He’s a solid, solid pro. He can play so many multiple positions and he’s been one of the best in the league for a long time. He’s good, so we’re really lucky to have him. —Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni on Joe Johnson
SALT LAKE CITY — During pregame warmups prior to Monday’s Jazz-Rockets game, Joe Johnson shot baskets for 20 minutes wearing some black earphones. Right toward the end of his session, Utah’s Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio sneaked up behind him and yanked the earphones off.
Johnson had a laugh and then proceeded to the Jazz end of the Vivint Arena court where he commiserated with some of his former teammates and coaches for a few minutes.
Then when he got back to the locker room a few minutes later, his teammates chided him about the picture sitting on his chair. It was a color picture of Jazzman Jonas Jerebko in his No. 8 Jazz uniform with a note reading, “I miss you.”
That brought another smile to Johnson, who is obviously still well-liked by his former teammates as well as the fans who lined up to get his autograph before the game.
Johnson was back at Vivint Arena Monday night in a Houston Rockets' uniform, just 19 days after being part of a three-team trade that sent him from Utah to Sacramento. It was a cost-cutting deal for the Kings who waived him and a few days later Johnson signed with the Rockets.
Johnson doesn’t act overly sentimental about leaving Utah and going to Houston. After all, he’s playing with his eighth different team in his 17th season and he only played a season and a half with the Jazz where he averaged 8.6 points in 110 games.
“It’s all right, man,” he said when asked about his recent move. “I was happy with it, no problem for me. Basketball is basketball.”
Johnson did say he “definitely misses the guys” he used to play with and specifically mentioned Ingles, Rubio and Jerebko.
In Monday night’s Houston victory, Johnson finished with seven points on 3-of-6 shooting in 29 minutes. That was just about the same number of points he was averaging in his time in Utah as well as his three games in Houston where he averaged 8.7 points in 27.3 minutes per game.
Iso Joe, as he is known, first entered the game at the 4:59 mark of the first quarter and was greeted with a loud ovation from the Vivint Arena crowd. Just under the two-minute mark, Johnson sank a 3-pointer from out top, one of just two 3s the Rockets made in 16 first-half attempts.
Johnson scored his next baskets at the end of the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter when the Rockets were putting some distance between themselves and the Jazz.
Coach Mike D’Antoni couldn’t say enough about Johnson, whom he coached for three years in Phoenix from 2002-05.
“He’s a solid, solid pro,” said D’Antoni. "He can play so many multiple positions and he’s been one of the best in the league for a long time. He’s good, so we’re really lucky to have him.”
Although he enjoyed his time in Utah, Johnson is thrilled to be playing for the team with the best record in the NBA.
“It’s been fun — I’m enjoying it,” Johnson said. ”At the end of the day, it’s just basketball for me. I just get a chance to hoop and get a chance to play for something, which is my main focus.”