Nets' Joe Johnson could be facing former team in first round of playoffs

Joe Johnson looks on during a game against

Joe Johnson looks on during a game against the Dallas Mavericks at Barclays Center. (March 1, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Joe Johnson already can envision the craziness should it go down.

There's a possibility the Nets could match up with Johnson's old team if the Hawks beat out the Bulls for the Eastern Conference's fifth seed, setting up a scenario in which Johnson ventures back to his former stamping grounds twice more next week.

"The fact that it's the playoffs, it would definitely be chaotic,'' Johnson told Newsday. "But I guess if that's the team who we play, then we have to go with it. We've got to do what we've got to do.''

With the Hawks holding a half-game lead over the Bulls entering Tuesday night, the race to see who plays the Nets is literally going to come down to the final buzzer Wednesday night. Atlanta visits the Knicks, and the Bulls, who have a 2-1 mark against the Hawks in head-to-head action this season, giving them the tiebreaker edge, host the Wizards.

If the Nets meet the Hawks, it would provide Johnson with another opportunity to haunt the team that traded him, something he wasn't able to do in the two previous contests at Philips Arena this season. He shot 8-for-33, totaling only 23 points.

"From a media standpoint, it's going to be crazy,'' he said of the potential matchup. "That's the only thing that I'm not looking forward to, but it would be just like any other game, man.''

Still, without their exact opponent nailed down, the Nets' coaching staff is at a bit of a disadvantage. Building a complete, comprehensive game plan is difficult because the Bulls and Hawks employ two totally different styles of play.

"It's a pain in the neck,'' interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "It would've been so much easier knowing which one it was. We've got to divide the work and what we are doing. It just means more hours and [you] probably can't go into quite as much.''

In essence, it's like a professor assembling a final exam using material from two different textbooks, only to discard half of the contents once he's ready to administer the real test.

"If we were going to spend 100 hours on one of them, now we've got to spend 50 on each and see what we are going to do,'' Carlesimo said. "It's two teams that we've played four times [each], played then both relatively recently. So it's not like we don't know them and they don't know us.

"But still, you'd like to go into greater depth and the preparation would be simpler if you knew who the team was.''

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