Johnson Enjoying Return
Posted Oct 23 2001 3:16PM
Kevin Johnson must feel like a guy who plans a quiet vacation at a mountain retreat only to end up attempting to climb Mt. Everest.
Since then, the three-time All-Star's life has "just been a flurry of activity." And that's not a bad thing.
"At no time during the past two years did I think that I wanted to come back and play," said Johnson, 34, who played 18 minutes and scored four points Sunday in his season debut, an 87-86 victory at Minnesota. "But what I did realize when I came back is that there are so many things about this game that I missed."
Coach Scott Skiles said Johnson's name was the only one that interested him from a list of available point guards. Johnson's numbers tell why. In an 11-year career highlighted by directing the Suns to the 1993 NBA Finals, the 6-1 guard averaged 18 points and 9.2 assists. He averaged a double-double (points and assists) four consecutive seasons from 1988-89 to 1991-92. Johnson, who played the first half of his rookie season in Cleveland, is Phoenix's all-time leader in assists (6,494) and ranks 10th all-time in the NBA (6,687) despite several injury-plagued seasons.
"Kevin's been a great player for a long time and I truly believe that once he gets into shape he's going to help us," Skiles said at a news conference when Johnson's signing was announced.
Johnson knows there will be an initial challenge in getting reacclimated to NBA play. "I won't be able to play a lot of minutes," he said. "Trying to get in basketball shape will be the biggest adjustment."
There will also be an adjustment fitting in with the Suns. Kidd, however, didn't think that would be a major obstacle for Johnson.
"He called me (after the surgery) to see how I was doing," Kidd said, "and then we talked about the team. I told him that it's not hard to throw the ball to Shawn Marion because he can play above the rim, and he already knows Cliff (Robinson). For Kevin, he kind of wanted to talk about the new rule changes with the hand-checking rules. I said, 'You'll shoot a lot of free throws, so get ready for that.'"
Any thoughts of Johnson extending his comeback beyond this season are on hold.
"This challenge in front of me is daunting enough," he said. "If I can give all that I have for the remainder of this season and maybe contribute, I think I will have satisfied the goal."