clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

James Johnson Watch Week 22: Beware the coming twilight

Is it just injuries or is the sun setting on James Johnson's playing time with the Raptors?

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine in your line of work the entire run of your career could be summarized in a 15 to 20 year stretch. You'd be essentially hired at the minimum legal working age -- say, around 14 or so -- and groomed for a position that a minuscule few actually get. You're promoted after four or five years, and then happily elevated again to the top position in your field. You've made it and you're only around 20 years old. This is the dream.

James Johnson has been in the NBA since he was 22 after a run at Wake Forest from 2007 to 2009. He's working on his seventh season as a professional. Before all this he played in high school. He is now 29 years old and soon to become a free agent. This means Johnson is around, let's say, a dozen years into his basketball life -- or, in other words, somehow closer to the end than the beginning. This is the dream coming to a close.

We're not entirely in a position to relate to Johnson; not as professionals at least. But there is something inexorable about human life, livelihood, and its ending that we can all grab onto. Maybe you are like Johnson and you're doing something you've always dreamed of doing -- even in a reduced capacity. Maybe you spend your days wishing things were different, that perhaps life has passed you by. In truth, it can sometimes hard to determine which is worse: to have the thing you want and watch it slip away over a too brief span of time, or to yearn and struggle and never achieve at all. This is life.

Did James Johnson Play?

Last we heard Johnson had a sore left Achilles' tendon, and there was some talk of plantar fasciitis. This presumably would contribute to him playing a mere seven minutes and 23 seconds this past week. (Johnson managed to hit a three, but he also missed two free throws against Boston that would have tied the game.) Taking the under was the wise bet. Alternatively, the Raptors have been playing small teams, rosters with quick guards who deke and dive in and out of the lane and along the perimeter, hunting for space and an open shot. Johnson is a solid on-ball defender, both large and quick enough to deal with a variety of attacking players. But an outstanding off-ball defender he is not. Enter Norman Powell.

Powell is still very much a rookie, so it's not surprising to see the ups and downs of his offensive game on a day-to-day basis. But he's been getting up on guys with extreme regularity. Assuming the eventual return of DeMarre Carroll (praise be to god), Powell will probably not see much (or any) time in the playoffs. But the Raptors have to like his upside at the moment, and his ability to play hard, fast and smart.

In other words: Injured or not, Johnson is on the outside looking in right now.

Game Highlight

Very, very little to report this week. Nothing on Twitter (outside of one clip of Johnson hitting a three). Nothing floating around on social media or in the news. The Johnson Watch goes quiet.

We light a candle for this section and move on.

Prediction for the Week

We've entered the darkest timeline of the James Johnson experience at this point. Whether it be injuries or just the rise of Powell, we can no longer assume he'll get much burn in non-garbage time situations. What does this mean? Johnson may not see the court against the Rockets (depending on which version of the team shows up), he maybe gets a run against Kevin Durant, and he could play if the Pelicans game gets out of hand either way. Feels very doubtful Johnson will play against Atlanta.

This is where we are now.

Over/Under Minutes: 15.5

Got to adjust the line way, way lower. But This could still be a bit high. Will Powell take all of a healthy Johnson's minutes? Will Carroll return?

Questions! Answers! Go!