This is not the starting point I envisioned for this column today, but time is of the essence so here we are. Let's talk about a matter of grave importance: the weather.
For Torontonians, the weather here is an endless source of, let's gingerly call it, emotion. When the NBA season starts, at the tail end of October, the entire city is bracing for what's coming: winter. You've seen the memes. As the basketball gets good -- and, make no mistake, this year it has been very good for Toronto -- the citizenry is usually found in various states of distress. "It's too cold!", "Here comes the snow!", "When will it end???", "I pray only for death." It escalates quickly.
This February, in particular, featured one of the stranger runs in Toronto weather history. First, it was almost spring-like in its temperature (an ecstatic 4 degrees Celsius), then, as a practical joke, sub-zero chills (right when the entire NBA world was looking our way). Now we tumble into March, the most contentious and confusing of months, weather-wise, for Toronto. Things could get weird.
How do the Raptors and James Johnson fit into all of this? I don't know if you've heard but the Raptors are in a bit of a pickle right now. They're in second, which is good, but their defense has fallen apart, which is bad. Johnson, who if you'll recall was once brought in as something of a saviour figure (Joe Johnson is still out there, after all), has been up-and-down right along with the team's woes. We don't quite know what to expect of him, or this team, as we all barrel inevitably towards the playoffs.
However, much like Toronto's gradual fortification against winter, we prepare for the worst.
Did James Johnson Play?
The winds of change blew through the Raptors lineup again this week. Or maybe Johnson is still struggling with plantar faciitis? No, let's go with the winds; those mystical, mysterious winds of change.
Johnson played in only one of three games this past week and it was that piece of junk loss to the Houston Rockets. In total, he topped 27 minutes, put eight points (and two 3s!), plus four assists, two blocks, a steal and, gulp, three turnovers. Still, as mentioned, the Raptors gave the game away. There were matchup reasons to not play Johnson in the Raps' game against Portland -- coach Dwane Casey wanted Norman Powell to bug C.J. McCollum. I have to assume the Nets game, in which both Johnson and Luis Scola sat, was about rest.
Johnson is set to start in tonight's Atlanta game (presumably). And so the winds of change blow on.
In our mind's eye, this is how we picture James Johnson:
He then largely disappeared from the game. This is peak Johnson. It's a spiritual discovery that finds itself in both reality and in the stuff of dreams. We will never be able to properly quantify this.
Prediction for the Week
Oh, it's no big deal, just a run of three games against the Raptors main playoff rivals -- the Hawks, the Bulls and the Heat. Shouldn't be a problem. And just for fun we'll tack on that wild, Giannis-led team in Milwaukee. Really get the whole experience in there, the whole gamut of good times.
Yes, Johnson will be needed this week unless, wait, what's that???
DeMarre vs Bruno post-practice shootout pic.twitter.com/jlM8fkdbmb— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 9, 2016
That first shooter's name is DeMarre Carroll.
Hearing DeMarre Carroll is in New York today to get clearance on his knee from Dr that performed surgery. Could return to full practice soon— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 10, 2016
Over/Under Minutes: 45.5
Maybe Carroll comes back? Maybe Johnson sits for Powell? Maybe the sun explodes?
So many variables. Make your bets.