One-on-one with Joe Johnson

Just a quiet guy from Little Rock, Ark., Joe Johnson is all smiles now playing in Brooklyn. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Joe Johnson looked toward the ground, shook his head and smiled. He realized he's in a Catch-22.

See, Johnson, the Brooklyn Nets' new All-Star guard, is from Little Rock, Ark. He's a quiet guy who doesn't like hype, a self-described "laid-back country boy.'' He treasures the fact that he can walk most streets and enter most stores and restaurants unnoticed. He likes being able to live a "normal" life despite being a star athlete with a $124 million contract.

"I love that I'm sometimes able to go places and not get bothered,'' Johnson said after the Nets' morning practice Wednesday. "I don't know how it would be if I was rock-starrish and couldn't go anywhere.''

Problem is, Johnson isn't playing in Atlanta or Phoenix anymore. He's in Brooklyn, home of one of the biggest stories of this NBA season. Home of the Russian billionaire playboy owner and his superstar hip-hop protege. Home of a team Johnson believes can win the NBA championship.

So if Johnson has his way and helps the Nets get anywhere near the NBA title, his peaceful and serene little existence is history. The guy from Little Rock will be the toast of the biggest city in the nation. In a word, he'll be "rock-starrish.''

"I know, I already know,'' he said, shaking his head at the thought of all the hoopla. "It'll be crazy.''