It hurts a little bit to consider these trade proposals and see James Johnson tossed in there as cap fodder. His contract is only $3 million and it comes off a team's books at the end of the year, which makes for some perfect trade ballast. He's not even the most talented player being discussed, so who cares, right? Sure, maybe if we viewed all NBA players as just entries on a spreadsheet.
The Raptors locker room, to my mind, is divided in a couple of interesting ways. Maybe divided is not the best word to use here, since it's clear everyone gets along, but you get my meaning. The simplest description of this division is physical: there's a doorway to the shower area that puts the lockers of Jonas Valanciunas (to the right of the door), then Bruno Caboclo, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry apart from everyone else. That can't have been an accident. There's definitely some organizational thought behind putting the franchise's two most important young players next to its two most important players, period.
Then, starting from the left of the door are newcomer good guys Cory Joseph, Bismack Biyombo and DeMarre Carroll, followed by Terrence Ross and the two rookies, Delon Wright and Norman Powell. As perhaps a practical joke, Luis Scola is sandwiched in between the rooks and Johnson, which leads to a lot of cross talk (of the trash or other variety). Scola remains like a monk through it all, with a son of his or two usually bounding in or out of the room. And then, Patrick Patterson looms to answer questions and stare off in the middle distance, next to a smiling Bebe, and finally, sadly, Anthony Bennett.
This second larger group has a bunch of interesting pairings and groupings. The young guys are usually amped up or playful post-game, the older guys keeping more to themselves. On some nights, Biyombo plays the part of the friendly scold, while on most nights Ross tries his best to duck the spotlight. It's fun to try and track who will be hanging out with who after the game, or who's heading out, who's looking to eat some food, and on and on. It sounds cheesy, but there is some sense of community in there.
For his part, Johnson often feels at the centre of it, some amorphous action, something. Loud or quiet in equal measure, thoughtful to the reporters who stick a recorder or camera in his face, solid in himself. He's watched screeching videos loudly on his phone, or called out to Lowry to borrow some of that "All-Star lotion" of his. Even Johnson's fashion sense stands out -- last week he wore some of the tightest and whitest pants I've seen in awhile.
It's weird to remember Johnson is actually the fourth oldest guy on the team (behind Scola, and just a year younger than Lowry and Carroll). There's a clear big brother dynamic at play here.
It'll be a shame when it is gone.
Did James Johnson Play?
As always, the answer remains a firm yes and no. Johnson did play in three games this week, but you'd be hard-pressed to remember many of his actions. He was held to one measly point against the Knicks (who were without half the team) after shooting 0-for-3 from the field and 1-for-4 from the free throw line. He did have four blocks in that game though (more on that in the highlight section). Then Johnson turned around with a 4-for-5 shooting night for 11 points and seven rebounds in Detroit, a performance that's been forgotten about after the near-collapse of the Raptors in the dying minutes and Kyle Lowry's massive minutes load.
And then, for good measure, Johnson sprained his ankle in Denver, which has led him to miss one game (vs. the Suns). Johnson is now listed under that most existential of statuses: day-to-day.
James Johnson quasi update: a bad sprain, no timetable but as x rays showed, ankle is ok.— Chris O'Leary (@olearychris) February 4, 2016
It's been a long week.
As promised, there was one demonstrative highlight to include this week. It is a running block of impressive magnitude:
.@iamjj3 does not approve. #RTZ https://t.co/GFzbIRwm8F— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 29, 2016
Get that gah... well, you know how the rest of this goes.
Prediction for the Week
The Raptors play three games this week, including tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers, then the Detroit Pistons on Monday and finally the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday. All three are road games and the question is whether or not Johnson will even be healthy. As of right now, we know his MRI was negative, but that's it.
I say he sits out in Portland, gives it a go in Detroit and then is fine for an extended run in Minnesota. How quickly we forget that Johnson once compared himself to Marvel's Wolverine, he of the super fast healing factor.
Over/Under Minutes: 21.5
We're calling it: Johnson's injury break will be short.
What's your call?