James Johnson was back at practice on Tuesday after last being with the Dallas Mavericks during their March 11 game at Oklahoma City.
A 12-year veteran forward, Johnson missed the past five games due to a combination of health and safety protocols and after traveling home to Wyoming for personal reasons.
“I’m definitely good,” Johnson said after Tuesday’s practice session in Minneapolis. “It wasn’t me.
“It was a family emergency. Something deep in my family I had to show up for bigger than basketball.”
Johnson missed the Mavs’ March 13 game at Denver and the March 15 home game against the Los Angeles Clippers for personal reasons. He also sat out the March 17 home game against the Clippers and road games at Portland on March 19 and 21 due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
So, what was it like for Johnson to be away from the Mavs for 11 days?
“It’s just the normal struggles you go through without playing, without being with your guys,” he said. “Not being at practices, not getting better with them.
“We don’t get that much chemistry going on throughout this Covid thing, and how we have to be separated a lot. The times that we can get it are at practice and on the road, and I miss that.”
The Mavs were 3-2 while Johnson was away. That includes wins over Denver (116-103), the Clippers (105-89) and Portland (132-92), and losses to the Clippers (109-99) and Portland (125-119).
As far as gauging his frustration level while not being around his teammates and coaches, Johnson said: “It’s not as frustrating as you think. You continue to work out. Luckily we been having great runs.
“Luka (Doncic), Maxi (Kleber), KP (Kristaps Porzingis), J-Rich (Josh Richardson), Doe (Dorian Finney-Smith), they’ve been playing outstanding basketball. They’ve been playing great basketball, team basketball, and when you’re watching games like that it makes it way easier being at home.”
In 29 games this season, Johnson has averaged 5.7 points and three rebounds in 17.4 minutes. He also has brought a much-needed physical presence to the Mavs, who’ll finish this three-game road trip on Wednesday at 7 p.m. against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who own the NBA’s worst record at 10-33.
With the NBA trade deadline coming Thursday, Johnson was asked if he had some sage advice for any of his teammates during what could be an anxious moment in their basketball career.
“If they ever have a question in our locker room, especially the young guys, they can always come up to me,” Johnson said. “(Being traded) is part of the business. You work hard on your game, and it’s not for everybody.
“Every team you get on, every situation you get on may not be the situation for you, so you continue to work. You’re on an interview every time that you get minutes on the court, so you’ve got to do your job as hard as you can and the best as you can when you get your minutes.”