It has been quite a year for Spurs third-year forward Keldon Johnson. After the COVID delay pushed the start of the 2020-21 season to just before the turn of the new year, Johnson has experienced the jump from spending most of his rookie season in the G-League to full-time starter in his second — adding his name to the legacy of Spurs 29th overall draft picks — all the way up to making Team USA for the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
After participating with the Select Team, he and Javale McGee got improbable callups at the last minute after Bradley Beal (COVID protocols) and Kevin Love (calf issues) had to drop out at the last minute. Although his selection led to some criticism and was seen as a biased move by the head coach — who just so happens to be his club coach in Gregg Popovich — he was the energy and glue guy for a team that had very little time to pull it all together due to the late finish of the NBA season, and Draymond Green made sure everyone knew it at the time.
Recently, Johnson sat down with Shams Charania of The Athletic to describe the moment he learned he had made the team against all the odds, and how other players like Green and Kevin Durant mentored him and made he sure he knew he belonged there despite what outsiders had to say. (It’s probably safe to say due to their similar styles of play and levels of intensity they bring, Green is a good player comparison for Johnson going forward, minus the occasional shenanigans.)
Spurs forward Keldon Johnson sits down with our NBA Insider @ShamsCharania to discuss the moment he knew he belonged on Team USA, his rise within San Antonio, Cavs' draft night pivot and more. pic.twitter.com/UDe7DbGVeq— Stadium (@Stadium) November 30, 2021
They discussed plenty more as well, including what Johnson wants you to know about him (shocker of the century: he starts with the fact that he’s a funny dude), what it has been like learning from the Big Three (having been coached by Tim Duncan and now having Manu Ginobili back with the organization, the funniest part being sometimes they act as interpreters for Pop when the young players can’t understand his old-school speak), the Spurs culture, the motivation of playing in a contract extension year, and more.
It’s a great look overall into who KJ is as a person, so be sure give the whole thing a watch!