I have started to come around in terms of James Johnson. When you go back to his draft year, the Raptors had been said to be considering him for their pick that year. They did not end up drafting him and he was eventually selected by the Bulls. Last season the Bulls decided to trade him to the Raptors in a deal near the deadline. I was not really excited about it. It to me was a sign that things did not look good for Sonny Weems who I like as a player and personally. Bit by bit I have started to change my opinion on Johnson as a player. He has been very impressive with his play on defence. He is now slowly starting to show signs on the offensive end of the floor. I don't think he has done enough to say he solves the Raptors problems at the small forward position as a starter. But he has shown that he can be a part of the puzzle. If I was on the fence talking with him last night prior to the Raptors game vs the Hawks got me off it.
It was an interesting chat. We began talking about how his training in martial arts and how it converts to the basketball floor. MMA training has become popular with athletes in many sports and I have seen many good features about how that training translates to football. There has been a lot of talk in broadcasts about the work he has been investing in his jump shot so we talk about that as well. In addition the difficulties that both this season and the odd lockout off-season had on him being able to improve his game. I really found this a honest and interesting interview hope you will feel the same.
One of the things that has been widely talked about is the struggles of Demar DeRozan and Ed Davis this season. I think through what James had to say it gives you a window into how not just for him, but for all the Raptors, it was a tough off-season to improve lacking the support and direction they would normally have. This combined with the tough grind of this NBA schedule makes improvement a larger challenge. I had talked about this topic with Jack Armstrong in a previous edition of the Starting 5. In this interview you get the player prospective on the issues this off-season had for players.
It makes you think that maybe we should factor that in before we judge any of these young players to harshly. In many ways this was an off-season for them in which no matter the amount of work they put in, without the direction that they would normally have, it made it harder, if not impossible to gain the maximum results you would see in a normal off-season. It is a big factor even if you don't want to accept it as an excuse. It was at the very least a challenge for every player to have to overcome.
James Johnson like everyone else continues to work hard despite a situation for a young team that is far from ideal. Which is something Dwane Casey made reference to in reflecting on the team through the first month of this NBA Season. The lack of practice time and the most busy January in Raptors history made things challenging. Not to mention the many injuries the Raptors have had to deal with, the most significant to Andrea Bargnani. But as Johnson said, it is just a case of you really have no days off if you hope to improve in a season such as this. That will test you both mentally and physically which lends itself well to Johnson's background in martial arts.