Cameron Johnson

Atlantic Notes: Bridges, Simmons, Powell, Uzoh

Mikal Bridges‘ performance in the World Cup should confirm the Nets’ confidence that he can be their team leader, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Bridges already had a major breakthrough after being acquired in the Kevin Durant trade in February, increasing his scoring average from 17.2 PPG in 56 games with Phoenix to 26.1 in 27 games with Brooklyn. He also proved to be effective in international basketball, finishing as Team USA’s second-leading scorer behind Anthony Edwards. Lewis points out that Bridges had the best efficiency rating on the team as a result of his shooting percentages (63.3% from the floor and 55.6% from behind the arc) and his contributions on defense.

U.S. coach Steve Kerr was impressed by what Bridges and Nets teammate Cameron Johnson were able to bring to the team.

“I already knew what kind of players they were from coaching against them,” Kerr said. “But they’re so mature: There’s a calming sense from both guys. And they’re also modern-day basketball players: shoot the three, guard multiple positions, long athletically. They’re huge components to this team.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets will be one of the teams least affected by the NBA’s new Player Participation Policy, Lewis adds. The regulations put restrictions on the amount of rest permissible for star players, but the only Net who currently qualifies is Ben Simmons, who has been dealing with legitimate injuries ever since arriving in Brooklyn. Lewis notes that Bridges could eventually join Simmons if he becomes an All-Star this season, but he hasn’t missed a game in his NBA career.
  • In an interview with Fix Media Network (video link) Clippers guard Norman Powell said it’s much easier to go out in public in Los Angeles without being recognized than it was when he played for the Raptors (hat tip to Fan Nation). “The support is crazy,” Powell said of playing in Canada. “It’s so bad, and it’s one thing that I do like now that I’m in L.A., because no matter where you’re at, eyes are on you in Canada. You can’t even go to restaurants, you can’t go to the mall, like you can’t walk down the street. … Don’t go to Vancouver or somewhere where they don’t have the Raptors, you’re getting mobbed, it doesn’t matter.”
  • Ben Uzoh, who briefly played for the Raptors in 2012, has joined the organization as a scout, tweets Blake Murphy of

Atlantic Notes: World Cup Effects, Knicks, Schröder, Porzingis

The Knicks and Nets may benefit from having star players involved in the World Cup this summer, writes Ian Begley of New York’s Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart were both starters for Team USA, while RJ Barrett was an important member of the Canadian squad that captured the bronze medal. Brooklyn’s Mikal Bridges also started for the Americans and Cameron Johnson was on the team, although he didn’t play as much.

Begley cites research from ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (subscription required), who studied the NBA performance of players from 2010 to 2021 after they took part in international competitions. Pelton found they averaged 2.1 points per 100 possessions above the league average.

At last year’s training camp, Begley talked to Evan Fournier, a veteran of international basketball with the French team, about what it’s like to go straight from a tournament to an NBA season with almost no rest in between.

“It really hits you in December; you have the first wave of fatigue,” Fournier said. “It’s not my first time dealing with it, so I know how to manage myself. I know being in the weight room is going to be very important. Sleep is going to be very important, but … I’ll be all right.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks are optimistic after advancing to the conference semifinals last season, but a lack of height at the wings could be a concern, observes Zach Braziller of The New York Post (subscription required). Apart from Barrett, New York has to rely on undersized options such as Hart, Quentin Grimes and Donte DiVincenzo.
  • Dennis Schröder told “NBA Today” that new head coach Darko Rajakovic played an important role in his decision to sign with the Raptors (Twitter link from ClutchPoints). “I think Darko, the head coach,” Schröder said. “… I met him five years ago in OKC. We became friends. … I definitely said to my agent, ‘I want be there.’ … I think it’s a great fit.”
  • The Celtics‘ trade for Kristaps Porzingis was the best offseason move in the Atlantic Division, David Aldridge of The Athletic contends in a discussion of the division with other Athletic writers. However, Aldridge, Josh Robbins and Jared Weiss all agree that Boston took a risk regarding team culture by parting with Marcus Smart in the deal and not keeping Grant Williams. Robbins and Weiss cite the Sixers‘ coaching change, replacing Doc Rivers with Nick Nurse, as the most impactful move.

Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie Talks Offseason, Nic Claxton, More

In a podcast appearance with Dylan Burris of NetsPress, Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie admitted there is a level of uncertainty surrounding Brooklyn and the league as a whole until the Damian Lillard and James Harden situations are resolved. The Nets have been cited as a possible Tyler Herro suitor in three-team scenarios with Portland and Miami.

Obviously, the offseason isn’t over,” said Dinwiddie. “I know the entire league is in a holding pattern for Dame and James. It could affect what we have going on.”

When asked if he knew anything about the Nets’ interest in possible trades, Dinwiddie said that information was “certainly above my pay grade.”

Assuming the roster remains intact, the 30-year-old expects 2023/24 to be a “building” year, as relays.

If we do have this team, which it looks like we will, it’s going to another year of coalescing, building,” Dinwiddie told Burris. “Mikal (Bridges) will try to establish himself as possibly an All-Star, a first time All-Star. I think Nic (Claxton) is going to try to establish himself as one of the premier big men in the league especially being in a contract year and heading into free agency next year.

Cam (Johnson), I think, has more ball skills than people kind of expected. So I think you’ll see him play extremely well. I think him being comfortable signing his deal, being comfortable and stuff, you’ll see a little bit of a leap there. For Cam, Mikal and Dorian (Finney-Smith), I don’t think any of them had been in another system.

We’re going to be a group that gets up and down and hopefully, we have a healthy Ben (Simmons) and if he’s in All-Star form, you might have two All-Stars. If he’s there, we have a real puncher’s chance against anybody.”

According to NetsDaily, Dinwiddie praised Simmons as a teammate and said he was encouraged by his recovery from back and knee injuries, though he didn’t know the specifics.

As Dinwiddie noted, starting center Claxton is on an expiring $9.6MM contract, and the former No. 31 overall pick is coming off a breakout fourth season, having averaged 12.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.5 blocks in 76 games (29.9 minutes) in ’22/23. Dinwiddie said his teammate has made strides in multiple areas this offseason, including his touch around the rim, strength, balance and conditioning.

I think Nic is going to make the biggest jump,” said Dinwiddie, who is also entering the final year of his deal. “I think he’s going to be supremely motivated. I think we’re going to see a big-time year from him.”

Dinwiddie also said he was a “fan” of the team’s offseason moves to this point, per NetsDaily, specifically mentioning free agent additions Dennis Smith Jr. and Lonnie Walker and second-round pick Jalen Wilson, who is on a two-way contract.

World Cup Notes: Edwards, Team USA, Rocket Launch, Canada

Anthony Edwards has become the star of Team USA, but Steve Kerr and the rest of the coaching staff originally pictured him in a sixth-man role, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. When the coaches held their first vote on starters, they put Cameron Johnson in the lineup instead of Edwards. That changed by the second scrimmage, and Edwards’ role in the first five is now secure.

“I mean, of course I wasn’t cool with it,” Edwards said. “If that’s what it takes, I mean, I am willing to do it, but nah, I’m never cool with that. … (Coach Steve Kerr) said Dwyane Wade came off the bench when Kobe (Bryant) played. I was like, all right, we don’t have a Kobe, but all right.”

Kerr was referring to the 2008 Olympic team, where Wade was the top scorer as the sixth man. The coaches may have envisioned Edwards coming off the bench to spark the offense, but he’s proved throughout camp and exhibition play that he’s capable of more than that. Kerr referred to Edwards as “the guy” after his 34-point outburst Sunday against Germany, and his teammates agree.

“Yeah, I think so, (because of) his aggressiveness and confidence,” Mikal Bridges said. “(There are) so many guys that can go out there and score as well, but him going out there and scoring the ball helps us a lot. So I have no problem with that term at all.”

There’s more as the World Cup tournament prepares to tip off:

  • Team USA held its first practice Wednesday at the venue in the Philippines where it will play all its World Cup games, according to The Associated Press. Okinawa, Japan, and Jakarta, Indonesia, will also serve as host cities for pool play, but the medal rounds will be held in Manila, so the Americans won’t have to travel if they advance.
  • Preparations in Okinawa weren’t affected by a North Korean rocket launch on Thursday, but some of the players were shaken up, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The launch was unsuccessful, and practices and press conferences went on as scheduled. “It was a little scary,” Luka Doncic said. “I didn’t sleep much.” 
  • Canada has officially released its final World Cup roster, which includes seven current NBA players. After going 3-2 in exhibition play, Canada will face France, Lebanon and Latvia in pool play.

