It’s great to be drafted first overall, as Ben Simmons was, and it’s great to be a lottery pick, as Buddy Hield was. But as far as 25th overall picks go, Brice Johnson did pretty well for himself, going to a proven winner in Los Angeles.
The Clippers, not the Lakers.
“It’s always been a dream to make it (to the NBA),” Johnson said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I’m happy that I’m a Clipper.”
A projected mid-to-late first-round pick, Johnson watched numerous international players get drafted before him, including Dragan Bender, Thon Maker, Juan Hernangomez, Guerschon Yabusele, Ante Zizic, and Timothe Luwawu.
“The entire first round was a head-scratcher,” Johnson said. “Seeing all the foreign guys go before you, it was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know these guys were in the draft.’ But, hey, it is what it is. I’m happy to be in L.A. and to be with the Clippers.”
The Clippers have won 53+ games in each of the last four years.
“I know they like to win and that’s what I want to do,” Johnson said. “I’m looking forward to that and definitely looking forward to catching lobs from CP (Chris Paul). Just playing along with Blake (Griffin) and DeAndre (Jordan), just being able to get to know those guys and being able to help them out down low – I’m looking forward to the whole experience.”
Johnson was one of the best college players in America last season, leading North Carolina to the national championship game. The Tar Heels, of course, lost to Villanova on a buzzer-beating three by Kris Jenkins.
Johnson remembers Ryan Arcidiacono racing up the floor in the final seconds. The game was tied, so Johnson sagged down to protect the rim, not wanting to give up a lay-up.
“I backed up a little bit and then all of a sudden everybody looked up and Kris was trailing and (Arcidiacono) just threw it back,” Johnson recalled. “There’s nothing we can do. It was a great shot. We didn’t win.”
Johnson, who turned 22 on Monday, said he isn’t dwelling on the play.
“Not very much anymore,” said Johnson, when asked how much he sees or thinks about the play. “I’ve moved on in life. I do see it every once in awhile and it pops up on social media, but other than that, I don’t really see it.”
Getting drafted was a happy moment for Johnson, but it was also bittersweet. His mother died of cancer in October 2008, when Johnson was in high school.
“I was in the moment the entire night, but that next morning it did hit me and I did tear up a little bit because I wish she was there to see me,” Johnson said. “It was very emotional the next day.”