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Alize Johnson is a workhorse, and on a championship contender, you can’t have too many.
For that reason, and that reason alone, the Nets should guarantee his contract for the remainder of the season. Even if it means they can’t add depth at the point guard position.
Johnson, a 24-year-old forward who earned G-League honors earlier this season, holds one of the most valuable roster spots in all of basketball. The grit and energy he’s brought to the floor has earned him a second consecutive 10-day contract with the Nets. NBA rules, however, prohibit a third.
That means on a loaded Nets team with stars at every position, especially Johnson’s, the G-League call-up holds Brooklyn’s final fluid roster spot. Johnson’s deal expires on Sunday at midnight. Either the Nets will guarantee his contract for the remainder of the season, or he’ll return to the free agency streets from which he emerged.
The latter would not be a long trip: Other teams are monitoring Johnson’s situation, and the Nets don’t want to let him go. It’s no surprise: Johnson adds to general manager Sean Marks’ track record of finding needles in NBA haystacks. Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, D’Angelo Russell and Jarrett Allen each became local household names thanks to Marks providing an opportunity, not to mention second-year forward Nic Claxton, a second-round pick who has been playing key minutes on a presumptive championship contender.
As has Johnson, who has impressed teammates and coaches alike, in his minimal time in Brooklyn.
“I think we’re pretty comfortable in what we have with Alize. He’s been outstanding, works hard, plays with incredible energy, he’s a great teammate,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “So he’s been really productive in the minutes he’s gotten so we feel confident in him as a player.”
It’s almost a no-brainer. Every team needs an energy guy. Championship contenders need more than one. Bruce Brown has given the Nets a jolt since he started getting regular minutes. Tyler Johnson has also been a spark, but he’s out two-to-three weeks with a right knee injury.
The Nets brought Iman Shumpert in earlier this season, but an injury kept him off the floor, and the Nets ultimately opted against re-signing him for the season. They also opted against retaining Andre Roberson, a defensive-minded wing who couldn’t generate any offense.
Yet entering Wednesday’s matchup against the Pelicans — also known as Kevin Durant’s return from a hamstring injury that cost him 23 games — Johnson has made an impact on every end of the floor. He is averaging nine points and seven rebounds in just 14 minutes per game. The Nets are outscoring opponents by 27 points per 100 possessions in his time on the floor over their last three games. Joe Harris specifically credited Johnson and his hunger for bringing energy off the bench in the Nets’ Monday win over the Knicks.
“Yeah definitely. From the moment that he got here, that’s how he’s been,” Harris said. “Even in his practice sessions, he doesn’t back down from anybody, is ultra aggressive on both ends of the court, and I’m glad that he got an opportunity tonight.”
Johnson has seized every opportunity he’s been given. In his first game with the Nets, he put up 23 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and two steals against the Jazz — in a game without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving or James Harden. His next act turned the tide against a cross-bridge rival, and future acts could help the Nets win far more important games.
“He’s a great kid. We love having him in our clubhouse,” said Nash. “We love when he gets a chance to play and think he’s a player that can help us.”