Basketball is a family affair for Phoenix Suns wing Cam Johnson

Apr 19, 2022, 7:27 AM
Cameron Johnson #23 of the Phoenix Suns slam dunks the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans during...
Cameron Johnson #23 of the Phoenix Suns slam dunks the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half of Game One of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on April 17, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

For Phoenix Suns wing and NBA Sixth Man of the Year finalist Cam Johnson, basketball is a family tradition.

Johnson is the son of two former basketball players and is the younger brother to another former player while also being an older sibling to two current hoopers.

Cam’s little brother Puff Johnson is coming off of his sophomore season at North Carolina, where the Tar Heels blew a halftime lead to the Kansas Jayhawks in the National Championship game — a feeling the Suns wing is all too familiar with following Phoenix’s NBA Finals loss despite being up 2-0 last summer.

“Everything that he’s going through now, I’ve been through at a certain point. So I like to take him aside and talk to him and try to help him,” Cam told reporters after practice on Monday. “So since he’s been here, it’s not just the game — it’s lifting in the garage with him and working on certain parts of his game where I know that all of his trainers and strength coaches are working with him on, but he’s my little brother. We share similar genetics.

“I kind of see where he struggles and where he succeeds and how I can say, ‘Puff, this is what helped me when I was in college or something that if you focus on will pay off big dividends. So just being able to have him with me a little bit is helpful.”

As for the name “Puff” itself, well that’s just a nickname — something that was quite common for the Johnson boys growing up. Puff’s actual name is Donovan, which Cam says his mom prefers and asked Puff to drop the nickname before college. Obviously he didn’t listen.

“There’s a lot of speculation. The origin of it is kind of unclear,” Cam explained. “I think the best story that he said is that my mom once upon a time called him Coco Puff. Like, ‘He’s a little coco puff.’ He had a big head as a little kid, a super big head as a little kid. … We all had so many nicknames growing up, so many but his stuck.”

Braylon — Cam’s youngest 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 go to North Carolina, Cam said, “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 kind of keep my eye on him and work,” Cam said. “He has a ton of potential and he’s pretty athletic. He’s going to turn a corner and figure it all out.”

“He’s been with me all season and it’s nice to be able to be in his ear and help him progress his game as he gets older,” Cam added.

The Johnsons also have family “debriefings” after most, if not, all of their games, including Puff’s Final Four contests earlier this month.

In fact, Cam knew that rebounding would be important in the first-round series against the New Orleans Pelicans heading into Game 1. So much so that he promised his mom that he’d get 10 rebounds. Safe to say she was disappointed when she saw him after only picking up one board in Sunday’s 110-99 win.

“Everybody has something to say, it’s so funny,” Cam said. “It’s the perk of being in a basketball family.

“But it’s also sometimes you just can’t 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 be like, ‘You’re going to watch this.’ I’m like, ‘come on man, don’t make me relive this, that and the other.'”

“As much as I tell them that I do this as my job now, they still have their full input,” he added. “It’s something you have to appreciate for sure.”

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