LeBron James doesn't stop for many people. Especially not in the midst of an NBA Finals that is going anything but the way he planned.
But LeBron stopped for Andre Johnson, the missing Houston Texans wide receiver. With Johnson sitting courtside for Game 4 of the NBA Finals — missing Organized Team Activities (unofficial spring practice) and seeing No. 1 draft pick Jadeveon Clowney get sidelined by sports hernia surgery — James made a point to go over and embrace the future NFL Hall of Famer.
The gesture by LeBron might seem like the kind of love (and show of overt respect) that Johnson is desperately seeking from the Texans.
As I've argued before, Johnson needed to take a stand and wield his influence when Gary Kubiak was still in the building, dooming the Texans to mediocrity, rather than now when rookie head coach Bill O'Brien is working to clean up the mess with an innovative offense and a clear vision.
It might be a good idea for O'Brien to extend some LeBron level love. Why not make a trip to Miami and woo Johnson on his home turf?
Johnson's within his rights to miss these voluntary workouts though. It doesn't become a true raging fire until he sits out next week's mandatory mini camp (which he is expected to do) and the start of training camp. This NBA Finals appearance isn't exactly rubbing it in the Texans' faces. It's not like Andre Johnson was photographed guzzling champagne on the back of an inflatable swan.
Johnny Manziel, Andre Johnson is not.
"You know, again, I don't know," O'Brien says Friday when asked if he expects Johnson to be at next week's mini camp himself. "I don't know."
Whether he shows next week or not, Johnson's not rubbing it into the faces of his sweating teammates back in Texas by sitting in the front row at the NBA's coolest event.
He is just living his life.
The All-Time Greatest Texan is a huge Miami Heat fan who is anything but one of the typical James and Dwyane Wade bandwagon jumpers. Born and raised in Miami, Johnson starred at the University of Miami and embraced the Heat long before LeBron took his talents to South Beach.
Johnson has been typically low key since dropping the bombshell that he's unsure of his future with the Texans. No. 80's never courted the spotlighted. It's part of the reason he's such a good fit for an unpretentious city like Houston.
Professional athletes can be notoriously jealous and resentful of each other. But even in this paranoid world, it's hard to imagine many of Johnson's Texans teammates upset that he's kicking it back courtside while they go through O'Brien's new playbook under the unforgiving Texas sun.
Guys like Arian Foster just want to see Johnson back in Texans gear by the time the regular season rolls around.
Johnson's not rubbing it into his sweating teammates faces by sitting in the front row at the NBA's coolest event. He's just living his life.
Johnson's earned a little point-making mini vacation. With Clowney out until training camp after undergoing surgery in Philadelphia for the kind of groin injury that sometimes lingers and J.J. Watt missing the last day of OTAs Friday with a hyperextended knee, it's no stretch to argue that the older Johnson will even physically benefit from the time away.
As long as the Texans eventually lure him back.
With that in mind, it might be a good idea for O'Brien to extend Johnson some LeBron James level love. Why not make a public trip to Miami and woo Johnson a little on his home turf?
Bill O'Brien's Mission
The new coach clearly isn't at fault in his mess. Johnson's anger is too late and misdirected. But that doesn't mean Bill O'Brien cannot help make things better for his team before training camp opens in late July. Yes, Johnson is under contract. Yes, he's fairly compensated. Yes, O'Brien's all about a team-first ethos.
The new coach wouldn't lose anything by making an exception for Andre Johnson and going above and beyond to bring him back though. In fact, he'd gain plenty in the locker room.
O'Brien's been beyond respectful of Johnson and his standing in the league — and in Houston — in every public comment he's made about the missing wide receiver. But a public mission might go even further. Just because he's left Penn State doesn't mean Bill O'Brien is done with recruiting players.
Andre Johnson's standoff seems somewhat half hearted. Yes, he's staying staying away and wearing his Heat gear to high-profile NBA Finals games. But he hasn't lashed out at all since his initial point making. He's not rubbing his practice missing in anyone's fate — even when he's shown on national TV.
Johnson is clearly ready to be courted. A little more love could go a long way.