TAYLORSVILLE Diving back into NBA summer league basketball was the last thing Britton Johnsen imagined doing as recently as a couple of years ago.
Johnsen, who made his mark locally as a standout at Murray High and then the University of Utah, previously made a foray into the NBA in brief stints with Orlando and Indiana. He wasn't sure how repeatedly spending his summers toiling away on a squad composed of long-shot journeymen and untested rookies could do much to enhance his career.
These days, though, Johnsen possesses a much different outlook. Now as a part of the Utah Jazz's Rocky Mountain Revue squad, the ex-Ute forward sees summer ball giving him a much-needed second chance to put himself back in the picture with pro scouts and teams both in the NBA and internationally.
"Exposure that's the reason I'm doing it," Johnsen said. "I'm older now. I know my chances are getting more and more limited every year. For
me, it's just another opportunity to get a little bit of exposure. That's all I'm looking for. I'll play as hard as I can and do what I can."
During the short span he has been with the Jazz, Johnsen has already made a good impression on teammates and coaches with his work ethic.
In Utah's 82-57 loss to San Antonio on Friday, he elicited lots of praise from Jazz coaches for the spark he provided off the bench to help Utah rally from a deficit in the second quarter. His hustle plays also drew hearty cheers from the hometown crowd.
"I thought he did a good job for a while especially in the second quarter," assistant coach Tyrone Corbin said after the game. "His energy level was good for us."
Johnsen did not receive an invitation to play with Utah this summer by chance or by accident. The Jazz thought it would help younger players to have someone like him on the roster. With Johnsen, they saw a player who possessed equal doses of experience and intelligence along with a willingness to do the little things on the court.
So far, Johnsen has lived up to those expectations. In two Revue games, he has averaged 7.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 17 minutes per game.
"He knows what the game is about," Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor said. "In his first week of practice, he showed that he's really got great basketball sense."
Johnsen has felt plenty of benefits playing with the Jazz this summer as well. For him, it is a return to the kind of structured atmosphere he enjoyed under former Ute coach Rick Majerus.
"They're a disciplined program," Johnsen said. "That (is) my style of basketball just because it is how I remember playing college ball. Everything was disciplined. (We had) a really good, structured offense."
Johnsen does have an edge over a typical journeyman on the NBA fringe, simply because he made it to this level once before.
He spent 20 games with the Magic in the 2003-04 season, averaging 2.1 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. Johnsen then appeared in six games for the Pacers the following year, averaging 2.0 points and 1.7 rebounds before being released.
Since that time, he has moved from one international team to another. Following his last NBA game in December 2004, Johnsen has enjoyed stints with teams in Spain, France and Turkey. His best season came with Etosa Alicante in the Spanish League, where he averaged 11.3 points and 3.7 rebounds while appearing in 19 games.
Johnsen's international career was slowed by shoulder surgery that sidelined him for eight months. When he joined the Utah Flash for a brief stint a year ago, Johnsen was still dealing with some rustiness from his long layoff.
Flash coach Brad Jones said the difference between what he saw from Johnsen during his eight-game stint in Orem and where he's at now is significant.
"He's a totally different guy," Jones said. "His confidence level is super high. His rhythm is back."
Jones said Johnsen is someone who could make a contribution in the NBA again if he lands with the right team and right situation. Certainly, it would be a dream come true for Johnsen if he successfully made a comeback to the league he left more than three seasons ago.
But he would be just as happy to move up another echelon at the international level. And it's something he hopes will occur once the Rocky Mountain Revue comes to a close."If I could have a perfect world, I'd love to play here with the Jazz," Johnsen said. "But I understand spots are limited. I'm doing this so I can get more exposure for other teams and, hopefully, get some more exposure for overseas."
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