For Cam Johnson, Phoenix Suns winger and NBA Sixth Man of the Year finalist, basketball is a family tradition.
Johnson is the son of two former basketball players and is the younger brother of another former player while being the older brother of two current players.
Cam’s little brother, Puff Johnson, has just completed his second season in North Carolina, where the Tar Heels took a halftime lead against the Kansas Jayhawks in the national championship game – a feeling that the The Suns’ wing is all too familiar after Phoenix lost in the NBA Finals despite leading 2-0 last summer.
“Everything he’s going through now, I’ve been through at some point. So I like to take him aside, talk to him and try to help him,” Cam told reporters after practice Monday. So since he’s been here it’s not just the game – he’s lifting in the garage with him and working on parts of his game where I know all his coaches and strength coaches are working with him, but it’s is my little brother. We share similar genetics.
“I kind of see where he’s struggling and where he’s succeeding and how I can say, ‘Puff, that’s what helped me when I was in college or something if you focus on, it will pay big dividends. So just being able to have him with me for a bit helps.
As for the name “Puff” itself, well, it’s just a nickname – something that was pretty common for the Johnson boys growing up. Puff’s real name is Donovan, which Cam says his mother prefers and asked Puff to drop the nickname before college. Obviously, he didn’t listen.
“There is a lot of speculation. The origin of this one is unclear,” Cam explained. “I think the best story he’s told is that my mom used to call him Coco Puff. Like, ‘It’s a little coco puff.’ He had a big head when he was little, a super big head when he was little…. We all had so many nicknames growing up, so many but his has stuck.
Braylon — Cam’s younger brother — is currently a 16-year-old sophomore at Pinnacle High School in Phoenix.
When asked if Braylon would be the third consecutive Johnson brother to travel to North Carolina, Cam replied, “We’ll see,” with a big smile.
“He has a lot of potential and he went to Pinnacle this year so I was able to keep an eye on him and work on it,” Cam said. “He’s got a ton of potential and he’s pretty athletic. He will turn a corner and figure it all out.
“He’s been with me all season and it’s nice to be able to listen to him and help him grow in his game as he gets older,” added Cam.
The Johnsons also have family “debriefs” after most, if not all of their matches, including Puff’s Final Four contests earlier this month.
In fact, Cam knew the rebound would be important in the first-round series against the New Orleans Pelicans before Game 1. So much so that he promised his mom that he would get 10 rebounds. It’s safe to say she was disappointed when she saw it after picking up just one board in Sunday’s 110-99 win.
“Everyone has something to say, it’s so funny,” Cam said. “It’s the advantage of being in a family of basketball players.
“But it is also sometimes impossible to avoid it. There will be certain games where I’m like, “I don’t want to talk about it.” And my dad is sitting there waiting, he’s going to say, ‘You’re going to watch this.’ I’m like, ‘Come on man, don’t make me relive this, that and the other.'”
“Even if I tell them that I do this as my job now, they still have their full contribution,” he added. “It’s something you have to appreciate for sure.”