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James Johnson Watch Week 21: The one where we wonder how things got this way

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The ups and downs continue in a week of James Johnson and Raptors action.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

I was watching the latest episode of New Girl the other night -- yeah, what of it? -- and I laughed at a few bits. Don't ask me to recall them; like most sitcoms now, the humourous stuff falls almost instantaneously out of my head. When you give even one extra moment of thought to New Girl, it falls apart. It is a deeply dumb show, filled with deeply dumb characters, doing deeply dumb things. But it is funny at times, which makes it worth watching. Sort of.

This is a common trend with good sitcoms. They start out fresh and funny in their particular way -- the characters are unique, the situations compelling, the writing sharp. But inevitably, inexorably, all sitcoms trend in the same direction: character turns to caricature, situations become stupid, the writing... well, you can guess what happens to it. In watching New Girl now, as with going back to watch The Office, or Friends or even, gasp, late period Seinfeld, it's impossible not to notice this. It gets less than good.

Now, I'm not saying the game of James Johnson is unravelling. After all, somebody needs to play those minutes for the Raptors at the three spot, and until recently (with the emergence of Norman Powell), Johnson was the only qualified man for the job. Sometimes at the start of games (it's almost always at the start), you can tell what kind of Johnson game you're going to get. He makes smart plays, gets teammates involved, shuts down opponents. But too often Johnson gradually disappears, his attention wanes, his skills leave him.

Or worse still, Johnson never quite arrives, looking for all to see like a tired rerun, an episode we've all seen years before.

Did James Johnson Play?

Johnson cleared 62 minutes in the past week, which seems high (especially given my comical 45.5 line) until you consider the Raptors actually played four games. Yes, the Raptors nominal starting small forward did not play against Atlanta (in a Toronto win). Coach Casey expressed a desire to put Powell on the Hawks' marksman Kyle Korver, and a look at the box score confirms this as a good call. (Korver shot a mere 2-for-6 in the game). Johnson is not always the most attentive of defenders.

But what of the other games? Well, as per usual, in the wins Johnson comported himself masterfully. He had sterling lines against the Heat and the Bucks (for example, shooting 71 for 10 points and 50 percent for 11 points, respectively), and disappeared in a loss to the Bulls. That Chicago loss is particularly galling because it feels like Johnson would be an ideal foil to Jimmy Butler's bully game on one end, while punishing soft bodies like Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott on the other. Sadly, it didn't happen that way.

Game Highlight

Just know there is a universe out there, Earth 2 let's call it, where James Johnson does superhero-ish things like this all the time and we drown him in adulation as one of the finest players in the league:

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your readings of pre-Crisis DC comics), we live on Earth 1, where Johnson will remain a lightly used ninth or tenth man. He's been icing his feet after games due to some lingering plantar fasciitis. He is human.

Prediction for the Week

It's the Pacers tonight and a Magic game wedged in between two matchups with the Celtics. Here are some things to note, stream of conscious-style: who's guarding Paul George, could the Raptors see the Celtics in the second round of the playoffs, should we even talk about the second round yet, I'm not worried about the Magic at all, poor Magic players, yo but seriously who is guarding Paul George, what's it like having two first names for a name, man George is good, Paul George that is.

I can only imagine what is running through James Johnson's mind.

Over/Under Minutes: 57.5

You've got to figure on big minutes for JJ in the Pacers game, but possibly limited stretches the rest of the way.

But, I'm no expert.