World Cup Notes: Bridges, Johnson, Team USA, Towns

Mikal Bridges‘ and Cameron Johnson‘s careers have mirrored each other, from breaking into the NBA with Phoenix to being sent to the Nets in the same trade and now making their debuts together with Team USA, writes Vishakha Deshpande of USA Basketball. Nicknamed “The Twins” because of their close friendship, Bridges and Johnson are enjoying their experience as they try to win a gold medal at the FIBA World Cup.

“It’s just really amazing to be here with him (Johnson),” Bridges said. “It’s wild to even think that I didn’t know Cam very well five years ago and with every passing season we get closer. And now being here and playing for USA, it’s just such an honor.”

Many of the NBA’s top stars are skipping the World Cup with an eye toward playing in the Olympics next summer. That has created opportunities for not just Johnson and Bridges, but the rest of the U.S. roster, which is largely made up of players in their first major international competition.

“It’s been amazing,” Bridges said. “We’re all kind of like the same age. It’s a fun set of guys and we got along really fast. We weren’t worried about that at all when we got here. The goal is to get gold for USA.”

There’s more on the World Cup:

  • With Team USA’s first World Cup game one week away, head coach Steve Kerr appears to have settled on a starting lineup, observes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Kerr used the same starting five for the fourth straight game as the Americans defeated Greece in an exhibition Friday, penciling in Bridges alongside Anthony Edwards, Jalen Brunson, Brandon Ingram and Jaren Jackson Jr. “It’s so hard because you only have a couple weeks and then you jump right into the tournament,” Kerr said. “So I like the stability of that (starting) group.”
  • They haven’t gotten much notice, but John Jenkins, Langston Galloway and Eric Mika have been working with Team USA in advance of the World Cup, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The three players – who played for the U.S. during the World Cup qualifiers – won’t accompany the team to Manila for the tournament, but they’ve been actively involved in the preparation as members of the U.S. Select Team. “To see them win it all, it’d be a huge moment for me, John, Eric,” Galloway said. “We helped get them here. Now let’s finish the job.” 
  • Karl-Anthony Towns was ejected from the Dominican Republic’s exhibition game with Spain after picking up two technical fouls, tweets Chrisos Tsaltas of Sportal. The Timberwolves‘ big man put up 20 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes before being tossed.

Eastern Notes: Livers, Bridges, C. Johnson, Brunson, Celtics

After being limited to 19 games in 2021/22 — his rookie season — due to a right foot stress fracture he sustained in college, Pistons forward Isaiah Livers now realizes he may have done more harm than good with his strenuous workout regimen last offseason. He appeared in just 52 games during his sophomore campaign in ’22/23, having dealt with multiple injuries.

As Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press writes, Livers has taken a different, more measured approach this summer in an effort to prepare his body for an 82-game schedule.

I’ve built a new friendship with the weight room,” Livers told Sankofa. “I feel a lot more explosive, bouncier, and I feel more in control of my body. It’s no secret, the No. 1 thing about me is just avoiding injuries. It’s been some small injuries. I tweaked my workout plan to the point where I won’t have those wear-and-tears, those nagging injuries. I’ve been put on a smart plan where I’m not overworking myself. This is the season. I’m excited and we have big things to look forward to.”

A relentless worker, Livers admits it hasn’t been easy to take a step back, but he knows ’23/24 will be a key season for his future. As Sankofa notes, the former second-round pick will be headed to restricted free agency next summer after Detroit exercised its team option on his contract at the end of June.

Livers also spoke to Sankofa about the return of Cade Cunningham and new head coach Monty Williams, among other topics. It’s an interesting, thoughtful interview and worth checking out for Pistons fans.

