It didn’t take long for Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams to give his insights on Dallas Mavericks forward James Johnson.

“My thought on James is I never want to be in a disagreement with him, unless he’s messing with my family,” Williams said with tongue planted firmly in cheek. “But I Iove his physicality, and I don’t mean that in a fighting (manner).”

Williams, of course, was referring to the black belt in karate that Johnson owns. It’s almost as if someone sent out a chain letter stating Johnson’s off the court accomplishments, because the person being interviewed is always aware of his talents as a karate aficionado.

Williams, however, knows Johnson is much more than a person with a 2o-0 record as a mixed martial arts performer.

“I think he brings a playoff mentality to a team,” Williams said. “I’ve watched him for years because he was pretty close to a guy that I coached in New Orleans – Al Farouq Aminu. Those two were tied together in my mind.

“He’s a better playmaker than people give him credit. And he just has the toughness that you would want on the team.”

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle acknowledged there are “a lot of positives” when it comes to explaining what Johnson means to his team.

“He’s a very unique player,” Carlisle said. “He plays point power forward for us a lot of the time very effectively. He’s really working on his shooting, and I think his shooting is getting better and better.”

Johnson is averaging 7.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 20.5 minutes, and is shooting 49.6 percent from the field. He also gives the Mavs a level of physicality they haven’t had in recent years.

“With what we’ve gone through, he’s been there for us,” Carlisle said. “He’s helped us win some games that I don’t think we would have won had he not been available.

“Overall, the acquisition of him has been very positive for our group.”

The Mavs acquired Johnson on Nov. 27 in a three-team trade that involved the Oklahoma City Thunder and Detroit Pistons. While extolling the virtues of Johnson’s versality and ability to put the ball on the floor and pass it, Williams knows exactly why the Mavs acquired the 6-7, 240-pounder, who was the No. 16 overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft out of Wake Forest.

“When they signed or traded for him, I understood right away what they were doing,” Williams said. “They were bringing in a tough-minded physical player, but he’s also more versatile than most tough guys like that are.

“So when I look at him I think he’s a guy that you have to account for. He’s not out there just hitting people. He’s out there using his skills to make other guys better.”

Briefly: Forward Maxi Kleber will play his first game on Monday since a 112-98 victory over the Orlando Magic on Jan. 9. Kleber has missed the past 11 games due to health and safety protocols. His return means this will be the first game this season where the Mavs will have their full roster. . .The Mavs just went through a period where they played five games in seven days and followed that up by playing four games in six days. That means very little time to practice. And for the Mavs, that made things tough, because they also went through a period where Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Richardson, Jalen Brunson, Dwight Powell and Kleber were out because of health and safety protocols during that period. “We’re pros,” forward Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “We still have to go out there and compete and get after it and knock down our shots when we’re open.”. .Suns point guard Chris Paul took over Saturday’s contest late in the game, leading Phoenix to a 111-105 victory over Dallas. The Mavs hope to prevent that from happening on Monday when the two clubs meet again at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Coach Rick Carlisle said: ”We have to look at it and see if there’s some things we can adjust or that we need to adjust.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

Share and comment

More Mavs News