The Indiana Pacers have been better than many expected this season. With how great Tyrese Haliburton was, lots of people expected them to take a leap, but no one thought they would be the best offense in basketball.
And while the team has dealt with just as many downs as they have ups, they’re currently in the hunt for a playoff spot in a tightly-contested Eastern Conference.
Their defense has been terrible, and that’s caused some issues, but they’ve been able to overcome it with a high-powered offense, and it’s led to some fun battles.
Most notably, they’ve formed a rivalry with the Milwaukee Bucks, a fellow Central Division squad, and, in the process, they brought James Johnson back into the fold.
Ahead of the Pacers’ tilt against the Bucks on Wednesday, head coach Rick Carlisle spoke highly of Johnson, praising his veteran leadership. (Via Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star)
"He just has great wisdom. ... He's seen it all,” Carlisle said.
Johnson was on the Pacers last year, acting as a veteran presence off the pine. He didn’t play in many games, but he has plenty of experience in the league, as noted by Carlisle.
This season marks Johnson’s 15th in the NBA. He’s spent time with 10 teams throughout the course of his career but is best known for his time with the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors. Johnson spent four seasons with each of those teams, the most he spent with any squad.
However, it’s not Johnson’s career history that makes his signing so hilarious. It’s the timing.
The Pacers brought Johnson back into the fold the day after the incident with Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks star wanted the game ball after setting the franchise record in points, got in a scuffle with Haliburton, and charged into Indiana’s tunnel.
The next day, the Pacers brought in Johnson, who is widely regarded as one of the toughest players in the NBA. It was a funny move from the Pacers, as everyone knew their line of thinking.
Now, Johnson is on the bench helping lead the way for the Pacers behind the scenes, and if they ever get into an issue with Antetokounnmpo or anyone else again, he’ll definitely be ready to step in.