When Tyler Johnson joined the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, he became the third oldest player on the entire 15-man roster and the second-oldest regular rotation player. T.J. Warren is the only player over 23 years old getting more than 18 minutes per game since the departures of Trevor Ariza and Isaiah Canaan.
Johnson is only 26 years old, in his fifth year in the NBA.
“Yeah, dude, it’s super weird,” Johnson replied with a chuckle when I asked what it’s like to be one of the oldest guys in the locker room.
Tyler Johnson on going from a locker room filled with veteran leaders in Miami to becoming one of the few in Phoenix: pic.twitter.com/RRTb0csB7p— Evan Sidery (@esidery) February 9, 2019
Jamal Crawford (38) and Troy Daniels (27) are the only players older than Tyler Johnson on this roster. Since taking over the Suns, interim co-GMs James Jones and Trevor Buckstein have brought in Crawford while releasing Isaiah Canaan, swapping 33-year old Trevor Ariza for 23-year old Kelly Oubre Jr. and then trading 29-year old Ryan Anderson for the 26-year old Johnson.
“There’s definitely a responsibility that comes with that,” he continued. “Luckily I got JC [Jamal Crawford] over there. He definitely is rubbing off on me and helping me understand what it takes to be one of the older guys.”
Johnson gets to figure out how to be a leader in the locker room and on the court, just like Kelly Oubre had to learn in mid-December. Oubre joined the Suns on a long road trip, and didn’t arrive in Phoenix until he’d gotten a couple of inspiring wins under his belt.
Oubre had his own adjustment period to being one of the most experienced players in the Suns lineup, being in his fourth season like Booker and only one behind Warren.
“Just being someone they can talk to, someone to hold them accountable,” Oubre said of the role he’s playing on and off the court. “We are all growing, all learning together.”
The growth part is hard to see in a 11-46 team, but Tyler Johnson remembers a time in Miami that was extra difficult too.
“When I was in Miami, we started off 11-30,” he said. “But all those games were really, really close games. So you can sit there and say aw we’re losing all these games but really we were learning. You have to put yourself in position to be in close games so you can learn from it.”
Oubre sees the future, or at least has painted one for himself.
“Once we all get it, it’s going to be a beautiful day in Phoenix,” he said.