Amid the age and other concerns, Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka firmly believes that the veteran Joe Johnson still has some gas left in its tank.
And as the brief time of the former All-star has finally ended, the rookie tactician has nothing but well wishes on his ongoing basketball journey.
“From a physical and ability to play standpoint, yes,” Udoka when asked if Johnson can still play, via Jenna Ciccotelli of NESN. “He was somebody that if we had more positives pop up, we would have been confident throwing him in for more minutes.
“His experience stood out immediately, his voice stood out immediately in the locker room, and from a respect level from all of the players that’s something that was very notable. Other than the coaches, he spoke up more than some of the guys who had been here.”
Johnson’s 10-day hardship deal with the Celtics has finally expired. As such, he is now sliding into free agency as his service wouldn’t be renewed anymore since several players like franchise player Jayson Tatum and sixth-man Dennis Schroeder will make a return fresh from the health protocols.
In his short stay with the team that drafted him in 2001 NBA Draft, Johnson has shown the much-needed guidance and mentorship on the sidelines, more notably on Tatum and Jaylen Brown. From the perspective of Udoka, those are priceless moments to ponder towards the growth of their emerging young combo stars.
“He shared his experience with those guys,” Udoka told reporters. “We talked about how much they looked up to him when he signed here (about) Jayson and the other guys. Whether it was JB or someone else’s ear, he was always there lending support and advice on things.”
The 41-year-old Johnson, with seven All-star selections in his whole career, has shown some glimpse that he remains a serviceable player. His only two points with the C’s, which came from his bread and butter isolation play, just proves how lethal he can still be when given an ample opportunity.
“It is kind of surreal…At my age you try to relish every moment, enjoy the process & live in the moment. That’s kind of what I’m doing right now.”
– Joe Johnson on the cheers he received after draining an elbow jumper vs Cavs last December
From the honorable chance that was given to him this season, Johnson would certainly not close his doors yet to play in any other league. Whether a rotational player, end of the bench guy, or a vocal mentor, he will always be ready for the love of the game.