Keeping Up With The Johnson's

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Two Johnson's may become available in the expansion draft, and in our continuing look at potential players available to Charlotte, we examine these neighbors for potential value. They are point guard Anthony Johnson of the Indiana Pacers and Ervin Johnson of the Minnesota Timberwolves: both players with major minutes for championship-contending teams still in the playoffs.

Anthony Johnsonwas, for several years, a backup to All-World point guard Jason Kidd, then last season he got released by New Jersey. Indiana picked him up as a free agent during the offseason and he went on to play more minutes this season than in any of his seven years in the league except his rookie campaign. His rookie year 1997-1998 in Sacramento was extraordinary: he started 62 games and played in 77, dishing out 4.3 assists and scoring 7.5 points in just under 30 minutes a game. That was his best year. Even this last season fell short of his initial outing, as he started just seven games while playing 73. He averaged 6.2 points and 2.8 assists. His best feature may be his contract: he has a player option for this season to become a free agent. If he doesn't exercise it, he will make a little under $1mm. It is not every day you can pick up a veteran point guard on a championship-contending team for under $1 million and know that, worst case, it'll come off your books next offseason. Given the Bobcats' interest in Shaun Livingston, it might make sense for their high school star to learn from the man who learned from the best, because Jason Kidd is not available to tutor, but Anthony Johnson is.

Ervin Johnsonis the starting center for the Timberwolves, edging out Michael Olowokandi for the spot. Though Johnson was brought in to be a relief for Olowokandi, and it was expected Olowokandi would rise to the occasion, free of the grips of the Clippers, and become a superstar. It hasn't happened, and the solid work of Ervin Johnson has given him starter minutes. Johnson is a team player who does whatever is asked of him. He doesn't demand the ball on offense, nor does he hold on to it for too long, nor does he whine when he's overlooked. He plays defense, he rebounds, and he sets picks. He's a great team player. He has had a steady but unspectacular career, averaging 4.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game over his 11 seasons in the league with four teams. He also averaged just 20 minutes per game. He would be a great backup to anybody in the league: for proof of that look no farther than Minnesota where he is starting on a championship-contending team. He has started more games this year for Minnesota than he did for the last three years in Milwaukee. Ervin's contract expires next offseason. He is much pricier than the other Johnson: he will be earning just under $5 million next season.

So those are the two Johnson neighbors that the Bobcats will want to keep their eye out for.

The Bobcats schedule will be announced in late July.

172 days until opening night.


Tom FitzGerald ofThe San Francisco Chronicle writes: Jorge de Cespedes told the Miami Herald why he became a co-owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, an NBA expansion team: "I figured this was the only way a 250-pound, 5-foot-10 Cuban point guard was going to get into the NBA.''

Tom Sorensen ofThe Charlotte Observer writes:And how do the Charlotte Bobcats say no when it's their turn to help Charlotte land the ACC basketball tournament?

Rick Bonnell ofThe Charlotte Observer writes: Avery Johnson and Sam Mitchell are prime candidates to be Bernie Bickerstaff's lead assistant coach with the Charlotte Bobcats, Bickerstaff confirmed Thursday.Johnson played 16 seasons as an NBA point guard, the most recent with the Golden State Warriors. Mitchell has been an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks the past two seasons, following a 13-year NBA career. 

John Brumbagh ofThe IllinoisInsider writes:When it comes to the NBA Draft, Deng is not expected to fall past the third spot in the draft, with Livingston not expected to fall past the fourth spot of the Charlotte Bobcats, who have reportedly fallen in love with the high school sensation from Peoria.