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The last time he came off the bench in an NBA game, Dec. 9, 2003, George W. Bush was still in his first term, "Hey Ya" was topping the charts, and Gordon Hayward was in middle school.

But when Joe Johnson made the decision this summer to come to Utah, he figured that streak was over, joking that at age 35 he simply hoped to get up and down the court.

"I didn't come here to try to be a star or a starter," he said at the start of training camp.

Not so fast, old man.

With Hayward sidelined for an estimated six weeks by a busted finger, Johnson could find himself in the Utah Jazz's starting lineup on opening night. On Monday in Los Angeles, Jazz coach Quin Snyder plugged the 16-year veteran and seven-time all star into his starting five for the wounded Hayward.

"Fortunately we've got somebody that's done that before," Snyder said. "He's a good player, a good guy to have in these situations. That's been the great thing about Joe. People say, 'Hey, whatever you need.' He means it."

Johnson has averaged 16.9 points per game over the course of his career, but it remains to be seen how much Johnson will be able to produce for the Jazz at this point in his career.

"It's just whatever the team needs," Johnson said of his role in Hayward's absence. "Obviously we've lost a key piece of our team … We'll try to hold the fort up until he gets back."

Coming off the bench in his first two games of the preseason, Johnson managed a total of two baskets on nine shots and looked a bit lost at times. And in his start in Monday's 96-94 preseason win over the Clippers, Johnson committed a team-high four turnovers in 24 minutes of action.

But the broad-shouldered, 6-foot-7 forward also showed flashes of his offensive abilities. He backed down Clippers forward Alan Anderson for a bucket and a foul early in the first quarter and later took advantage of a switch by shooting over the top of L.A. center DeAndre Jordan. Johnson finished the night with nine points on 3-of-8 shooting.

"It's just kind of how the game flows. I don't have to come out and try to be too assertive or anything," Johnson said of his mindset. "Just coming out, playing, having fun, letting the game come to me."

The Jazz know they cannot simply rely on Johnson to fill Hayward's sizable sneakers.

"Everyone just has to step up, and it could be different guys each night," forward Joe Ingles said. "But whoever is called upon has to help the team in their way. No one is going to go out there and try to be Gordon, nobody is going to play like that. The way we have to do it is to come together as a group."

Still, Johnson's veteran presence inspires a confidence the Jazz might have lacked if they had faced a prolonged stretch without their best player even a season ago.

"We all know Joe," center Rudy Gobert said. " I think he is finding his rhythm, and he has gotten better every game, and he's going to keep getting better."

Snyder, for his part, said he won't put extra pressure on the veteran Johnson with Hayward sidelined. But the coach expects old habits may die hard for the man they call Iso Joe.

"If he's on the court, he'll score," Snyder said. "The ball will find him."

Twitter: @aaronfalk —

Joe Johnson by the numbers

Career • 16.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.2 apg, 44.2 percent shooting

2015-16 • 12.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.9 apg, 43.9 percent shooting —

Suns at Jazz

P Wednesday, 7 p.m.

TV • ROOT

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