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Johnson, Jazz proving to be a perfect fit

by Matt Payne

On Monday night, Joe Johnson saved the Jazz—scoring all 15 of his points in the game’s final 17 minutes to help Utah erase a 10-point deficit and escape Phoenix with a 106-101 win.

That performance came just two days after Johnson was rested against the Orlando Magic, and it was the first time in nearly two weeks that the 16-year veteran had scored in double figures. 

With that context, now seems like a great time to revisit something Jazz coach Quin Snyder said about Johnson back on January 2 after the Jazz beat the Nets in Brooklyn.

“I talked to Joe about this today,” Snyder said. “Doug Collins told me this a long time ago: ‘Know your role, embrace your role, and star in your role.’ Joe’s a guy whose role with us, at 35, is very different from the role that he had while here in Brooklyn, and even in Miami last year. He has such humility. You wouldn’t know he’s a six-time All-Star, and that he’s played in big game after big game. What he gives us is not only his presence in the locker room with his terrific sense of humor … he’s a guy who can come in the game when the game’s tight and be calm, and be poised. It’s going to take him some time to feel his role. I don’t want him to evaluate himself on his line, because he’s not playing as many minutes. He’s playing behind a guy in Gordon Hayward who’s one of the best guys at his position in the league right now. But Joe can help us win games. He wants to embrace what it is that we need him for, and the reason, frankly, that he came to Utah. The way he starred in this league as an NBA All-Star, I think he’ll also star in a role that for our team could not be more important.”

Johnson’s scoring (8.3 ppg) and playing time (22.2 mpg) are the lowest since his rookie season, but that in no way reflects the value he’s provided to the Jazz this year. He didn’t come to Utah to carry the load from night to night—he came to provide veteran leadership and a scoring punch off the bench when the team needs it.

And that’s exactly what he’s done.