Joe Johnson and Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets look...

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) Credit: Jim McIsaac

NEW ORLEANS -- Joe Johnson sat in front of his locker inside New Orleans Arena before the Nets were about to take the court for Tuesday’s shootaround, his left foot propped up on a pile of towels.

Johnson’s sore heel is feeling better, but he’s still unsure if he’ll be able to go Tuesday night. After missing the Nets’ last two games, he’s officially listed as a game-time decision, which is an upgrade from his questionable status leading into the Nets’ previous two contests.

“It’s definitely improving,” Johnson said. “It was a little tender this morning, but I’ve done some treatment this morning and gotten it loose. So, I’m going to through shootaround with the guys and this evening we’ll see.”

Johnson doesn’t want to rush it, though. Last thing he wants is a setback that could possibly put him on the shelf for an extended period as the playoffs near.

“I’m going to be very cautious because this is not something I want to linger over during the postseason,” he said. “So, I really want to take care of it now. But I understand the significance of every game that we have. So, I’m going to try to do whatever I can to get back.”

Still, this whole ordeal is a bit exasperating for Johnson.

“It’s very frustrating, man,” he said, “because sitting on the sideline, I’m looking at the game from a different perspective. And knowing that I can help out, it hurts me more than anybody else. So like I said, I’m doing the necessary things I need to do to get back.”

Although Johnson’s absence isn’t exactly ideal, it might be one of those necessary evils. The Nets are being forced to change things up as they play without their closer, something that, in a weird way, could pay dividends come playoff time.

“It’s always a good exercise to go through because it’s going to happen, foul trouble is going to happen,” interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “You don’t want a major situation, but if a guy’s going to sprain an ankle or you are going to end up some night at the end of the game or for a quarter or whatever because of the sprained ankle or foul trouble playing without him.

“So yeah, it’s good, but it’s one of those silver lining deals. You don’t want it to happen, but when it does happen, yeah it’s good. It got us a chance to play MarShon [Brooks] more minutes, it got us a chance to ask C.J. [Watson] to be more aggressive.”

Hornets coach Monty Williams is assuming the Nets will have Johnson’s services.

“We are planning for him to play anyway,” he said. “That’s how we plan every night, that the best players are going to be out there on the floor.”

More Brooklyn Nets