Cam Johnson is still getting used to life in Brooklyn as a member of the Nets. The biggest transition so far for him has been what New Yorkers have come to expect when trying to traverse the five boroughs: Traffic.
“We’re three miles away from here and it took like 45 minutes,” Johnson said following an appearance at M.S. 898 Brooklyn Green School. “I was like, ‘I gotta get used to this.’ I gotta get used to that. I gotta get used to how densely packed everything. I’m not really from the city. Yeah, okay. I went to college in the city a little bit, but this is different. This is a different beast.”
More importantly, Johnson along with fellow new Nets Mikal Bridges, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Dorian Finney-Smith has been adjusting quickly to being part of the Brooklyn community and spreading a positive message.
Johnson and Bridges spent the afternoon on Tuesday talking to a group of middle school students about friendship and taking part in team-building activities. Just down the road, Dinwiddie, who is no stranger to Brooklyn having played six seasons with the Nets before, and Finney-Smith were speaking with the boys’ and girls’ junior varsity and varsity basketball teams at Achievement First High School and addressing questions revolving around basketball skills and life lessons.
The visits came more than a week after the four players arrived in separate trades with Dallas and Phoenix that sent Brooklyn’s two biggest stars packing. But the messages on this day were far more important than wins and losses on the basketball court as Dinwiddie and Johnson discussed the importance of perseverance and doing what you love in life.
Of course, there were some basketball questions sprinkled in here and there.
“Only if they just take one thing I said today and it helps them move forward then I did my job,” Finney-Smith said. “I came here to just do my part and help the next generation. I’m just trying to do that the best I can.”
Finney-Smith, who made his Nets debut last week when Brooklyn hosted the Chicago Bulls, talked about how he went undrafted and hoped that his journey would be an inspiration for the kids he was speaking to. It was part of his message to the group of kids in front of him to persevere through obstacles in life.
“I was the 13th man on the roster and now I’m an NBA starter for the last four years,” he said.
During their introductory press conference following the trade, Dinwiddie mentioned wanting to get involved in the Brooklyn community. Dinwiddie knows his way around the borough, but the others have also embraced the idea of giving back.
Finney-Smith said that it was something he had done during his time with the Mavericks and hoped that the kids could learn from his journey and use those lessons in any avenue in life.
For Bridges, his desire to be out there on Tuesday came from a place closer to home.
“I think it just comes down to how you’re raised. That’s the biggest thing,” he said. “My mom is just so helpful for me and just the greatest person in the world in my eyes. That’s kind of how I was raised, to help people and to be in this position to have a light to be able to do is unbelievable.”