Tyler Johnson has not only paid his way back into the Nets loaded backcourt rotation ... he earned it.
The 28-year-old has played in six straight games for Brooklyn, including first-quarter minutes, after getting action in only seven of the Nets’ first 24 games. In addition, Johnson has played at least 18 minutes in five of his last six games.
Then, there was Tuesday night in Phoenix. TJ contributed a season-high 17 points and five rebounds in 32 minutes going 5-of-8 from three in Tuesday’s comeback win over the Suns. He said he simply feels good.
“It feels great honestly. It just feels good to be able to contribute,” Johnson said following the game. “Even going back for me to Indiana, I didn’t even put the ball in the bucket. Just being a part of a group and having that comradery, saying ‘hey whatever it is that I can do to help contribute to this win, I’ll do.’ I think a lot of guys have adapted that mentality and it’s beginning to show.”
Steve Nash provided high praise for his combo guard, who started in place of the injured Kyrie Irving. Nash noted the importance of his competitiveness.
“Tyler was great. He’s had a nice little run for us and we love his competitiveness,” Nash said on Johnson. “He can guard and he’s also been very confident knocking down threes. He is just competitive and plays with high energy. It gives our team some life.”
Prior to Tuesday’s win, Nash spoke about how Johnson has earned his minutes and the opportunity he is receiving. To the Nets head coach, despite the depth of perimeter players on his roster, Johnson helps shed some minutes for the high-minute guys such as Kyrie Irving and James Harden while his work ethic stands out to him.
“Well, he’s worked really hard. He’s very competitive and I think he’s earned an opportunity,” Nash said. “I think it’s tough. There are so many perimeter players but trying to shed some minutes for guys really helps. He can come in and give us a lift so I just love him as a person and a player. His competitive spirit is outstanding. He’s been making some shots as well and he’s very capable offensively, of course, but just that competitive nature I think is really important for our group.”
Johnson is not only receiving praise from his head coach but from his teammates as well.
“Tyler, man - he’s been great the last couple of games. He’s come in and has given us great minutes. Tonight, he got his name called, got the start, and gave us tremendous minutes. He knocked down some big shots,” Jeff Green said following Tuesday’s win. “His defense was really good and he’s been playing well. He’s been working hard to get back on the court after a couple of injuries early on but he’s been great and has been helping us out the last couple of games.”
Johnson is currently averaging 4.5 points, 1.2 assists, and 0.8 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game but over the last three, he’s put up 12 points while shooting 50 percent overall and 55.6 percent from three in 23 minutes per.
Irving will hopefully be back Thursday from his lower back issues, but Nash now knows he can trust Johnson a bit more.
- NETS NOTES: TYLER JOHNSON STEPS IN WITH A SEASON HIGH - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets