Orlando, Indiana. Indiana, Orlando.
Strong, athletic guard is determined to work hard and prove himself
by Jeff Tzucker | July 3, 2012
Pacers Director of Media Relations David Benner places a chair on the edge of the floor. Three men shouldering TV cameras, a young man holding a Flip camera, a handful of journalists holding voicerecorders, and a few TV reporters holding microphones scurry to the chair. The media scrum is hungry.
Johnson sits down in the middle of them and looks up.
"Happy to be here today."
Johnson, the second round draft pick traded to the Pacers for cash considerations, is a bit of an unknown to Pacers fans, having played for a small school in California and all. So, when I walk in to the gym to watch his first professional workout, I'm not sure what to expect. (He came in for a predraft workout, but sprained his ankle before the media could see him play.)
Watching him run drills with Coach Boylen and Pacer guard Lance Stephenson, Johnson appears to be everything Larry Bird described him as: Solidly built, athletic, has good length at 6'5", and has a bit of a strange release, shooting with a little pause in his jumper.
Johnson is graceful with the reporters, proud to be here, and shows a dose of humility.
"I walk in (to the locker room)," Johnson raises his hand and motions in front of him, "I'm lookin', ya know, tape—there's tape of other people's name on there—and I'm like, 'Man, where's my name at?'" Johnson's voice lifts, "And I look and they had a plaque of mine up there already. I was like, 'Man, that looks good. That looks real good.'"
If you were to find a generic physical comparison to another NBA player, it's not a stretch to say Johnson's frame is a bit like Miami's Dwyane Wade.
"I bring length, athleticism, somebody who can stretch the floor, also somebody who can get to the basket and create baskets for other people."
"I also, you know, use my body. I'm able to go inside and out and I think that's just gonna allow more freedom for the rest of the guys."
Along with his athleticism and scoring ability, Johnson brings maturity. As is becoming commonplace in the Pacers locker room, Johnson played four years of college basketball as well as playing for Team USA at the World University Games last summer. While he thought of leaving school before his senior year, he opted to stay in—a choice that benefitted him.
"Right after I decided to come back to school, I was asked to play for the USA team, went to the LeBron James Skills Academy and also the Kevin Durant Skills Academy. Just getting the chance to experience and play against better competition that whole summer really prepared me for this and got me ready for what I'm about to embark on."
Now that he's here, he's here to do one thing: Prove himself. "I just gotta keep working hard, being in the gym, keep proving myself. Because you know, I'm a rookie. I have a lot to prove to Indiana and the organization and make sure their money was well-spent."
With a grateful, humble attitude like that, let's hope he's here to stay.