Joe Johnson, 40, Shatters NBA Record in Return to Court With Boston Celtics
Johnson was drafted by the Celtics in 2001 at No. 10 overall and then traded away months later
The last time Joe Johnson played a home game for the Celtics prior to last night, NBA rookies including Joshua Primo of the San Antonio Spurs, Josh Giddey of the Oklahoma City Thunder and JT Thor of the Charlotte Hornets hadn’t been born yet.
None of them took the floor on Wednesday evening in Boston against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Johnson did after being summoned off the bench with 1:57 left to help close out a win for the Celtics. Johnson, who was drafted by the Celtics in 2001 at No. 10 overall and then traded away months later during his rookie season, entered the game at TD Garden to chants of “We Want Joe!” and scored the final points of Boston’s 111-101 victory by burying an isolation jumper over Cavaliers forward Justin Anderson.
Known as “Iso Joe” for his ability to create his own shot and score, 40-year-old Johnson set a new record for time between games with the same team, as his 19 years, 308 days between appearances with the C’s shatters the previous record of 14 years, 331 days, that was set by Los Angeles Lakers center James Edwards.
Signed to a 10-day contract by the shorthanded Celtics as a short-term replacement for players who are ineligible to play due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Johnson is one of a growing number of “Omicron All-Stars” who are starting to filter into the NBA.
“The minimum deal for less than two weeks of work in the NBA is $53,000,” per The Wall Street Journal. “The dozens of players who have signed with teams over the past week include recognizable names who tested negative for Covid and then banked the basketball equivalent of a Christmas bonus. There are even some former stars earning as much as $150,000 in 10 days.”
It’s unclear if Johnson, who hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since playing a few minutes in Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference finals for the Houston Rockets, is making quite that much, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the seven-time All-Star is commanding a heftier salary than a G-League call-up.
Even if Johnson doesn’t check into another game, just having him around could help a Celtics team that has a roster filled with young rotation players like Payton Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford who could benefit from being around a veteran player who averaged 16 points, four rebounds and four assists in his career.
“It is kind of surreal, to have them chanting my name like that, and obviously come out and us get the win first and foremost, but to come in the game and be somewhat effective, that’s fun,” Johnson said after Wednesday’s game. “At my age, man, you just try to relish every moment, enjoy the process and live in the moment. That’s kind of what I’m doing right now, just living in the moment. And it’s fun.”
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