A funny thing happens when you decide to exit a relationship. Your brain, previously stuck on all the things you didn't like about a person, suddenly toggles to a different position. Almost instantaneously, all you remember are the good things -- the fun times, the jokes, the happiness. Your brain, which up until that point had been going off like a klaxon advising you to get out, now says "awww remember that?" If you've been there, you know what I'm talking about. These are facts.
James Johnson missed four games for the Raptors recently which, when coupled with the All-Star break, meant we didn't see him play basketball for two and half weeks. No great stretch really, but enough that we started lamenting his absence. (That wasn't just me, right?) Our collective brains were remembering only the times he did something wild and cool in the open court, or when he made it seem like no one in the league could guard him. And as we watched rookie Norman Powell gamely try to fill the hole left by Johnson, it just wasn't the same. We were ready to talk ourselves into anything.
Johnson's return this week, in all its uneven glory, was a reminder of those same flaws he had a mere two and a half weeks ago. Johnson can disappear for stretches, or make really bad decisions with the ball, or go for a defensive gamble when he really shouldn't. There's a reason why he usually finds himself at the ends of rotations.
You can talk yourself into anything, but reality is another matter. And facts stay facts.
Did James Johnson Play?
So yes, Johnson returned this week and comically crushed my stupid ass 38.5 minutes line from last Thursday. He got in over 75 minutes last week in four games -- in which the Raptors went 3-1 -- but, uh, here's the rub: outside of a Knicks mercy killing, Johnson did not play well.
James Johnson is doing James Johnson things. The bad kind.— Eric Koreen (@ekoreen) February 25, 2016
Remember when everyone in the Raptors' fanbase was convinced that James Johnson was good?— William Lou (@william_lou) February 25, 2016
There are more tweets to put here, but I don't want to get carried away. The point is, as always, that Johnson can play but he also cannot play. Outside of the New York game, JJ shot 3-of-13 and missed all his three point attempts. The weak play hit its apex last night against the Timberwolves (during which the above tweets happened) and I get the feeling many are now openly praying for Carroll's return (assuming you weren't doing that already).
Such is life.
Thanks to our friends (but really, blood rivals) over at Raptors Republic, we have some great video footage of Johnson bombing a three and then having, let's say, a chat with Carmelo Anthony as they both came back up the floor.
James Johnson trash talking 'Melo. pic.twitter.com/4yiZIL4Th1— Zarar Siddiqi (@CornerSniper) February 23, 2016
So yes, Johnson maybe didn't have the best week, and his best play came against a team in the advanced stages of another implosion, but there is a zero percent change Melo wanted any piece of whatever it was Johnson was saying. And I won't lie, that will never not feel cool to me.
Prediction for the Week
So Doug Smith of the Toronto Star casually dropped the idea that it would be three or four games before DeMarre Carroll is back (edit: and starting; I read this too fast). This means we've got at least one more solid week of the Watch before who the hell knows what happens. Johnson didn't have the best of weeks, but someone has to play at small forward, and it will continue to be him.
For the week, Johnson will get another chance to work his magic on LeBron James on Friday, then there's the new-look Pistons (with Tobias Harris), and finally, a meeting with the Jazz. There's no doubt that Johnson gets a solid run in all three games, so let me adjust my minutes line accordingly.
Over/Under Minutes: 57.5
Have at it.