Are you looking for a new favorite NBA player? Or perhaps you are looking for a bouncer for your upcoming birthday party? Either way, you’re in luck because Ivan Johnson can easily fill both roles if you need him to.
Today we have the sixth installment of the 2012-2013 Atlanta Hawks player profiles, and up next to be profiled (probably not the first time that has happened) is ‘Ivan The Terrible’.
Johnson is entering his second season in the league after having a very strong (and entertaining) rookie season for the Hawks last year. While his overall numbers from last season may not stand out: 6.4 points and 4 rebounds per game, Johnson’s physical play and attitude brought a toughness to the team which they had been sorely missing. Johnson proved countless times throughout the season that he wouldn’t back down from anybody on the court, in the stands, or on his bench (I’ll discuss the latter two in a bit).
Despite seeing his playing time fluctuate and never knowing whether he would see the court on a given night, Johnson saw his minutes and production reach their peak in the final month of the season (24 MPG, 10.7 PPG and 5.9 RPG in 11 April games). The year wasn’t free of incident for Johnson though, as in addition the three double-doubles he recorded, he also tallied three technical fouls, two fines and one all-expense paid team suspension.
Some players can do it all, shoot, drive, pass, defend, and rebound. But very rarely does a player like Ivan Johnson come around who can do all of those things AS WELL AS flick off fans ($25,000 fine for flipping off a Boston Celtics fan following the Hawks playoff elimination), maintain his seat on the bench when rookie-prejudice occurs ($25,000 fine by team and sent home for refusing to give up seat on bench to a ‘veteran’) and make sure that his diamond grill stays clean during games (who says mouthguards can’t be stylish?).
High Point Of The 2011-2012 Season- It didn’t take Johnson long to show why he made Atlanta’s final roster despite his troubled past. In the ninth game of his NBA career, Johnson recorded his first career double-double and helped the Hawks erase an 18-point deficit against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Johnson had seen DNP-CDs in four of the team’s first 13 games, but didn’t let the lack of playing time slow him down at all.
In a game that saw the Hawks getting manhandled inside by Kevin Love, Johnson came in and protected the paint with a sense of urgency. In 25 minutes he recorded 10 points and 11 rebounds, and the team was +19 with him on the court. Johnson also grabbed an offensive rebound with 5 seconds left in the tie game and hit both free throws to give the Hawks the win. In case the game-winning free throws, handful of hustle plays, and desire to win weren’t enough, Johnson also gave a gem of an interview when it was all over.
After the game when Johnson asked why he wasn’t scared of matching up against the all-star Love, he may have given the quote of the year, saying,
‘My thing is, I don’t really watch basketball so I don’t know who anybody is. So when I match up against them, they’re a regular player. I know the major players like LeBron, Kobe, Wade, but all the extra ones I don’t know. Even if I did know ‘em, I’m not gonna be afraid, we’re playing basketball.’
In a country suffering from a lack of straightforwardness and truth (see the Presidential Debates), Ivan Johnson is a glimmer of hope. Alright, alright, maybe that glimmer is coming from his diamond grill, but you get the point.
Low Point Of The 2011-2012 Season- Most rookies are eager to get off the bench, but not if it is jut to give up your seat to another player. That is exactly what was expected of Johnson last season during a game against the Orlando Magic. Because he was a rookie, he was expected to give up his spot on the bench so a more senior player could sit, but Ivan was having none of that. As a result of not giving up his seat though, Johnson was suspended for one game and fined $25,000.
It seems as though he was able to use the incident as motivation, as he scored in double-digits in the three games directly following his return, including a career-high 21 against the Toronto Raptors on April 16th (a game which definitely contributed to his April Rookie of the Month resume).
3 Reasons Why Hawks Fans Should Be Happy-
1. When Ivan Johnson flicked off the Celtics fan after the loss last year, he was actually telling the Celtics how every single Hawks fan felt at that moment. It takes a great man to represent the feelings of an entire city in a speech, Ivan Johnson is an Atlanta hero for being able to do it silently.
2. In a league full of players who are known as overpaid and under-motivated, Johnson is the exact opposite. Despite making the league-minimum last season (approximately $473,000), Johnson didn’t mind losing more than 10% of his total salary (before taxes) in fines. This season Johnson will see his salary double to nearly $1 million. Hopefully knowing that he has this extra money to pay fines with Johnson can continue acting as the Hawks spokesman. Some possible (non-violent) expressions of anger could include biting his thumb at David Stern, handing out LensCrafters gift cards to referees, and rolling out a wheelchair for Paul Pierce after a flop (one of the many). The possibilities are endless (or until he runs out of money to pay the fines).
3. For the last couple years, every other comment from sportscasters about the Hawks had something to do with “Johnson sure is overpaid”. That is no longer the case however, as Joe Johnson is in Brooklyn, and the Hawks were able to hold onto Ivan at a very reasonable price. Now if Charles Barkley ever has anything to say about how “turrible” the Hawks are, it better be about “Ivan the Turrible”.
Strengths- Johnson possesses exceptional middle finger strength, and he is able to get his finger up even in tough coverage. He is a very strong rebounder, and is aggressive on both sides of the ball. He also has a very quick hands and isn’t afraid to initiate contact (or inflict pain). He has a solid mid-range jumper and quick feet for his size. He has a very dangerous death stare which may increase the frequency that the floor needs to be wiped down, as accidental urination from opposing players is possible.
Weaknesses- His other fingers lack the strength which his middle finger possesses. Very rarely seen giving thumbs up, may need to work on versatility with hand motions. He also needs to work on his anger management in order to be a more consistent contributor.
2012-13 Season Outlook- Johnson proved last season that he could contribute off the bench as long as he stayed focused. While the team suspension was a minor setback last year, he will have to avoid that type of altercation with the team last season. The Hawks once again look as though they will need all the size they can get, and it will be interesting to see which lineups that Larry Drew experiments with early on. Either way, expect Johnson to play a big role as an intimidating big-man off the bench this season. A lineup of Devin Harris, Lou Williams, DeShawn Stevenson, Johnson and Zaza Pachulia would be very physical and definitely one of the more exciting bench groups in the NBA. Johnson’s ability to play solid defense and knock down the open shot should definitely give him an advantage over the rest of the bench bigs. Johnson will need to be careful to stay out of the doghouse however, as both Mike Scott and Anthony Tolliver could step in and try to fill his role if Drew isn’t happy with Ivan’s attitude or production.
2012-13 Projected Role- One of the first big men off the bench, and definite go-to power forward for energy, defense, and tag-team battles.
2012-13 Projected Stats- An increase in playing time should result in a slight bump in nearly every category (besides suspensions, hopefully). Also an extreme increase in “That’s why I love Ivan Johnson” moments for fans.
Stay on the lookout for the rest of the 2012-13 Atlanta Hawks player profiles, as I will continue to go down the depth chart one by one until every player has been profiled. Below is my projected depth chart, though what the Hawks decide to do is anyone’s guess currently.
PG- Jeff Teague / Devin Harris
SG- Anthony Morrow / Louis Williams / John Jenkins
SF- Josh Smith / Kyle Korver / DeShawn Stevenson
PF- Al Horford / Ivan Johnson / Mike Scott
C- Zaza Pachulia / Johan Petro / Jordan Williams (Waived)
Up next is Devin Harris.