Five things to know about Pelicans forward James Johnson
1) A 12-year NBA veteran, the 34-year-old has played in 663 career regular season games, making 221 starts. The franchise he’s played the most for among seven different teams was Miami, where he appeared in 222 games and averaged 24.7 minutes. He averaged double-digit points for the Heat in consecutive seasons (2016-17 and 2017-18).
2) Johnson has been on five different playoff teams, totaling 24 games of postseason experience, with five starts for Miami in 2018. He appeared in 10 playoff games for the 2016 Raptors, who reached the Eastern Conference finals before lost to Cleveland in six games.
3) Born in Cheyenne, Johnson is one of only seven players born in Wyoming to reach the NBA, and the first to play in the league since the late 1960s. He’s also the only player ever from that state to play in 200-plus official NBA games. After graduating from Cheyenne East High, he played college basketball at Wake Forest. Among his teammates on the 2008-09 Demon Deacons roster were future pros Al-Farouq Aminu, Ish Smith and Jeff Teague.
4) Johnson will bring a measure of toughness to the Pelicans. On TNT, studio analyst Charles Barkley often says Johnson “is on the list” of basketball players he would not want to tangle with, partly due to Johnson’s background in martial arts. Johnson has mentioned in interviews that he would consider participating in UFC when his hoops career ends.
5) In addition to his unique place of birth and experience in fighting sports, the 6-foot-7, 240-pounder prefers unusual uniform numbers. He will wear No. 16 for New Orleans, the fifth different team he’s chosen those digits to sport. Coincidentally or not, as a Chicago rookie he wore No. 16 after he was picked 16th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft. Johnson also picked No. 0 during a stint with Toronto.