SAN ANTONIO - Knees encased in bags filled with enough ice to build an igloo, Joe Johnson sat courtside at AT&T Center and tried to describe how his 34-year-old frame feels now compared with a half-dozen years ago.
"It's like night and day, man," Johnson said before the Nets tipped off against the Spurs on Friday night. "I can't even express to you or explain to you what it is like. But obviously five, seven years ago, my body was a lot different. But I still feel great. So I am going to continue to play this game and have fun with it."
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Johnson's season got off to a slow start Wednesday night when his shooting stroke failed him in a loss to the Bulls. The 15-year veteran shot 4-for-15, finishing with 10 points to go with 10 rebounds in 32:21.
He's moved back to his natural small forward position this season, shifting roles after playing power forward last season, and isn't a main focal point of the offense.
"I just try to get in how I can, man," Johnson said. "I don't ask no questions. Whether he calls my number or not, I just try to play hard. The one constant for me is my energy and my effort, me trying to use my size to my advantage, trying to rebound, offensive rebound. Whatever it takes to put my stamp on the game."
The Nets gave Johnson the day off from practice Thursday before the team's flight here. Johnson has logged 34,344 minutes, second among active players, trailing only LeBron James' 35,836.
That's part of the reason coach Lionel Hollins thinks it's best to give him a blow every now and then.
"It's not so much health, it's freshness," Hollins said. "We don't want to wear him out. Last year, he played a lot of minutes and hopefully, I can keep his minutes down some."
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Johnson: "He's a lifer. It seems to me he's been in the league longer than Timmy [Duncan]. Every time I turn around, he's still out there playing, doing his thing, [a] tough cover inside and out. He comes and competes every night. He's one of those ultimate pro guys . . . He just goes and plays, does his work, is a good teammate and tries to do what he can do to help win every night."