PORTLAND, Ore. – For Amir Johnson, it’s all about maintaining a level of professionalism.
The 31-year-old made his second straight of the season in Sunday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers due to Joel Embiid being sidelined with left knee soreness. Embiid, an All-Star center, is listed as day-to-day.
But aside from starting in the games Embiid didn’t play, Johnson has a reduced role from last season. And he didn’t re-sign with the Sixers this summer to watch from the bench. The reserve center lost around 20 pounds in the offseason in an attempt to be more mobile in the team’s uptempo style.
He was also determined to provide a solid defensive presence as a role-playing backup for Embiid.
However, that hasn’t been the case.
The 14th-year veteran was averaging a career-low 9.3 minutes per game heading into Sunday night’s game at the Moda Center. Johnson had four games where he did not play due to coach’s decision. And he only played the final 1 minute, 58 seconds of mop-up duty in Thursday’s 114-97 blowout victory over the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City.
The 3.6 points he was averaging prior to Sunday night’s game is his lowest in 10 seasons. And his 2.4 rebounds is his lowest in 13 seasons.
But Johnson continues to display a good attitude, continues to work hard at practice, and is encouraging to teammates.
“That’s why a lot of guys you see don’t make it,” he said of players becoming frustrated with their roles. “I could easily blow up, get frustrated, and have an attitude. But I wouldn’t be a pro. I wouldn’t be professional, especially, I wouldn’t be myself.”
Johnson always keeps his path to the NBA and the amount of work he put in to remain in the league in the back of his mind.
On June 28, 2005, he became the last high school player selected in an NBA draft, when the Detroit Pistons selected him with the 56th overall pick in the second round. As a frail 6-foot-10, 205-pound 18-year-old rookie, he used to be battered and bruised at practice by former Pistons teammate Rasheed Wallace.
Like most players, Johnson would go on to experience his share of ups and downs throughout his career. But he always remained humbled.
That’s why Johnson continues to stay ready for the next opportunity while always being the professional.
“You probably get anybody out of the street that gets frustrated and probably ending up losing his career knowing he’s getting benched or not getting playing time,” Johnson said. “That separates us from other Joes.”
Mr. 24 and 10
Embiid has 24 games in which he finished with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. He leads the NBA in that category.
New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis was second on the list with 22 games.