PHOENIX — Cam Johnson is better than most of us. The Phoenix Suns wing does not have a Twitter.
That, however, does not preclude him from hearing his name in trade rumors. He said exactly that from his CJ23 Invitational 3-on-3 Tournament at Ability 360 in Phoenix.
Johnson, in fact, was at his alma mater doing work with the University of North Carolina basketball team and his brother Puff earlier this month when he was first informed about something like that.
“I’m like, ‘Come on man, don’t even throw my name out there just let me chill with my little brother for a sec,’” he said Saturday.
Trade rumors can have several different origins. The ones Johnson is hearing about this summer obviously tie directly into Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant, who reportedly asked for a trade the morning of free agency.
Phoenix has been reported as Durant’s top preferred destination, which then starts unraveling how the Suns could acquire him, and that’s when Johnson’s name enters the mix.
Johnson reiterated a few times on Saturday that he understands the league is a business. When the Suns waived guard Tyler Johnson, a great teammate and someone who got close with a handful of guys on the team, in Cam Johnson’s rookie year, that was an eye-opening moment.
“I’m like, my friends can just leave just like that,” Johnson said with a sigh, citing another example of how he would start to form a bond with a player on a 10-day contract and then he’s suddenly gone.
The 26-year-old Johnson noted the Suns will do what’s best for them and understands that part of this entire equation.
When it comes to himself, Johnson is using a longer offseason than he’s used to in a new way. Johnson has played the majority of his NBA basketball in the pandemic-affected seasons where the schedule was crammed with much shorter offseasons.
With this amount of time now, a.k.a. the league’s usual offseason schedule, Johnson has been expanding his work and using the extra time to do more heavy weight lifting and really hyper-focus on certain parts of his game. For example, Johnson was going through a ball-handling drill and spent a whole hour on the footwork for one specific move.
“I’ve just been enjoying that part of the offseason, ” Johnson said. “Lifting, stuff I don’t get to do in-season as much.”
When Johnson was asked about how he was approaching a more spaced-out schedule, he alluded to the talk from the outside of the Suns needing more on the ball beyond Devin Booker and Chris Paul. This, of course, has come up when discussing the Suns’ involvement in the Durant sweepstakes, as well as what went wrong at the end of the season.
“I hear everything guys. I’m not going to act like I don’t hear everything,” Johnson said. “[I’m working] on being somebody that can be relied on late game. Somebody that can be relied on as (an) additional ball-dominant type player. I really tried to make my mark as my career went on.
“Trust me. I was a ball-dominant player for the first 18, 19 years of my life and then I was like, ‘Become better at the other stuff.’ And now it’s like, ‘OK, get back to what you were doing when you were in high school.’ It’s like working on that stuff. The thing is, every hooper knows this, if you don’t do something for a while you’ll start to lose it. When you start doing it again, it’s like, ‘Oh, I got this.’”
So, is that frustrating to hear praise for being great in your role and then criticism for needing to do more?
“I don’t think it frustrates me,” Johnson said. “As much as I am a basketball player and, like, I understand the game very well. If somebody says something, I can get outside myself and see it from their point of view and say, ‘OK, I see what you’re saying.’
“But I know what I’m capable of. I don’t think everybody in the world knows what I’m capable of. There’s only a few people that do, and I’m just going to work on being the best player I can be. And wherever that puts me, at the end of the day, I’ll know that I did everything I can to get there.”
Johnson’s future in Phoenix being uncertain goes beyond a potential Durant trade this summer.
He’s eligible for a contract extension, the same period last year in which teammate Mikal Bridges got one and teammate Deandre Ayton didn’t.
Johnson offered his thoughts on where those talks are at, one that still has a deadline very far away in October.
“In a good spot,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of things to the business side of things. What I’ve learned is that the business side will do what’s best for the business side and the personal side will do what’s best for the personal side and the team will do what’s best for them and the player will do what’s best for them. So, I’m always highly aware of that, but at the same time I do love being here. So, if we can get something done, I’d love it.”
To what Johnson is saying on his excellent and rare ability to see other perspectives, even when he is absolutely the expert on the matter, he admitted to seeing how things like trade rumors make the league more interesting.
“The NBA is an entertaining league. And right now, it’s been an entertaining offseason. So grab your popcorn, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Johnson said with a smile. “Could be nothing. Could be a lot of things.”