Here’s more from the East:

  • Both Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson are thrilled to be able to represent Team USA in international competition, and the Nets are fully supportive of their choices, Brian Lewis of The New York Post writes in a subscriber-only piece. “It seems so much fun,” Johnson said. “You know, I’ve talked to people that have played, I’ve talked to people that have been a part of it. They said it’s such a valuable experience for your career, and you can learn a lot from it. And then you just get the experience to see high level basketball across the world in a different type of environment. So I’m really looking forward to it.”
  • Knicks guard Jalen Brunson believes playing for Team USA in the World Cup this summer will be beneficial for him entering the 2023/24 season, according to Ethan Sears of The New York Post. “I think it’s another way to get ready for training camp,” Brunson said. “You gotta look at it and see the positives that come out of this, going towards the NBA season. I know I’ll be ready for that. I think for me, my mindset is focused on this and not really worrying about what’s going on ahead right now.”
  • Brian Robb of covers a number of Celtics topics in a mailbag article. Most of the questions are centered around how the team should fill out the end of the roster. Robb would take a patient approach and thinks free agent big man Christian Wood is an unlikely target for a variety of reasons.

And-Ones: Team USA, Contracts, EuroBasket Qualifiers, BIG3

Team USA got revenge on the Select Team during Saturday’s scrimmage, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, who writes that the senior team won 84-61 after three periods, which were 10 minutes each.

As Vardon notes, Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Brandon Ingram and Jaren Jackson Jr. started both days for Team USA. On Friday, Cameron Johnson was the fifth starter, while Anthony Edwards received the nod on Saturday.

Given that the team performed much better yesterday, it seems like Edwards might have the edge for a starting nod, though head coach Steve Kerr still isn’t ready to commit to anything.

Despite what he’s said publicly in terms of the lineup, it’s clear that Kerr has a major role in mind for Brunson, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

I think Jalen is such a natural leader,” Kerr said. “Because he’s a point guard, he immediately comes to mind. He’s the one who’s leading the ‘1, 2, 3 USA’ chant. Some guys just, it just comes naturally to them.”

With the Select Team heading home and the Americans having a non-contact practice on Sunday, the next test for Team USA as it prepares for the 2023 World Cup will come during Monday’s exhibition game against Puerto Rico, Vardon adds.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Which NBA players have benefited the most from the salary cap rising 10% each of the past two years? ESPN’s Bobby Marks provides a chart (via Twitter) of salary comparisons over the past four league years, and notes the highest earners have actually received the biggest bump in terms of relative volume.
  • The 32-nation qualifying field for the 2025 EuroBasket tournament has been set, as Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando relays. The qualifiers will take place over three different windows between February 2024 and February 2025.
  • BIG3 co-founder Ice Cube has a handful of former NBA veterans on his wish list, including DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, Dwight Howard and Jamal Crawford, he tells Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe (subscriber link). The 12-team 3-on-3 league started at the end of June and runs through August 26, with the championship held in London, England.

Cameron Johnson Expects Ben Simmons To Be Close To “Full Form”

Cameron Johnson is optimistic that Ben Simmons will look more like the player he used to be when the Nets open training camp in two months, writes Ethan Sears of The New York Post. Johnson said he was encouraged after talking to Simmons, who is working out this summer in Miami.

“He sounds good,” Johnson said. “He’s in a good place. He says it’s progressing and he’s excited for the season. Looking forward to seeing what he brings to the table this year. I expect him to be, if not full form, pretty close to it.” 

Simmons only played 42 games in his first full season with Brooklyn and wasn’t on the court at all after February 15. When he did play, Simmons was dealing with back and knee issues that limited his effectiveness, as the three-time All-Star averaged just 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists. He also appeared reluctant to shoot, Sears observes, with the confidence problems that plagued him in Philadelphia continuing to affect his game.

Simmons was the centerpiece of the return Brooklyn got when it traded James Harden to the Sixers in February of 2022. Injuries kept him from playing for the remainder of that season, and he hasn’t really been effective since 2020/21.

Sears points out that Simmons is the only current Net ever to appear in the All-Star Game, and at age 27 he has the potential to become a veteran leader for an otherwise young team. He’s under contract for $37.9MM this season and $40.3MM in 2024/25, so it’s vital for Brooklyn that his production begins to approach his salary.

“He’s very important to us,” Johnson said. “There’s things that he does on the court that not many players in the NBA can do. And he adds something that is very valuable to myself, Spencer (Dinwiddie), Mikal (Bridges) and being able to set us up and get us shots and play in flow like that. With him on the court, it’ll make us a better team.”

When Simmons reports for training camp, he’ll have to get used to a new group of teammates. Sears notes that he only played three games after Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were traded in February. The Nets are now built around Johnson and Bridges, who were acquired from Phoenix in the Durant deal, along with Dinwiddie and fifth-year center Nic Claxton.

