Despite drawing a lot of flak, San Antonio Spurs young forward Keldon Johnson silenced all the haters with a huge debut for Team USA on the team’s final exhibition match against Spain. The 21-year-old was handpicked by his NBA head coach Gregg Popovich to join the 12-man roster to replace Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards after the three-time All-Star entered the health and safety protocols last week.
There were other names in the conversation like reigning MIP Julius Randle but Pop chose to go with someone he’s very familiar with in Johnson. And, the Spurs young stud did not disappoint one bit. The second-year man out of Kentucky proved he is indeed the perfect man for the job dropping 15 points on 7-9 shooting while filling up the stat sheet with three rebounds, two steals, and a block all in 17 minutes of play.
“Honestly, just being active, just being a spark. I’m out here to be that energy guy. In the third quarter, we needed a spark.” Johnson said after the 83-76 win (via Paul Garcia of Project Spurs).
With the game still left in the balance, Johnson stepped up and helped spearhead a huge third-quarter run to help Team USA mount a double-digit lead against one of the world’s best teams. The swingman erupted in the third quarter, scoring 10 of his 17 points in a perfect 5-5 from the field including this massive throwdown in transition (via NBA):
With a ton of star power already in the squad with guys like Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, and Jayson Tatum (to name a few), infusing a young energy guy like Johnson that can come off the bench and be that much-needed spark down the stretch can be huge. Pop, as always, seems to be right.