DALLAS — With two years of NBA experience already on his resume, big man Ivan Johnson will enter the Dallas Mavericks’ training camp later this month with no guarantees and a chip on his broad shoulders.
Known for his tenacious presence in the interior, Johnson will try to earn a spot on the regular-season roster by impressing the Mavericks’ brass in camp after signing a reported non-guaranteed contract with the team this summer. The 6-foot-8, 255-pounder will also attempt to show that he can expand his game after working tirelessly with Mavs coach Rick Carlisle to stretch his shooting range to behind the three-point arc.
“You know, I like Ivan’s game. I’ve liked it for a long time,” Carlisle said after working with Johnson this summer. “I think there’s a couple of things that he can do to enhance his value, both to us and in the league, and so we’re spending some time on those things. But he’s got a great opportunity in this camp to show what he can do, and again, we have some roster spots that are up for grabs and he’ll be one of the guys that’s got an opportunity.”
Johnson started all five games for the Mavericks at the Las Vegas Summer League back in July, averaging 7.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 20.8 minutes an outing. He spent the 2013-14 season playing for the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls in China, where he averaged 26.0 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.9 steals in 24 games.
Working his way through the professional ranks after finishing up his collegiate career at Cal State San Bernardino in ’07, Johnson began his NBA journey in the Development League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and Anaheim Aresenal. He then signed with the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 9, 2011, appearing in 56 games during the lockout-shortened ’11-12 campaign while averaging 6.4 points and 4.0 rebounds. Johnson was also named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for April that year, finishing the season ranked third among all first-year players in field-goal percentage.
All told, the San Antonio native played 125 games with the Hawks while averaging 6.5 points and 3.9 rebounds over two seasons. Now, Johnson hopes to resurrect his NBA career in Dallas, looking to work his way into Carlisle’s rotation along the front line this upcoming season.
But, even while trying to expand his offensive game, Johnson admits that it will be his defensive prowess that will help him make the team. And with defense as his calling card, Johnson can already envision himself in a Mavericks uniform.
“One of my main assets is defense,” Johnson confidently proclaimed after joining the Mavs’ summer-league squad. “That’s what I like to do. I mean, I can score and all that, but defense wins games and that’s what I’m going to bring every game. I’m very determined. I’m here. … I want to be in the NBA. That was my dream in the beginning and that’s what it still is.”