Third Hawks stint a big one

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ATLANTA - Anthony Johnson's third stint with the Atlanta Hawks could prove to be his most significant.

Johnson, acquired Thursday in a trade that sent a second-round pick to Dallas, was not in uniform for Friday night's game against Houston. He was expected to arrive in Atlanta in time to watch at least part of the game - but his time as a spectator might end there.

Johnson's playing time as a backup with the Mavericks declined this season, and he was averaging only 3.8 points and 2.0 assists in 14 minutes per game. He might see immediate significant time with Atlanta, possibly as the starting point guard, coach Mike Woodson said Friday.

Woodson has little choice. Speedy Claxton, who was signed in the off-season to a four-year, $25 million deal, and top backup Tyronn Lue have had too many injuries to provide consistency at the position.

Claxton and Lue have missed a combined 40 games. Lue, who missed 16 games earlier in the season with a groin injury, sat out his seventh consecutive game Friday night with a hamstring injury and might return next week.

Claxton has not started a game since Jan. 10. He has been a backup in 10 games since missing 11 games in a row with a sore left knee and has not scored in his past two games off the bench before Friday night's game.

Even when able to play, Lue is not comfortable in a starting role. As a result, Royal Ivey made his 17th start Friday night, but even when he starts he rarely plays more than 10 minutes.

That leaves Johnson, 32, who previously played in 112 games with the Hawks from 1998-2000 and 2000-01.

"I'm going to play him, no doubt about that," Woodson said before Friday night's game.

"He's a veteran guard who has played for a number of teams and played a big role for the Pacers last year in running their ballclub and helping them get to the playoffs. He's got some NBA point guard experience, and we need that right now."

Johnson set a career high with his average of 9.2 points per game last season for Indiana. He started 53 games and set another career high with 40 points in the playoffs.

Woodson, who previously coached Johnson as an assistant coach in Cleveland in 2001, said Johnson won't need much time to adjust to the Hawks. It's possible Johnson could join the team as a starter.

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