James Johnson returning to the Pacers on a one-year deal
Johnson appeared in 18 games last season with the Pacers and now will begin his 15th season in the NBA. He's a leader, a veteran presence and an enforcer.
The Pacers plan to bring back veteran James Johnson on a one-year deal, per his agency, Priority Sports.
Johnson has been out of the league this season after being an incredibly valuable asset in the locker room last season.
“He’s contributed so much to our situation just in terms of setting examples, mentoring, being very positive, being very truthful,” head coach Rick Carlisle said last year. “He has a really strong reputation in this league as a great competitor, obviously [he’s] a very tough guy. He’s been a difference maker…”
Johnson, 36, arrived last fall with a servant mentality knowing his full responsibility was help set the tone in the locker room, provide guidance and support, and to, yes, be an enforcer when necessary.
He quickly built a strong relationship with Tyrese Haliburton, the All-Star guard and face of the franchise: “He’s the ultimate hype man for everybody in that locker room, coaches included,” Haliburton said. “He just wants to see everybody succeed.
“He’s been around great players and he challenges me to be one of those. It means a lot because it’s one thing for a GM to say something, a coach to say something. It’s a whole other thing for your teammate to have a lot of trust in you. He’s been like a big brother to me.”
This addition notably comes one day after the Pacers lost in Milwaukee and then a back-and-forth confrontation took place postgame as Giannis Antetokounmpo wanted to make sure he had the official game ball after scoring a franchise record 64 points.
During the game, eight technical fouls were issued, the Pacers had no answer for Antetokounmpo (he attempted 32 foul shots, the same number as the Pacers) and Bobby Portis took exception to a foul by Aaron Nesmith.
Those are examples where Johnson could step in and help the Pacers, who have the eighth-youngest roster in the NBA (24.85 years old). After all, one of the team’s themes since training camp has been accountability.
Johnson is very familiar with the coaching staff and most of the roster, with the exceptions being newcomers Bruce Brown, Obi Toppin and the rookies.
Added Jalen Smith: “He was that guy in the locker room that everybody could go to if they had a problem or if they needed advice on anything. I went to JJ for everything because I respect JJ. I know everything that I went through, he went through so I knew that he had the answer for everything.”
The Pacers are in Washington DC with two more games remaining on this four-game road trip that extended to six games over 12 days due to the in-season tournament.