Nets' Joe Johnson (sore heel) questionable against Grizzlies

Joe Johnson and Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Joe Johnson and Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets look on from the bench in the first half against the Houston Rockets. (Feb. 22, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few hours after his exciting late-game heroics Tuesday night, Joe Johnson could feel something just wasn't right.

Suddenly, his left heel was throbbing unmercifully.

"I got in the bed in Milwaukee and woke up the next day, I had to literally crawl out of bed because it was hurting so bad," the Nets shooting guard said after Saturday's light practice.

"And I went down to the breakfast meeting and our trainer [Tim Walsh] was like, 'You all right?' and I said, 'Yeah, I'm all right. I just got to loosen up a little bit.'

"It never loosened up, but I still tried to play. I played through it but I was, I don't know. It was tough."

Johnson scored only eight points Wednesday in a 3-for-14 shooting exhibition and failed to crack double-digits for the first time since Dec. 9.

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This after Tuesday's spectacular effort in which he sank a long three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left to force overtime and then hit a jumper at the OT buzzer to beat the Bucks.

Playing in Milwaukee probably wasn't the best move, and that's partly the reason he's questionable for Sunday night's matchup against the Grizzlies (36-18) after sitting out Friday's loss to the Rockets.

Johnson's heel felt a little better Saturday after a day of treatment, but he wasn't overly confident that he'll be good enough to go Sunday night.

"I'm not sure," he said. "I'm just trying to take it day-by-day and see, man. But I'd definitely hate for it to happen at this point."

Johnson, who said the heel began to bother him in the Nets' Feb. 11 win over the Pacers, seemed confident of one thing: This injury isn't plantar fasciitis, as was originally thought. He didn't want to do anything to aggravate it during the All-Star break, instead opting to participate in some hot yoga to stay in shape.

"I've had plantar fasciitis, but this, I don't think this is plantar fasciitis," said Johnson, who's receiving ice massage and stimulation treatment to help get back on the court. "My heel is bruised badly. It was hard for me just to put my foot down, the heel of my foot on the ground. Today it wasn't so."

With Johnson and Deron Williams banged up, it presents a challenge for interim coach P.J. Carlesimo. The Nets (33-23) are a game behind the first-place Knicks and have a shot at capturing the Atlantic Division crown. But health is going to take precedence over playoff positioning for Carlesimo.

"I would love to win the division," Carlesimo said, "but that's not a big . . . There's just so much time left. In a sense, it's good that we've gotten closer to them, but it's not as good as us being healthy."

Carlesimo didn't discount possibly spelling his star backcourt on the Nets' seven-game road trip next month, taking a page out of the Gregg Popovich school of thinking. The Spurs' coach is not averse to resting his star players.

"The fact that it's spread out is good," Carlesimo said. "Pop does that. People don't probably give him credit -- forgetting the thing that happened earlier in the year -- for biting that bullet and saying, 'That's it -- I'm not going to play [Tim] Duncan today, I'm not going to play this other guy today.' And most people won't do that. We could be looking at having to do that because it's the best thing for those guys."

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