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Ivan Johnson, The Rookie Who Stirred Up The Hawks’ Nest

By 01.09.12
Ivan Johnson

Ivan Johnson

Failing at San Bernardino because of a third strike meant, realistically, never getting a crack at any league. That was motivation enough for Johnson, whom Oliver called the best player he’d ever coached, albeit one holding himself back with his temper.

“I would think that his track record is what’s haunting him right now,” said Oliver in April. “Hopefully someone gives him a shot, if he keeps plugging. His track record has a little history and those teams aren’t stupid. they do their research.”

Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote last week that Hawks coach Larry Drew did, in fact, do his diligence on Johnson’s background, and that the team was satisfied enough to release draft pick Keith Benson.

Earning the league minimum after making Atlanta’s team in December, Johnson’s motivation now is a baby he wants to provide for and a promise to keep to his mother, Cunningham reported.

“As you get older your dream starts to fade after a while,” he said. “You have just got to keep pushing, man. That’s what I kept doing.”

Months before Johnson got a sniff of the League and caused a Twitter storm about his grill and demeanor, Oliver knew his volatile former player would make good, again.

“I would say if he had this year, the year he had now earlier in his career, he would have a shot. His big thing is dealing with adversity when it sets in. He doesn’t deal with it at times. But he’s not a bad guy, and I didn’t mind him at all. Off the court he was funny, always on time.”

After a delayed debut, there may just be another reason to watch the Hawks. For us to find out, who is this guy?

What unheralded player has surprised you most this season?

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