in league history.

“Joe has tremendous upside and provides our franchise with a player whose talents are worthy of All-Star consideration,” said Knight. “He has the versatility to play several positions for Coach (Mike) Woodson. Not only is Joe extremely gifted on the offensive end, his size on defense will give us a tremendous advantage against most teams. When you team him up with a combination of Josh Childress, Josh Smith, Al Harrington, Marvin Williams, Salim Stoudamire and Zaza Pachulia, we feel we have one of the best up-and-coming rosters in the league.

“I also want to express my appreciation to all who had a hand in getting Joe to Atlanta. The faith and confidence shown by our ownership group will never be forgotten, and the cooperation shown by Suns management, and Joe and his agent Arn Tellem spoke volumes to me. They have been unbelievable through this whole process and words can’t explain how grateful we are to them for their character and integrity through it all, for all of them sticking to their word and backing us up all the way.”

"Billy Knight has done an extraordinary job of assembling a strong nucleus that features some of the youngest, most athletic and energetic players in the NBA," said Hawks Co-Owner Michael Gearon. "This is an exciting day for the franchise and we are extremely proud to welcome Joe Johnson into our Hawks family."

The Suns will receive Atlanta's own first round pick no later than the 2008 NBA Draft. That pick which is "lottery" protected (1-14) in 2006, has protection through No. 3 in 2007 and has no protection in 2008. In addition the Suns will also receive a conditional first round pick via either the Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics from an earlier trade between Boston and Atlanta. The Laker pick which is subject to protection through No. 10 in 2006, protection through No. 5 in draft years 2007-2010 and unconditional in 2011, is owed to Boston from yet another previous trade. In the year that the Laker pick is conveyed to Boston, Phoenix will receive the least favorable of Boston's own pick or the Laker pick.

“Joe Johnson made us aware of his personal desires which just didn't fit our model of building a team. We're sorry to see Joe leave and we wish him nothing but the best in Atlanta,” Suns President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo said. “Despite losing Joe, we are pleased that we have acquired a young, talented player in Boris Diaw, two first round draft picks and additional flexibility to keep our building process moving forward.”

With career highs in points (17.1 ppg), rebounds (5.2 rpg) and three-point accuracy (a franchise record 47.8%), Johnson is a durable player who has appeared in 276 straight games (which currently trails only Toronto’s Morris Peterson’s streak of 279 games) and logged the most minutes played per game on Phoenix’s squad last season (39.5 mpg). His versatility was evident when you consider that he was third on the team in scoring, second in assists behind NBA MVP Steve Nash (3.3 apg), and fourth in rebounds and steals (0.96 spg).

“I am extremely excited to add a player of Joe’s background to our team,” said Hawks coach Woodson. “He is a great young talent in our league and when you couple him with the young talent we currently have on the roster, I can’t wait to see them mesh as a unit. Joe has continually improved his game each and every season, and now he is poised to become one of the bright stars in the Eastern Conference. He is a very easy going person and Atlanta will soon learn how important it was for Billy and our management group to finalize this deal.”

An excellent shooter, Johnson connected on 46.1 percent of his attempts from the field and finished the season as only the fourth player in league history to make at least 150 three-pointers and shoot over 45 percent from behind the arc in the same campaign.

Johnson tallied 20 points or more on 30 occasions last year, including a season-best 30 three times (at Seattle on March 6, at Memphis on February 1 and vs. Utah on December 15).

During the 2004-05 Playoffs, he was briefly derailed by a fractured left orbital bone, which caused him to miss six of Phoenix’s 15 postseason games against Dallas and San Antonio (four against the Mavericks and two vs. the Spurs). Despite that setback, Johnson raised his season averages by tallying 18.8 points on 50.4% shooting from the field – 56 percent from long distance.

He was originally selected by the Boston Celtics with the 10th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft as an early entry candidate, but was traded in midseason to Phoenix (along with Milt Palacio, Randy Brown and a 2002 first-round draft pick (Casey Jacobsen) in exchange for Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk).

Johnson participated in the Rookie Challenge at the 2002 All-Star Weekend in Philadelphia and finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists as the Rookies scored a 103-97 win over the Sophomores. He was named NBA All-Rookie Second Team in 2002, the first Sun to garner that honor since Shawn Marion in 1999-00.

In his third NBA campaign, Johnson was third in balloting for the 2003-04 Most Improved Player Award after recording 16.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.4 apg and 1.1 spg in 40-plus minutes. He was one of only 11 NBA players to average more than 16 points, four rebounds and four assists, and eight of those players were 2004 All-Stars (Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Ray Allen, Vince Carter, Baron Davis, Paul Pierce and Steve Francis).

A 2001 early entry candidate from the University of Arkansas, Johnson scored 15.0 points and pulled down 6.1 rebounds in two years with the Razorbacks (.466 FG%, .406 3FG%, .753 FT%) after attending Little Rock Central (Ark.) High School. He earned All-America honors as a sophomore and was named All-SEC in both seasons.

Johnson, born June 29, 1981, is a native of Little Rock. He will wear #2 with the Hawks.

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