We might finally be on the verge of Brooklyn Nets forward Cameron Johnson finding his groove with his new team.
“I told him he really won us that game,” teammate Mikal Bridges said about Johnson’s 31-point performance in the Nets’ 123-114 win over the Houston Rockets on March 29 via the YES Network YouTube channel. “That’s what I told him, and I’m happy for him. He deserves it.”
Johnson shot 61.1% from the field and canned 5-of-9 threes adding seven rebounds, five assists, one block, and one steal. It is the second time in the last three games that the 27-year-old forward has knocked down that many shots from beyond the arc and his third time doing so as a Net.
But that’s not what impressed head coach Jacque Vaughn the most.
“We’ve allowed him to shoot the basketball more than he did previously,” Vaughn said via NBA.com, noting Johnson’s new starting role. “He’s handling the basketball in the pick-and-roll. So, really putting more in his hands, and he’s responded.”
Bridges – who had 27 points, six assists, and six rebounds previously said that once Johnson gets rolling, he doesn’t stop after the win over the Miami Heat on March 25.
Johnson proceeded to 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting including 1-for-5 from deep the next game.
This offers a nice bounceback for the 6-foot-8 soon-to-be restricted free agent and a reminder of what Johnson can do.
“NBA, you come in and you do your job,” Johnson said via the YES Network. “And you work on everything. You work on being a well-rounded basketball player. But sometimes your job description on the court might be a little bit different from what you had in high school and college and all that. So it’s things that I consistently work on and try to get better at every day. It’s good to be in positions where I can have the ball in my hands and make decisions and make reads and improve my game.”
For one thing, Johnson had taken at least 15 field goal attempts just eight times in his first three-plus seasons with Phoenix. After this, he has already logged four such outings since arriving in Brooklyn.
Cameron Johnson Emerging as Vocal Leader
“The frustrating thing is just when [shots] don’t go in,” Johnson previously said after the Nets’ loss to the Denver Nuggets on March 19. “It’s life as a basketball player. If it was easy, everybody would be shooting threes and making them. So, you got to weather the storms and continue to shoot.”
He is proof of that having worked his way out of a sub-34% slump over his first 17 games with his new club.
It hasn’t just been the offense either, and Johnson again referenced himself.
“Defense is defense,” Johnson said via the Nets’ official YouTube channel after a loss to the Atlanta Hawks on February 26. “You got to stop the other team. But once we kind of iron out those instances where you’re reacting a quarter of a second later, I think our defense will be a lot sharper. Once that becomes instinct, once we’re planning on that there’s a couple rotations that I know personally over the last five games that I’ve missed just because I’m kind of caught in the middle ground where my mind is reverting back to old habits. But I think it’s getting better.”
He didn’t lose that as he emerged from his poor shooting run, either.
Looking to the Nets’ Future
“That’s part of the beauty of the situation,” he said. These last 20 games or so has given myself, and Mikal, and [Spencer Dinwiddie], and [Dorian Finney-Smith] just a lot of space to grow. We’re figuring out a lot on the fly but I think we’ll be better because of it.”
That growth is only raising the floor of Johnson’s anticipated price tag this offseason when he will be a restricted free agent.
He has already proven willing to bet on himself.
It will be interesting to see just how much he shows, not only the rest of the regular season but also once the postseason begins should they make it out of the Play-In Tournament. To that end, the Nets moved to a 1.5-game lead over the seventh-seeded Miami Heat who lost to the fifth-seeded New York Knicks keeping Brooklyn in place at six.