Except Joe Johnson is not on an NBA roster yet — the contract he signed with the Pistons was only partially guaranteed. Meaning they can cut him at any point without too much pain. Johnson and Christian Wood are the guys considered to be battling for the final roster spot (Wood is on a non-guaranteed contract as well, although reportedly with a smaller guarantee).
Johnson, however, understands he is carrying the hope of a lot of Big3 players on his shoulders, and he takes that seriously, as he told Eric Woodyard of ESPN.
“That was another reason why I thought it was very important for me to take this opportunity, because those guys in the Big3, a lot of them anyway, have hopes to at some point to be able to get back in the league,” Johnson said. “So I just wanted to let everyone know that it’s possible just to get to this point. I mean, I’m not even all the way on the roster, but to get to this point, get your foot in the door. Then whatever you do from that point, it’s up to you.”
Johnson reportedly has been in good shape and performed well early in camp, but we’re weeks away from decisions being made.
Whether he makes the roster or not may come down to what the Piston coaches and front office prioritize. Johnson can provide depth at the three behind Tony Snell, and maybe a little stretch four at points, plus is a pro in the locker room. Johnson is a “we want to win more games now” kind of choice. Wood, at 24, is 14 years younger, is more athletic, and at this point has more upside, but he is a project.
If Johnson can make the Pistons’ roster the Big3’s pitch to guys such as Jamal Crawford or Corey Brewer (or even Carmelo Anthony) is “we can be your path back to the NBA.” Just getting into training camp provides some of that.
Roster battles are rare in an NBA of guaranteed contracts, but Johnson’s fight for a roster spot is worth watching.