Hope you had a good holiday, blog people. The Hawks were back in action today after a break and that means I am, too . . .
Today was the first time I got to ask Larry Drew about the decision to waive Keith Benson, the team’s only draft pick in June.
“It really came down to the progress of Ivan Johnson,” Drew said. “To be perfectly honest, we didn’t know he would come on the way he did. He’s had, not a good training camp, he’s had a phenomenal training camp. His motor is something you can’t teach and he brings that motor every practice. You guys see the way he plays in games. He just plays hard and there’s not enough guys like that.”
Johnson, 27, said he wasn’t sure he’d ever make the league but, before his mother died in 2007, he promised her he would keep trying.
“As you get older your dream starts to fade after a while,” he said. “You have just got to keep pushing, man. That’s what I kept doing.”
Fans at Atlanta’s exhibition game against Charlotte Thursday seemed to take a liking to Johnson. He also was a popular topic of discussion among my Twitter followers and my blog people.
Johnson said he wasn’t aware of the support from fans but appreciates that they like his high-energy style.
“That’s how you’ve got to be,” he said. “I’m an old rookie. Being 27, I’ve got to put in a lot of work.”
Johnson is an intimidating dude–the joke among Hawks staff was who would tell Johnson he was cut if the day came. He’s built like a linebacker and always seems to look angry. One day in practice Johnson came barreling down the lane with the ball and Tracy McGrady wisely stepped aside.
“Ain’t no [bleeping] way I’m getting in front of him,” T-Mac said.
Johnson said he’s not as mean as he looks (”I’m really a nice, cool dude”) but his temper had hurt his chances of getting an NBA shot after he had good production in the D-League.
Johnson was banned by the Korean Basketball League last year after what an official described as “a record of frequent misconducts” culminating with an obscene gesture at a game official. Johnson also was reportedly run off from Oregon for “anger management” issues and last season was benched by the Erie BayHawks after earning too many technical fouls.
“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.”
Obviously there won’t be much tolerance for such antics from a back-of-the-rotation guy for the Hawks. Johnson said he’s motivated to stay level-headed because he has a baby due in March.
“I have been working so hard to get here over the years,” he said. “Now that I’m here, ain’t no messing it up.”
Drew said the Hawks checked into Johnson’s background before signing him and are satisfied he won’t be a problem.
“He’s moved on and we feel good about moving on as well,” Drew said.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat