Utah Jazz

Charlotte, N.C. • Following Joe Johnson through any NBA arena feels like watching a reunion.

In Miami, the 36-year-old spent a few minutes speaking with Heat assistant Juwan Howard. In Charlotte, he was the only Jazz player who played against Michael Jordan, who was watching the game courtside now in an ownership role. There’s always a coach, or a staffer, or an opponent who wants to say hi.

It’s not hard to imagine that for a man playing his 17th season in the NBA, you make a few friends. The reason, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, is because of how Johnson conducts himself.

“It’s sounds simple, but if you’re just a pro and you approach your job with professionalism, consistency, great character every single day, you’ll get the results you desire on the court in production, but you’ll also leave an impression,” he said. “And he’s done that everywhere he’s been. We loved him while he was here. We would’ve loved to have kept him for longer, but he got a great deal there.”

The seven-time All Star is arguably the most decorated player to ever sign in Utah as a free agent. The decision to sign him for a two-year, $22 million deal was validated last spring when he shouldered a huge load to help beat the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

But even old pros have their limit. Johnson is playing through one of his roughest seasons in the league (7.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 40.8 field goal percentage shooting), which can be either chalked up to a wrist injury he suffered seven games into the season, the erosion of time, or both. It’s a far cry from the vital offensive cog that he was last season.

It puts the Jazz in a bind: How do you help a player who has played so well for so long have a graceful ending chapter to his career?

It’s one of the subplots of a juggling act the Jazz have attempted at power forward with Johnson, Thabo Sefolosha and Jonas Jerebko. All three are veterans, and all three theoretically help space the floor with their shooting. Of those three, Johnson is the least efficient this season. But he was the only one who hasn’t missed any of the past 14 games.

The breaking news on Saturday that Sefolosha may be facing a season-ending MCL injury now casts a fresh spotlight on Johnson. Is the statistical output so far an slump he can pull through, or has he passed the point where he can be productive and efficient?

Johnson made the adjustment to coming off the bench last season, and said he’s “super comfortable” with it now. But it’s not that he’s not playing well off the bench — he hasn’t played well compared to the others who could siphon off his minutes.

Going purely on statistics, Sefolosha and Jerebko have outperformed Johnson to this point. Both Jerebko (.573 eFG percentage) and Sefolosha (.558 eFG) are shooting at higher clips than Johnson, whose .457 eFG is way down from last season (.521) and the lowest it has been since he was 21. Sefolosha and Jerebko also have higher scoring and rebounding numbers per possession, and their offensive and defensive ratings are higher. Johnson has the lowest net rating of any player on the Jazz (minus-11.7).

Good bye president Monson

The clear, sweet notes of the organ broke the reverent solemnity that filled the conference center as the choir rose and began to sing.

“Out in the desert they wander, hungry and helpless and cold. Off to the rescue he hastens, bringing them back to the fold.”

Though this favorite Mormon hymn is a reference to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, it seems the parallels in former LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson’s own life are striking.

Liesl Nielsen
@liesl_nielsen
President Monson’s warmth, personal interest, encouragement, enthusiasm for the work and prophetic dignity made us feel calm and at peace. We felt we were in the presence of one who knew the Savior; one who was His servant. – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

12:32 PM – Jan 12, 2018
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“He would go to visit someone in need, feel while he was there an impression to go to another person, and then to another. More than a few times, such a person said, ‘I knew you would come,’” said President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency under President Monson.

Over 20,000 gathered Friday afternoon for funeral proceedings honoring President Monson, who served as prophet and leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for nearly a decade.

Many remembered his unfailing service to others, especially the sick and lonely. His daughter, Ann M. Dibb, recounted memories accompanying her father to visit a lifelong, 98-year-old friend, Elder Glen Rudd.

At one point, a little too much time had passed between their visits. President Monson’s secretary answered a phone call from Rudd who asked, “Is President Monson out visiting the sick, the afflicted and the aged? If so, I qualify!”

President Monson and his daughter quickly went to visit their friend, and afterward the prophet turned to his daughter and said, “I feel we’ve done some good today!”

Though known for his ability to easily sense the needs of others, President Monson knew he wasn’t perfect, Dibb said. Once, after seeing his picture in an open church magazine on his desk, he said, “I know that guy. He tried his best.”

And try he did, she said. Though his duties in the church kept him from serving everyone he wished he could, he would often delegate the task to another, asking if they’d like to “paint a bright spot on (their) soul today.”

President Monson’s reputation of selflessness also extended overseas and, during 1988, he traveled with other local church leaders to East Berlin in the then-communist German Democratic Republic. The country had been closed to church missionary work for more than 50 years, but President Monson felt impressed to ask permission for missionaries to serve there.

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