Pacers make surprise signing after altercation with Bucks, social media influence

After the altercations with Giannis Antetokounmpo the Milwaukee Bucks after a loss on Wednesday night, the Indiana Pacers have signed James Johnson.
Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Tyrese Haliburton, James Johnson
Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Tyrese Haliburton, James Johnson / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

The Indiana Pacers have just added another roster member, and the story behind the addition is as funny as it is unbelievable.

On Wednesday, the Pacers lost 126-140 to the Milwaukee Bucks in a game which was dominated by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored a career-high and franchise-record 64 points in the lopsided Milwaukee win. However, what was initially a rough loss for Indiana turned into something much more when a post-game skirmish broke out over the game ball.

To sum it up, Antetokounmpo was angry because he thought the Pacers supposedly stole his 64-point game ball, proceeding to get into an argument with Tyrese Haliburton and Pacers assistant coach Lloyd Pierce.

This was followed by Antetokounmpo and some Bucks teammates storming the Pacers locker room in search of the ball, where several players could be heard clearly arguing over it.

Later on, it was revealed that Indiana never had the game ball in the first place and instead was given a reserve ball to give to Oscar Tshiebwe to celebrate his first career points in garbage time, a tradition that Indiana has done for a while, going back to last season and Gabe York getting the ball for his first points in the NBA.

Following the game, Pacers and Bucks fans took to social media to express each side's displeasure about the situation and even share a few laughs about the whole ordeal.

Some Pacers fans were so annoyed at Antetokounmpo and the Bucks' actions, in fact, that they called for Indiana to get some reinforcements before the two teams meet again on New Year's Day. More specifically, one of the names brought up most of all was journeyman forward James Johnson.

The mention of Johnson was not some random name. It is important to note. Currently 36 years old and going into his 15th season in the league, Johnson has gained a reputation around the league as somewhat of an enforcer, regularly being the first player to get physical on the court and potentially get into fights and skirmishes off it.

In fact, Johnson has been known to be an enthusiast of karate, with him, his parents, and his eight siblings all having earned a black belt of various degrees. Johnson's father, Willie, won 10 national karate titles and five world championships, and his mother, Vi, has captured five national titles.

With all this said, it's pretty safe to say that Johnson's nickname of 'Bloodsport' does not come without reason, as even at his old age, and with his production diminishing and his minutes decreasing, his reputation as a known tough guy around the league has never wavered, with his appearances for Indiana in the 2022-23 season being no exception.

In just 18 games last season, logging only nine minutes a game, Johnson didn't produce much for Indiana, only averaging 2.8 points per game and playing in mostly garbage time outside of one start where he only played 13 minutes and didn't score.

However, this did nothing to discount his tough guy label around the league, as opposing players were still wary of getting too comfortable around Indiana with the 6-foot-7, 240-pound tough guy on the bench, ready to go at all times.

With this recent stint in mind, Pacers fans called on the front office to give Johnson another go, as the team could use some enforcers to protect Tyrese Haliburton and company. With an average age of just under 25 years old and their oldest veteran at the time being 6-foot-1 190-pound TJ McConnell, Indiana was severely lacking in the bruisers department.

Even Myles Turner, who stands 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds, is not exactly a bruiser down low, with the majority of his work being done in the faceup position or driving to the rim.

That being said, the calls for Johnson got louder and louder by Pacers fans, with KJ Pritchard, son of Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard, even texting his father to let him know that Johnson would be a wise addition to the team going forward.

Sure enough, roughly 12 hours after Pritchard made this text to his father, the deal was done. Reporting on social media, Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed that Indiana had signed Johnson to a one-year deal for the remainder of the season, with the accepted conclusion being that he would not see much playing time outside of garbage time and provide reinforcements for potential skirmishes, such as the one on Wednesday.

The signing of James Johnson just goes to show how much social media can influence a team's decisions. Indiana felt undermanned to handle a player like Antetokounmpo in the post-game skirmish, and with two more matches against the Bucks coming up on January 1 and 3, the Pacers decided to make a business decision and hire a player strictly for the reason of enforcing and keeping opposing teams in check.

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It is doubtful that Johnson will play any meaningful basketball for the Pacers, as he is 36 years old and the team is fully committed to building a young core, but his mere presence is a positive for the younger players and the team as a whole. Every team needs an enforcer, and having a 6-foot-7, 240-pound madman who's also a black belt in karate lurking on the bench can't be anything more than a positive.

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