San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson never expected to be in this position. Just two years after being the No. 29 overall pick in the NBA draft, Johnson will play for Team USA in the Olympics.
It took quite a bit for Johnson to reach that point. Johnson was initially named to the U.S. select team — which plays and practices against Team USA. With Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton unable to join Team USA due to the NBA Finals, Johnson saw time in two exhibition games.
His official promotion to the final Team USA squad came Friday. Johnson was promoted after Bradley Beal was ruled out of the event due to COVID-19 protocol.
The news came as a happy surprise to Johnson, who said he was "lost for words" when Jerry Colangelo informed Johnson he made the team. Johnson's mother Rochelle enjoyed the news even more, crying when Johnson told her, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic.
Johnson said he has several close family members and friends who have served or are serving in the U.S. military. When he told his parents, Rochelle and Chris Johnson, about being an Olympian, “my mom cried, my dad was choking up a little bit, everybody was like, because you know you pray for moments like this … it was a special moment.”
Johnson also relayed a humorous story about Gregg Popovich trying to tell Johnson he made the team. Johnson had no idea what Popovich was talking about since Johnson doesn't have accounts on social media.
Keldon Johnson looking to make his mark at Olympics
Johnson has made progress in the NBA since being drafted in 2019. After playing in just 17 games and averaging 9.1 points as a rookie, Johnson started 67 games for the Spurs last season, averaging 12.8 points and adding 6 rebounds per game.
The Tokyo Olympics will give Johnson a chance to make a name for himself on a global level, and put him in close contact with some of the best talent in the NBA. Johnson has already credited Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Zach LaVine for working with him during practices.
If he can pick up some tips from them, it could go a long way toward Johnson elevating his game in both the Olympics and in his third season with the Spurs.
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