Simmons has the talent to bring that group together, but only if he can overcome the physical and psychological issues that have derailed his career.

“We’ll have to learn how to play in a manner that suits him on the court,” Johnson said. “He allows for me, Mikal, Spence to run around and find opportunities. Always head up, always looking. We’ll have to fully develop how that scheme will look. “Defensively, we’ll have a unique advantage of having Ben and (Claxton), who can guard everybody on the court. Definitely a lot of positives there.” 

Mikal Bridges Doesn’t Expect Any Major Moves From Nets

The Nets have been rumored as a potential participant in a Damian Lillard trade — either acquiring him directly or helping to facilitate a deal between Portland and Miami — but Mikal Bridges believes the team is done with major offseason moves, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Speaking at his youth camp, Bridges said the opening night roster is probably more or less set and he’s looking forward to seeing how the team can benefit from stability and what Jacque Vaughn can implement in his first full season as head coach.

“Just excited for him to have a preseason, have his guys he wants around and pretty much have it his way,” Bridges said. “And I’m excited for us to all be together and have these schemes from jump, (instead of) being thrown out there with three different teams in one lineup and just trying to go figure it out. So I’m definitely excited.”

Brooklyn still has some minor decisions to make before training camp, Lewis adds. The team has a two-way slot to fill and it has to decide whether to keep guard David Duke, who is an unrestricted free agent after not receiving a qualifying offer. Lewis notes that the Nets have also received trade interest involving Royce O’Neale and Dorian Finney-Smith.

Bridges is relieved that Brooklyn was able to re-sign forward Cameron Johnson, who has been his close friend since they both entered the league in Phoenix. The Pistons in particular were viewed as a potential destination for Johnson before he agreed to a four-year, $94.5MM deal early in free agency.

“I think Detroit was in talks a lot, and I know (former Suns coach Monty Williams) is over there, so I’m just like, ‘All right now, calm down. Don’t take Twin away,’” Bridges said. “So definitely very, very for the team — outside my selfish reasons, but for the team — big-time. We need Cam. And for him to get paid and kind of get that baby weight off his shoulders, I think it’s great for the team and great for him.”

Atlantic Notes: C. Johnson, Petrusev, Bamba, Keels

Cameron Johnson‘s new four-year contract with the Nets is front-loaded, with a cap hit of approximately $25.7MM in 2023/24. His cap charges in the subsequent three seasons will all be lower than that, including a drop to $21.6MM in ’25/26.

Discussing his new deal on Tuesday, Johnson explained that he hopes the structure of the contract will help the Nets be more financially flexible in future years than they would have been if he had agreed to traditional annual raises.

“Yes, that’s a big part of it,” Johnson said, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “I want to be surrounded by the best players possible. I want to be on the best team possible. So as to how the contract is weighted, it’s not like they’re taking or adding anything to it, it’s just a distribution of it. So I was trying to be as flexible as possible in allowing the best for the team situation.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Will draft-and-stash prospect Filip Petrusev sign his first NBA contract with the Sixers this offseason? Head coach Nick Nurse seemed to suggest as much during an appearance on Tyrese Maxey‘s Maxey on the Mic podcast, referring to the 2021 second-rounder as a player “who’s going to be on the roster this year” (hat tip to Eurohoops). With James Harden‘s trade request still unresolved and Philadelphia bringing back Paul Reed and Montrezl Harrell to go along with new addition Mohamed Bamba, it would be a little surprising if the team is fully committed to bringing Petrusev – another center – stateside for 2023/24, but it sounds like it might happen.
  • Speaking of Bamba, he spoke to reporters on Monday about his decision to sign with the Sixers and the role he expects to play with his new NBA team. As Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer details, the former lottery pick will be looking to show that he can be relied upon as a regular rotation player. “The next step for me is just consistency,” Bamba said. “Barring any injuries, just being out there and, you know, doing what I do best, protecting the rim, touching the floor and being so much more of a lob threat.”
  • Restricted free agent guard Trevor Keels is looking to show the Knicks with his Summer League play that he deserves to be part of the team’s plans going forward, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. He’s off to a shaky start, scoring just 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting during his first two games in Las Vegas — New York has been outscored by 52 points during his 33 minutes on the floor, per Braziller.