“#Nets raving about Tyler Johnson after dynamic Disney debut”
July 26, 2020 | 11:59pm
Nearly six months since he last played in a game, Tyler Johnson didn’t look like someone who had been idle for so long.
“I probably felt better [on Saturday] than I did a good portion of the season, even before the coronavirus,” Johnson said Sunday night over Zoom following the team’s practice at the Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. “A lot of just having a healthy body will allow [me] to have some big games.”
It’s fair to say he shattered expectations in Saturday’s 124-119 scrimmage victory over the Spurs. Coming off the bench, the 6-foot-4 guard — who had knee surgery last April — scored 17 points and sank 3 of 5 3-point attempts in his first game since Feb. 2. He was integral to the win, hitting consecutive 3-pointers and knocking down a pull-up jumper that gave the Nets a four-point lead with 1:30 to go. Afterward, teammates raved about his production and the firepower he can provide as a reserve, helping to ease the scoring burden on Caris LeVert and Joe Harris. In turn, Johnson praised the Nets’ coaching staff and his teammates in getting him ready after such a long layoff and putting him in the right positions.
“It was easy, that’s the thing. [Interim coach Jacque Vaughn] talks about just putting you in spots and just letting you be a basketball player,” the 28-year-old southpaw said. “I’ve been very fortunate to come into an offense where everybody is looking to get everybody involved. … I feel very confident that I can get in rhythm on this team.”
Johnson was nearly a Net four years ago. General manager Sean Marks gave him a $50 million offer sheet. The Heat, however, matched it. He was traded to the Suns last season and was cut in February this year, after averaging a career-low 5.7 points on 38 percent shooting in 31 games. He signed with the Nets on June 24, as they needed scoring with so many key players opting out amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. While the Nets are only paying him $212,753 during the restart, they have non-Bird rights on him for next season if he plays well enough in Orlando to warrant keeping him.
“We are going to need him definitely going forward,” LeVert said.
Vaughn plans to give starters Jarrett Allen, LeVert and Harris bigger minutes on Monday against the Jazz to prepare for Friday’s restart opener against the Magic. Still, he said health is the most important thing, so he isn’t going to push it. Jamal Crawford and Donta Hall will be held out, Vaughn said, as the Nets continue to build them up. The 40-year-old Crawford isn’t concerned that he won’t play in any of the team’s three scrimmages before the games start to matter.
“I practiced with them and we have some really good chemistry already, so I think it will be a seamless fit when we get a chance to get out there for the regular season,” Crawford said. “Being on a basketball court obviously is always about timing, conditioning, but getting extra work in and doing stuff in practice has helped that come back. So we’ll see. I don’t think I’ll stand out the wrong way.”
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