DerMarr Johnson's life changed on Sept. 13, 2002, the evening that the car he was driving slammed into a tree. The 6-foot-9, 201-pound forward had spent a night out on the town...

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DerMarr Johnson’s life changed on Sept. 13, 2002, the evening that the car he was driving slammed into a tree. The 6-foot-9, 201-pound forward had spent a night out on the town with a friend and was driving from an Atlanta nightclub to his house in the suburbs.

At around 5 a.m., the accident occurred and Johnson, the No. 6 pick in the 2000 draft, suffered four fractured vertebrae in his neck.

Atlanta released him after his injury and he had a brief stint with New York last season. He signed a non-guaranteed contract with Denver before the season, but has played himself into the rotation.

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Johnson has started the past three games in place of the injured Carmelo Anthony.


Seattle Times:

I’ve heard you downplay your comeback, but you must admit it’s pretty amazing.


DerMarr Johnson:

It’s really no big thing. I don’t think about it. The only time I do is when people ask me about it.


ST:

Can you take me back to that night? What happened?


DJ:

Really I wouldn’t do much different, except the last part. It was a good night. I got tired and fell asleep. That’s really it.


ST:

Then tell me about how you came back?


DJ:

It was long. At first, I had doctors telling me that I wouldn’t play again or I wouldn’t do this or do that. But I didn’t believe them. I wasn’t buying into any of that. I knew I’d play and get back to where I was.


ST:

What made you believe that?


DJ:

I just did.


ST:

Are you the same player that you were before the injury?


DJ:

No. In some ways, I’m better. But no. I guess not. I’m getting there. It’s not like I can’t do anything that I couldn’t do before. But inside, I feel it. It’s not like I think I’m not as good, but when you take that much time off you have to get used to playing again.


ST:

Do you feel like a rookie all over again?


DJ:

Nah, not like a rookie, but I feel like I got a second chance. Like I said, I’m just playing again and that’s really it.


ST:

You really think this is no big deal, don’t you?


DJ:

People come back from injuries all of the time. I’m no different.