All season Joe Johnson has said he looked forward to the playoffs so the Hawks could "prove everybody wrong."

That's everybody who witnessed the Hawks' surrender to the Magic in the playoffs last spring and said the team lacks mental toughness. The group includes critics who saw essentially the same Hawks players return this season and dismissed them as true Eastern Conference contenders. It includes one-time optimists who dismissed the Hawks as they staggered over the final two months of the season.

Johnson didn't say so, but he also could have been talking about himself.

He struggled against Orlando for his second consecutive fade in the postseason. Johnson came out of last year's big NBA free-agent summer with the most expensive contract in the league at $123.7 million, a deal that was roundly criticized. Johnson made his fifth consecutive All-Star game, but had the least productive and efficient of his six seasons with the Hawks.

As it turns out, Johnson gets another crack at the Magic in the playoffs, but he said he doesn't feel a burden to carry the Hawks.