DESPITE his volatile temper, Ivan Johnson is a perfect fit for Talk ‘N Text and is one of the major reasons for the team’s return trip to the Finals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, consultant Tab Baldwin said.
Baldwin said Johnson can dominate if he wants to, but can also defer to the locals if he needs to - which was exactly what he did in the semifinal series against Purefoods when he allowed Jayson Castro to take over.
“We have Ivan and Rich (Howell) at the beginning. But Ivan fits our team pretty well, while more and more, you see him play as a piece, not trying to dominate and it’s working well for the team,” said Baldwin shortly after the Tropang Texters finished off the Hotshots, 3-1, in their best-of-five series to clinch their 16th finals appearances.
Baldwin, the Gilas Pilipinas coach, also doesn’t see Johnson as a ‘troublemaker’ as he is perceived to be.
“The reality is far from the perception of Ivan. You guys (media) write about him (Johnson) being a troublemaker. Not at all, he’s got a cool head, he does a great job out there, and everybody’s attacking him every time,” he added.
Baldwin even pointed out at how Johnson managed to handle himself well during a post-game shouting match against Marc Pingris just outside the players’ dugouts during Game Two.
“Ivan is a physical force on the basketball court. We certainly feed off of that. He gives us that element to our game,” said Baldwin of the former NBA veteran who tallied 15 points and 15 rebounds in the team’s series-clinching 79-66 win Saturday night.
Johnson averaged just 22 points on 36.7 percent shooting from the field in the series. He also shot just 22.5 percent from beyond the arc - numbers that pale in comparison to his 41 points per game average and 61.2 percent shooting during the eliminations and in the early part of the playoffs.
Yet, the hulking import showed he’s more than just a scorer after providing a strong defensive job against Purefoods’ counterpart Denzel Bowles in the last two games of the series.
“You gotta remember, the team is growing. The way the PBA is structured, it is three competitions but it is (facing) the same team,” said Baldwin.
Up next against the Tropang Texters are the ever physical Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in a best-of-seven series Baldwin said is just as tough as the one they had against the Hotshots.
“They (Elasto Painters) finish the regular season as the top seed so we have to knock them off their pedestal. They are a powerhouse team, so that’s what we need to contend with,” said the American-New Zealander.