Ivan Johnson nearly sparked the Atlanta Hawks to a triple-overtime victory over the Miami Heat on Thursday night in the first of two games being broadcast nationally by TNT as he trended on Twitter for most of the night. Following his gritty performance off of the bench for Atlanta, though, one question remained: Who is Ivan Johnson?
Great question, class, and one I would like to answer in the following paragraphs.
Johnson has toiled overseas and in the NBA Development League, playing everywhere from Korea to Anaheim, before getting his shot with the Hawks following an impressive performance in camp after last year's standout year with the Erie BayHawks in the D-League. The road hasn't been easy for Johnson, though.
The Cal State San Bernardino product player college basketball at four different schools including the University of Oregon, Los Angeles Southwest Junior College and Cisco Junior College in Texas. The Texas native actually committed to Cincinnati at one point, too, but switched after a coaching change left him uncomfortable with his surroundings before he ever played a game.
Following his whirlwind college career, Johnson decided to give it a go in the D-League where he's played for the Anaheim Arsenal, Rio Grande Valley Vipers and then, after a little while in Korea, the aforementioned BayHawks. He's never failed to put up impressive numbers in the D-League with career averages of 18.4 points and 7.3 rebounds in 94 games, but his lack of height and a bit of an attitude problem have seemingly prevented him from getting more than a glance prior to this season.
Looking at Johnson (and his beard that is eerily reminiscent of Freeway's), one might conclude that he's probably got a bit of a temper -- and those people would be right. The best supporting evidence for that would be thet he was benched a game in the D-League last year for receiving too many technical fouls and has a lifetime ban being held against him in Korea for flipping off an official. Johnson vowed to change that in an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution earlier this week, however.
"That's just my emotions for the game," Johnson said. "If I feel I'm being cheated, my emotions, they go crazy sometimes. That's what I've been working on. I try to keep my cool. As long as I keep my cool, I'm good."
He was able to keep his cool on Thursday night as he contributed 13 points and four rebounds before fouling out with a +17 attached to his name in the +/- column. Johnson also caught the eye of his head coach, Larry Drew, as well as TNT analyst Charles Barkley: