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Ex-Cat Keldon Johnson talks draft slip, Spurs and Popovich

If Keldon Johnson was disappointed by the fact he almost slipped out of the first round of last week’s NBA Draft, the former Kentucky swingman didn’t let it show during his introduction to the media covering the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.

“I am blessed to be in the draft,” he told the San Antonio Express-News. “There are a lot of people who don’t get that opportunity. It is definitely motivating. But, at the same time, God blessed me to a great situation being here in San Antonio. I am just taking it all in and enjoying it, and kind of leaving it alone. The draft is behind me. You are starting at ground zero when you get here. I am just ready to come in here and learn and have some fun.”

Johnson went on to talk about meeting Spurs coaching legend Gregg Popovich and what he’s been doing since draft night.

“He’s an amazing guy,” Johnson said of Popovich. “I think there are a lot of people who look at him as a mean, stubborn man. They see him during a game when he is competitive, but he is a great person.”

Johnson called the past few days “a whirlwind.”

“It’s definitely been hectic. Everything has been happening so fast. ... but I’m just enjoying the process,” he said.

The 19-year-old Johnson, who spent one season at Kentucky, was chosen with the 29th pick of the draft’s 30-pick first round last Thursday.

Kentucky Coach John Calipari expressed surprise Saturday that Johnson was selected so far after UK teammates PJ Washington (No. 12 to Charlotte) and Tyler Herro (No. 13 to Miami).

“They said he was a top-10 pick when he left here,” the UK coach said. “Then a month and a half later, he’s picked 29th.”

Calipari followed up by complimenting the Spurs’ championship culture.

“There’s nothing wrong with (Johnson). And what proved it was San Antonio took him. … By them taking him, it confirms who he is.”

Next up for Johnson is the NBA’s Salt Lake City Summer League July 5-10 in Utah. He begins practicing with his fellow Spurs summer leaguers on Thursday.

“I can’t wait to get out there and just hoop and get to know my teammates a little bit better,” he said.

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