Cam Johnson went from a 3-point specialist to a more well-rounded basketball player to a very wealthy man since he was dealt from Phoenix to Brooklyn back on February 9 and now, the 27-year-old is ready for the next step: proving he’s worth that $94.5 million (plus incentives) the Nets gave his last month.
One one level, he told the Post out in Las Vegas, that he won’t be changing his game, but understands he’ll need to take the next step.
“No, same approach: Just get better,” Johnson told The Post at Team USA practice. “Get better and still feel — I think the main thing that I’ve always felt since I’ve been in the league is just to prove it. To prove it every day. And work for it every day and improve every day, and I’ll continue that mindset as long as I play.”
While Mikal Bridges got the big headlines after he and his “twin” were dealt to Brooklyn along with a raft of draft picks for Kevin Durant, Johnson made a big leap as well. As Brian Lewis writes:
Johnson was averaging 13.9 points in Phoenix before the trade. But after arriving in Brooklyn, he boosted his production to 16.6, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.4 steals, all on pace for career-highs.
Even better in the playoffs, Johnson poured in 18.5 points and 5.8 boards on 50.9/42.9/85.7 percent shooting splits. But, largely a catch-and-shoot player to date, he’s recognized the need to dribble, playmake and expand his all-around game this offseason.
“A little bit of everything, man,” Johnson said of his summer plans. “Being able to facilitate, put the ball on the floor and adjust, help everybody on the court. Working on getting different shots out of different positions out of different actions.”
In fact, he surprised Nets fans in his 25 games with the Nets not just relying on his 3-point stroke but getting to the rim and sustaining more than his share of floor burns playing hard. Johnson is also optimistic about this year’s edition of the Nets because of its versatility.
“I think it’s an opportunity for us to grow and get better,” Johnson said. “We got a great team around us. And very versatile. A group that’s very versatile with a lot of size and a lot of unique opportunities to play that way.”
Johnson also said he expects Ben Simmons to provide a big lift to the team’s fortunes.
“He’s very important to us,” Johnson told the Post. “There’s things that he does on the court that not many players in the NBA can do. And he adds something that is very valuable to myself, Spencer [Dinwiddie], Mikal [Bridges] and being able to set us up and get us shots and play in flow like that.
“With him on the court, it’ll make us a better team.”
As for Johnson, he’s going to get a lot of time on the court in the FIBA World Cup. In the first set of scrimmages vs. Team Select, he started alongside Bridges, then was moved to sixth man in favor of Anthony Edwards in the second set of scrimmages. He likes the opportunity.
“It means a lot, man. This is such a cool opportunity,” Johnson said. “I think it’s such a great learning experience to play alongside great talent, under great leadership. It’s an opportunity I’m gonna do my best to take advantage of.”
Team USA head coach Steve Kerr has pronounced himself impressed by the two Nets.
“I already knew what kind of players they were from coaching against them, but they’re so mature. There’s a calming sense from both guys,” Kerr told the media Friday. “And they’re also modern-day basketball players: shoot the 3, guard multiple positions, long athletically. They’re huge components to this team.”
As for that generational wealth, Johnson said it was both a relief and a blessing. A year ago, he and the Suns couldn’t come to an agreement on an extension. He turned down a four-year, $72 million deal. It proved a smart move. He wound up with $22.5 million more.
“It’s part of the process,” Johnson said. “I was in the same situation last year where we didn’t come to an agreement. I wouldn’t say it added any extra stress onto the season, playing that last contract year. So it is on one hand a bit of a relief and definitely a blessing; but it’s business as usual. Just attack every day, attack the season, try to be a better player every day.”
Nets fans and others will get a chance to see what Johnson can do Monday night at 10:00 p.m. when they face Puerto Rico, the first of five friendlies on three continents before the FIBA World Cup opens on August 25 in Manila. The game will be broadcast on FS1.
- Cam Johnson sees long-term Nets contract as opportunity to ‘prove it’ - Brian Lewis - New York Post