After getting his first taste of playing time on back-to-back games in Saturday night’s 95-80 win over the Milwaukee Bucks at home, Pacers’ rookie Orlando Johnson was on the receiving end of some good-hearted jeers from his teammates in the locker room after the game.
“That’s Vinnie Johnson,” yelled teammate Lance Stephenson from across the Pacers’ home locker room, comparing the rookie’s shooting night to the great Pistons “Bad Boys” era sixth man and point guard nicknamed “The Microwave” who provided instant offense off the bench. “He’s coming out the bench shooting,” added a member of the media about Johnson’s 11 minutes of action wherein he hoisted eight shots and finished with seven points and three rebounds.
Johnson’s minutes came after a solid effort in Boston the night before, as Pacers head coach Frank Vogel continues to find consistency and production from his bench. If Stephenson earned the nickname “Born Ready” as a youngster at the blacktop courts of Rucker Park in Harlem, Johnson’s mantra this season has been to “stay ready”. And even when he got off to a rough 0-4 start shooting from the field, the 23-year-old second-round pick by the Pacers from US Santa Barbara, where he averaged 21.1 points as a junior, never doubted himself and kept shooting.
“This is basketball, you’re going to miss shots. I had good looks – I’m a scorer, so I’m going to keep putting them up because I felt like the next one is going to drop,” Johnson told NBA.com Philippines.
Soon enough, his shots did start to fall, as Johnson converted on a couple of hard drives down the paint in the second quarter.
“That’s how my mentality is – keep being aggressive, keep trying to make things happen even if my shot isn’t falling. There are other things I can do in the game like playing defense and rebounding,” added Johnson.
Johnson has definitely made the most out of every opportunity given to him this season. After being sent down for a tour of duty with the Pacers’ D-League affiliate, Fort Wayne Mad Ants, together with fellow rookie Miles Plumlee, Johnson scored a game-high 25 points Thursday in a win over the Santa Cruz Warriors, before being recalled to rejoin the team on Friday against Boston where he contributed 7 points in 12 minutes of action.
“It’s helped me out a lot just getting a chance to get reps,” Johnson said regarding his stints with the Mad Ants in the D-League this season. “It was definitely good to go down there and play, and then now get a chance to play with these (Pacers) guys.”
Though his minutes may not be guaranteed, Johnson aims to consistently produce when his number gets called upon, and not worry about things he can’t control. “Just keep playing hard, do things the coaches ask me to do, and everything else will fall into place,” said Johnson.
Follow Dennis on Twitter: @dRealSource