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Cam Johnson: Excited about shooting ... and his team’s new identity

Like his “twin,” Cam Johnson showed he had “other stuff” when he arrived in Brooklyn. Now, with a training camp, he’s excited about that and a new “team identity”

Las Vegas Aces v Phoenix Mercury Photo by Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images

Cam Johnson is a very smart guy, and not just on the court. His GPA at North Carolina was 3.9 but there are few things he likes analyzing more than shooting. So, earlier this week, he and another accomplished shooter from the ACC, J.J. Redick, sat down on Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast and talked about the art of the shot ... as well as a lot of other things, including what he’s most excited about this coming Nets season.

First, for the basketball purists, there was Johnson and Redick locked in a deep spiral about the mechanics of putting the ball in the hoop from long range. It wasn’t a tutorial — kids, don’t try this at home — but rather two practitioners of an art getting deep in the weeds, explaining how it all works, reveling in something so few can share...

Summarize it? Nah, just take a listen and simply enjoy. It’s well worth your time and more you love the game, the more you’ll appreciate it.

For Nets fans, though, there was also a discussion of how Johnson, traded to the Nets in the Kevin Durant trade, sees Brooklyn. As we’ve seen in so many discussions of the season, whether at the Sean Marks - Jacque Vaughn press conference or in comments by individual players, CJ wasn’t into making predictions but rather took a more nuanced approach, offering what he thinks is exciting about the Brooklyn Nets, circa 2023-24. Simply put, he believes fans has yet to see what he believes the group can bring now that they know each other better, have a camp, not just a few days, to gel.

“The thing I’m most excited about this season is to see our team like establish our own identity,” Johnson said in response to a question from Tommy Alter, Redick’s sidekick. “I think we have unique pieces. I think Nic Claxton is a very unique center in his ability to run, guard every position, lob threat. Obviously Ben (Simmons) allows teams to do ... especially guys like me and Mikal (Bridges,) he opens up the game, completely, for us. And then, Spence (Dinwiddie), Doe (Finney-Smith), Roy (O’Neale), we have very interchangeable (pieces.)

“Defensively we should be really really good but the fun thing about this season is to establish that identity. which last season was really really hard given the circumstances. You’re traded to a team mid season. You’re trying to figure out a lot of things on the fly. I think the most exciting thing is to hammering out who we want to be as a team, and then using those unique pieces that we have to our advantage.”

Johnson told Redick that while he left a Suns team that won — going to the NBA Finals in 2021, posting the best record in the West a year later — he and Bridges saw the trade and opportunity to grow in Brooklyn as an amazing opportunity to show “we got more stuff.”

“It’s an amazing opportunity to continue to climb the ladder of the NBA. Mikal and I talk about this all the time. They call us ‘The Twins’ just because we did all our work outs together and our roles were pretty similar,” he said, adding, “We always talked about we don’t have any qualms about our role in Phoenix. We love to win and our team was winning. But like really we got more stuff! We worked on it every day. Like (Jayson) Tatum and (Jaylin) Brown. That’s an elite wing duo. We keep working, maybe we are a low usage, 3-and-D version. we’d always joke around about that.”

He also noted that Bridges is an example of what can happen when a player prepares for an opportunity which suddenly arrives. Many people, he said, ask him what happened to Bridges who exploded on the scene as a Net after being traded. It was a cumulative thing, he explained.

“He’s worked on this stuff for five years!” Johnson said of those conversations, noting that while in Phoenix Bridges was able to refine his offense while filling in for an injured Devin Booker and Chris Paul. “He had an opportunity to implement it into his game and then, boom!, he’s completely ready to take advantage of that in Brooklyn.”

He expects that same phenomenon from the Nets team as well.

Johnson spoke as well about the FIBA World Cup experience. Team USA finished fourth and out of the medal ceremony. While Bridges starred in Cup play, Johnson went from a starter in training camp to being out of the rotation.

“Firstly, there’s no excuse for not winning,” he said. “It hurts us individually, collectively more than anybody. It’s disappointing. You put a lot of time into those things and you want the outcome that you want. You don’t get it, it’s very frustrating.

“People say we didn’t have this, we didn’t have that, we should have sent this… We had NBA players, there’s no excuse not to win. It’s basketball, the nature of the game,” Johnson said.