Joe Johnson scored a bucket for the Boston Celtics Wednesday night. Improbably, that statement is as true today as it was two decades ago, when Johnson dropped in eight points in a road loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, December 26, 2001. Here is a photo from that game, which I feel really hammers home how long Joe Johnson has now been in the NBA:
Johnson joined the Celtics Wednesday afternoon on an emergency hardship-waiver 10-day contract, a response to the COVID-19 outbreak currently ravaging rosters across the NBA. The Celtics have eight rostered players stuck in the league’s health and safety protocols, with backup-backup Enes Kanter Freedom joining the list after playing 12 minutes off the bench against the Cavaliers Wednesday night. Boston still had most of their starting lineup available against the Cavaliers, but head coach Ime Udoka said he liked the idea of fortifying his bench with “more of a steadying presence” since the team is relying on so many of its developmental prospects for real-deal rotation minutes.
Signing 40-year-old Joe Johnson to dispense grizzled wisdoms from the end of the bench is one thing, but getting him into a by-God NBA game is something else altogether. Boston led by as many as 23 points in the second half, but Udoka never felt secure putting Johnson into the game so long as the outcome was even remotely in doubt. It was only in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, with the Celtics up 16 points and the crowd chanting “WE WANT JOE” that Udoka felt comfortable putting old man Johnson onto the floor. It was in Boston’s final possession of the game that Johnson took a handoff from Bruno Fernando, squared up to the hoop, bolted his defender to his hip, and calmly worked his way to the right elbow for a signature pull-up mid-ranger:
Yes! I would like to point out that the last time Joe Johnson scored a hoop for the Boston Celtics, it was at KeyArena, in Seattle, in a game against the Seattle SuperSonics, who became the Oklahoma City Thunder back when several of my Defector colleagues were still in grade school. Earl Watson, whose career as an NBA head coach ended more than four years ago, played 18 minutes off the bench for the Sonics. Gary Payton shot 8-of-18 from the floor. Kenny Anderson finished minus-20 for the Celtics.
This ongoing worldwide omicron outbreak fucking sucks. NBA roster difficulties are the very least of the problem, but televised basketball games might otherwise be exactly the sort of thing you or I would appreciate as a way of taking our minds off of the bigger stuff. That these games are being contested by the likes of Hassani Gravett and Emmanuel Mudiay and (I shit you not) Lance Stephenson makes them essentially meaningless in the broader arc of the NBA regular season, and also screws up the quality of the basketball itself. I, for one, have zero interest in watching an already gruesome and joyless Lakers team led by Isaiah Thomas. Yuck.
However, it must be said that Joe Johnson coming out of nowhere to throw in a sweet bucket in a regular-season basketball game in 2021 forces a smile onto my face. Somebody call up Gerald Wallace. What’s Mehmet Okur up to these days? Let’s just go with it.