There has to be a moment when jealousy and resentment are right there, waiting to be embraced. Does it happen when you're told you won't play tonight? Or when your replacement, a rookie no less, makes a startling play in the open court? You cheer, of course, for everything that happens because you want your team to win. And because you're a professional. But jealous, resentment, they have to be there, even for just a brief flickering moment. It's an all to human feeling, easy to achieve and hard to shake. We've all been there.
So James Johnson, a talented human, is on the outside of something looking in, at least a little bit. He still gets to play, but the number of people out there yelling for him to get more minutes, to save the Raptors, seems to be shrinking. It's all Norman Powell this, and Norman Powell that, these days. And what about DeMarre Carroll? Is he coming back soon? Shouldn't we have more news by now? It can't be easy for James -- to exist in this place where you are both necessary (because someone has to play those minutes) and then totally expendable. To find yourself the tenth or, unthinkably, eleventh man on a team you were once brought in to help save.
Earlier this season, Johnson aired out his feelings of underutilization, and there it was. Not quite jealousy or resentment, per se, but at least a sense of where this was all heading. The Raptors have their first 50 win season now; they earned it in a game in which Johnson did not play. All the talk and buzz around the team is going in wildly different directions -- playoff predictions, Lowry's elbow, Carroll's return, and more -- but it is unified in one way: away from Johnson.
To be honest, I don't know how he stands it.
Did James Johnson Play?
The answer: Yes, more than I thought he would. I was totally right in my guess that Johnson would not get in any time against the Hawks last night. But he did get a run in two blowouts (one good, one bad) and his Houston contribution was non-zero. Johnson did his customary thing -- put in 19 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished seven assists and added three steals -- in 45 minutes over four games.
Feel free to laugh at my 15.5 minute line from last week. It's taken almost half a year, and I'm getting no better at this.
James Johnson waving off JV to go one-on-one on Kevin Durant might be the most JJ thing of all time. And there's been a lot of JJ things— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) March 29, 2016
James Johnson vs. Michael Beasley is a great matchup of guys who have left a lot of money on the table in their careers— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) March 26, 2016
I mean, they're not wrong.
Prediction for the Week
Johnson will get a chance to say hello to his old friends on the Grizzlies tomorrow night, I'm sure. Then the Raps are off to say hello to the Spurs, which could go badly. And finally, the Hornets make one final push into the ACC. You have to figure there are blowouts in the cards for the Grizz and Spurs. The Hornets is a toss up, and much will depend on the play of the team as a whole, and Powell specifically. This coming week will not be the time for the return of Carroll (holy on most high).
Over/Under Minutes: 32.5
Why not just bump the line up, they said. What could possibly go wrong, they reasoned.
There it is. Make your bets.