As the Nets were in trade talks for Dwight Howard, a prolonged pursuit that now appears to have ended unsuccessfully, they were able to reassure themselves that no matter what, they had already landed a player who could change the team's fortunes.

That player is Joe Johnson.

Optimism is hard to find with a 22-win team, but the biggest problem with the Nets' roster last season was not that it lacked solid rotation players, but that it was missing a clear-cut second option in the offense. Magic Johnson had James Worthy, John Stockton had Karl Malone, and Deron Williams, one of the N.B.A.'s top point guards, needed his own reliable finisher for whom he could create plays.

Now he has one.

Johnson, acquired in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks in which the Nets did not have to surrender a key player, may finally have found the right home to thrive.