So far this season, the Nets have been hitting on all cylinders. However, there was a large hole to fill when dependable veteran big man LaMarcus Aldridge retired unexpectedly due to a heart condition. Once again, the Nets seemed to have the problem of a lack of big men on the bench, especially with Nic Claxton hurt and DeAndre Jordan faltering out of the rotation. How do the Nets solve this problem? Two words, Alize Johnson.
Not many fans are familiar with Alize, the 6’7 power forward out of Missouri State. Over this season though, and especially in the last week, he has shown flashes of being a capable rotational piece for Brooklyn. Johnson has always been someone who impresses behind the scenes, but won’t receive recognition. At Missouri State, he averaged a consistent 15 points and 11 rebounds. Before his senior season, he was invited to the Adidas Nations basketball camp, where he won MVP over top NBA talents such as Michael Porter Jr. He was projected to be a mid to late first-rounder, but fell to the 50th pick. From 2018-20, he was barely getting off the bench for the Pacers, and had a two way contract and switching between the G-League and the NBA. At the beginning of this season, he signed an Exhibit 10 deal with the Raptors, mainly playing for the Raptors 905 in the G-League. However, with the Raptors 905, he averaged 16.6 points and 1 rebounds, helping lead them to the top record in the G-League during his tenure.
Throughout the first months of the season, the Nets were struggling to find a player to fill up the last roster spot after the Harden trade. They tried signing players such as Norvel Pelle, Iman Shumpert and Andre Roberson, but none were good fits. Finally, after seeing his performance in the G-League, the Nets took a chance by signing Alize Johnson to a 10-day contract. In his first game as a Net, the team was getting blown out by the Jazz so Johnson got extended minutes and he flashed his potential, recording 23 points and 15 rebounds. Throughout the next few games, Johnson showed his value as a rebounder by averaging 15.2 rebounds per 36 minutes from April 1st to April 21st. Then, the Alize Johnson revenge game happened.
On April 29th, the Nets were facing off against the Pacers, Johnson’s former team who barely gave him playing time. Johnson was returning after sitting a week due to Covid protocols, but he proved to be an integral member of the Nets rotation in the victory. With an abundance of players out due to violating Covid protocols or injury, the Nets destroyed the Pacers 130-113 led by 42 points from Kevin Durant and 20 points and 21 rebounds from Alize Johnson off the bench. Johnson is only the third Net in history to record a 20-20 game off the bench, after Mike Gminski and Jayson Williams. He definitely showed his value to the Nets as a rebounding machine with his play as of late.
As someone who plays with a chip on their shoulder, it is great to see Johnson finally receiving recognition for his play. With the absence of Aldridge and the lackluster play from Nets big men outside of Nic Claxton, Jeff Green and Blake Griffin, hopefully Alize Johnson continues to get more opportunities to showcase his talent.
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