SALT LAKE CITY — Joe Johnson is a veteran, an OG, a pro’s pro.
However you want to slice it and dice it, his influence on the Utah Jazz is certainly felt.
Even at 36, he’s always in tune with the game. Always watching, always learning in his 17th NBA season.
“He watches basketball all the time,” said Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell. “He has, like, a phone, an iPad and a laptop and it’s just all basketball.”
Since Johnson’s return to the lineup at Boston on Dec. 15, he’s seemed hit or miss at times – averaging 6.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in 20.8 minutes in the last nine games.
He missed 21 games with right wrist tendon instability from Nov. 1-Dec. 13, during which the Jazz went 9-12, but has often rotated at power forward with Thabo Sefolosha and Jonas Jerebko in Rudy Gobert’s absence.
Against Cleveland Saturday, “Iso Joe” went 3 for 7 with eight points and three rebounds in 17 minutes to help the Jazz win 104-101.
“It doesn’t matter with me,” Johnson said. “You can only shoot it and you’re either gonna hit or miss. For me, I don’t put any added pressure on anything, whether I’m making shots or not. I don’t worry about that.”
At this stage of his career, Johnson is unbothered by much of anything on the basketball court. He’s witnessed it all.
“I’ve just got to continue to play,” Johnson said.
As a dependable scorer and rhythm player, he continues to build repetition with Jazz assistant Johnnie Bryant and insists that his rhythm and timing are there.
“It’s been solid,” Johnson said of the recovery. “I’m gaining my strength back so I’m just doing the necessary things I need to do to keep building on that.”
EMBRACING UTAH: Jazz rookies Donovan Mitchell and Royce O’Neale stay next to each other in the same apartment building and the two have really embraced Utah. They’re often spotted at University of Utah and Salt Lake City Stars games as they try to leave their mark off the court as well. This, in turn, brings more energy to Vivint Arena for home games because fans feel connected.
“We want to go and see what’s out and have our presence felt in the community,” Mitchell said. “I love college basketball and I’m newly removed from college basketball so I know a lot of the guys on the team in Utah and other teams they play and the next thing I’m trying to do is go to high school games.”
A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS: Utah (16-21) is currently in 10th place of the Western Conference standings and 2.5 games behind for the No. 8 playoff spot. The Jazz hold the NBA’s third-highest free-throw percentage (80.6), rank fourth in team deflections per game (15.0), and post 23.3 percent of their shots off spot-up baskets, which ranks fifth in the league (925).