The narrative can flip — and quickly. Just look at Joe Johnson. Look at him demanding the ball in the dire moments of a heart-thumping basketball game at the Garden, his team down a point, 19,033 people screaming themselves hoarse, most of them pleading for a stop.

Then listen to those 19,033 voices once Johnson gets the ball. They quiet just a little. Not the way they used to fall into resigned despair when Michael had the ball, or Reggie, or Hondo back in the day, but it's there, the knowledge that this is exactly the guy we don't want cradling the ball with the seconds bleeding off the clock.

Look at J.R. Smith, frantically trying to guard Johnson.

Now look at Johnson again.

"At the end of the game," he will say, "you have to want the ball as much as if it's the first possession of the game."

There was a time, not so long ago, when it was fair to wonder what all the noise surrounding Johnson's game was about. Unless you are a League Pass addict, it was hard to remember any signature moment from Johnson's career. He was great because he was known to be great, the proud owner of wonderful numbers and a fat contract. There are a lot of guys like that playing well in basketball outposts.

Doesn't mean they can do it here, in New York City, where patience lasts as long as a 20-second timeout. If you're lucky. Johnson was up-and-down. The Nets stopped and started, and when that happens it's the varsity players who shoulder the heat.

Then, on a Friday night in Brooklyn, he beat the Pistons and the double-overtime buzzer with a game-winner. Three weeks later, another Friday night in Washington, D.C., he beat the Wizards and the buzzer, again. Confidence is a funny thing: When it goes, it's gone. But when it grows …