PHOENIX -- As if dealing with a sore left heel that's caused a serious dip in his production isn't tough enough, Joe Johnson limped into the building where he really made a name for himself, cloaked in frustration.
Johnson suffered a bruised right quadriceps less than 24 hours earlier when he bumped into Blake Griffin in the third quarter of the Nets' 101-95 loss to the Clippers. He was examined by team trainer Tim Walsh but played 12 more minutes in the second half, knowing full well that his quad was going to tighten up.
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Johnson now has missed five games this season, which is a bit of an aberration, considering he has managed to stay healthy throughout his 12-year career. He's not sure if he'll be able to play when the Nets take on the Trail Blazers in Portland on Wednesday.
"It's frustrating for me because all these little knick-knacks are starting to happen with me down the stretch of the season," Johnson said before the game, "and this is the most important part of the season at this point right now. So that's probably the most frustrating thing.
"It's not about where we are playing and who we are playing. I always want to be out there with the guys. I hate sitting out and watching. That's the hardest part."
Since the All-Star break, Johnson hasn't been that explosive clutch player the Nets have come to know in his first season in Brooklyn. He's averaging 13.8 points, which is down from the 17.0 points he posted before the break, and his three-point percentage has taken a serious dip, dropping by nearly 8 percent. His turnovers also have increased.
Without a doubt, he hasn't been the same old Joe. P.J. Carlesimo acknowledged he's a little worried.
"Yeah, I'm concerned, because he's come back and he's not healthy yet," the interim coach said. "I just think it's very similar to what we were talking about with Deron [Williams]. You saw the difference when Deron came back and felt good and was close to -- 100 percent is the wrong word, but when he's the best he's felt all year, it made a big difference.
"Every time I ask Joe how it feels, he says he's OK. Again, he wants to play. But I think that if you look at the numbers and you look at what Joe's done since the injury, it's not the same Joe. So yeah, we need to get Joe Johnson back healthy. If he's healthy, then he'll play the way Joe Johnson plays."
That's why Johnson didn't shoot down the possibility of taking some time off.
"I think my health is more important right now at this point," he said. "Just to heal up the little wounds because obviously, man, we want to do something major in the postseason, so I don't want to go into the postseason with these things bothering me."
In other words, he doesn't want to find himself in uncharted territory.
"Every year going into the playoffs, man," Johnson said, "I've been extremely injury-free, healthy and ready. This is a little different, but I will definitely be ready when I'm supposed to."