There was this funny moment during the pre-game Dwane Casey chat against the Kings. James Johnson had just played his best game of the season against the Heat in Miami two nights before. He had 13 points and led the team in assists with five. The Raptors won handily by 14 points. Johnson Mania was running wild.
Anyway, a reporter, as if reading the minds of every Raptors fan in the universe, noted that in one game Johnson will look really solid, and then in another he'll look like he's forgotten everything (e.g. the skills that make him that solid NBA player). His question trailed off with a "Is there anything you can put your finger on...?" before smiles and a few chuckles (from Casey and others) broke out.
Casey's answer, even with the sly smile on his face, was magnanimous:
That's a good analogy. I mean, that's a lot of players in the league though. A lot of guys in the league that are trying to find their way, you can say that about a lot of guys. With James it's just the focus, the attention to detail on every possession, not taking possessions off, you could say that about a lot of guys. You could put any name in front of that, a lot of young players in this league... He had a solid game, but now the challenge is to continue to do that for all the minutes he's on the floor.
It's a fair, if broad assessment. To me, though, that smile was everything. It was the smile of a man who knows what he has with Johnson (Casey later remarked JJ was one of the team's most talented players). But, it also acknowledged the vast unknown inherent to another human being. If Casey had an answer, he'd tell you. All he (and we) can do is wonder.
Because of course, Johnson, in his unique vastness, remains one of the few players in the league who can be praised, as Casey did, with the statement, "He didn't do too many crazy things."
What a player.
Did James Johnson Play?
Johnson played a comically high 77 minutes this past week in three games. He even got the start in two of them! But as a philosopher once said: What is a man if he gains the whole world but loses himself? (I think it was Bob Dylan who said that.) Johnson somehow managed to sprain his ankle during pre-game warm-ups vs. Dallas, so he was unable to stretch his comically high run to even greater comical heights.
Still, if you took the over, congrats. I should also mention that Johnson set new season highs this past week; he put up 25 shots and never shot less than 56 percent. His 14 points against Sacramento stand as a season-high for him. It's a Christmas F*cking Miracle.
It's perhaps a touch macabre to discuss this particular play. The Raptors lost last Thursday to the Charlotte Hornets after a bunch of unfortunate events (not the least of which was DeMar DeRozan's cancelled game-winning heave). Also, I don't know about you, by Christmas is exactly the time when you're supposed to have the highest regard for human life.
Prediction for the Week
Three games for the Raptors this week in that discomforting stretch of time between Christmas and New Year's. (Not a ton to do, you may be stuck in the office, it could snow, etc.) They see the Bucks again on Boxing Day, then take on the Bulls in Chicago, and finally, for their last game of 2015, it's old friends the Washington Wizards.
While the news regarding Jonas Valanciunas lately is good, there is still no official word on the return of DeMarre Carroll. My own eyes saw DC putting some work in prior to the Kings game last week, so maybe he's close? I don't know.
My point is: Let's cherish the time we have with our loved ones. And by extension, James Johnson.
Over/Under Minutes: 67.5
Yes, despite that ankle injury pre-game against the Mavericks, Johnson will get some run. Remember who you're dealing with here:
told James Johnson I didn't expect to see him back so soon. His response: "I'm like Wolverine."— Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack) November 25, 2014
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and I'll see you back here for the final Watch of 2015.