COVID-19 leads Celtics to sign 40-year-old Joe Johnson
Skyrocketing coronavirus cases in the NBA are devastating team rosters, and led the Boston Celtics to sign former All-Star guard Joe Johnson, who is 40, to a 10-day contract.
Johnson is one of several players signed to short-term deals as the NBA vows to play on through the omicron surge. Other players who played in games on Wednesday night after at least two years out of the league included C.J. Miles and Lance Stephenson.
Boston signed Johnson on Wednesday due to the Celtics having seven players on the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocol list, The Associated Press reported.
During the team’s 111-101 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Johnson checked into the game at the 1:57 mark in the fourth quarter after the Boston crowd chanted “We Want Joe! We Want Joe!” according to The AP.
Joe Johnson checks in for his first NBA action since 2017-18! pic.twitter.com/PQ2Pkh34R9
— NBA (@NBA) December 23, 2021
Johnson, who started his professional career in 2001 with the Celtics, received a huge ovation from the crowd when he hit a fallaway jumper in the final minute.
JOE JOHNSON NBA BUCKET IN THE YEAR 2021!! pic.twitter.com/gnAAYUuLGD
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) December 23, 2021
Johnson, nicknamed “Iso Joe,” said after the game that “it is kind of surreal” to play in his first NBA game since 2018, the AP reported.
“It is kind of surreal,” Johnson said. “To come into the game and be somewhat effective, that’s fun. At my age you try to relish every moment, enjoy the process and live in the moment. That’s kind of what I’m doing right now, living in the moment, and it’s fun.”
Johnson’s return comes amid the league postponing games this week due to multiple team COVID-19 outbreaks.
Dozens of star players have entered the league’s health and safety protocol including Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokunmpo, Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic.
The league’s players union, the NBPA, is encouraging players to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, saying it is “committed to promoting the health and safety of all players in this very challenging environment.”