August 28, 2019
The Sixers will bring in NBA veteran and current "BIG3" league player Joe Johnson in for a workout Thursday, a team source confirmed to PhillyVoice on Wednesday evening. Marc Spears of The Undefeated first reported the news on Wednesday.
Johnson has asserted himself at the top of the pecking order in Ice Cube's BIG3 league this summer, leading the league in points, assists, and four-pointers (yes, those exist in that league), while also ranking in the top three in rebounds, steals, and three-pointers made. Whether that means anything is up for you and the Sixers to decide, but at the very least he has shown his basketball life is not over just yet.
Often referred to as "ISO Joe" for his ability (and willingness) to break down opponents in one-on-one battles, Johnson played 17 seasons in the NBA starting all the way back in 2001, playing a pivotal role in the early iterations of the Seven Seconds or Less Suns. He appeared in six straight All-Star games as a member of the Atlanta Hawks in the mid-2000s, and though the league has shifted away from the iso-heavy style that he specialized in, the need for offense off of the bench allowed him to feature prominently in the league for a long time.
As for why he's relevant to the Sixers, Johnson was an above-average shooter for the vast majority of his career, including a standout mark of 47.8 percent from deep all the way back in 04-05 in Steve Nash's first MVP season. He had a nice spell as a bench piece for Utah as recently as 2016-17, including a 28-point explosion in round one of the playoffs against the Clippers. Even if he settled in around his career-mark of 37.1 percent from deep, he could theoretically give the end of the Sixers' bench a lift, and playing with a pass-first point like Ben Simmons might help him rekindle his old shooting touch.
Whether any of that is relevant in 2019, though, is another story. Johnson's legs obviously aren't what they used to be at 38, and as Sixers fans saw with Marco Belinelli during the home stretch of the 2017-18 season, plus-shooting may not mean much if you're getting torched on the other end of the floor. And Johnson didn't exactly blow anyone away during his last season in the league, or he wouldn't be setting up shop in the BIG3 league to begin with.
Even with that caveat, the state of Philadelphia's bench makes giving Johnson a look worth a shot. They'll be relying on a lot of young and/or unproven players to provide shooting off of the bench, and at the very least the Sixers will be able to bring Johnson in to touch base and see what he has. Odds are they go into the season with the 15-man group they have now, but their needs will become a little clearer as they see what this new group looks like in practice.
And hey, it'll be an opportunity for a couple members of the bronze-medal winning 2006 FIBA World Championship team to catch up.
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