The sports media world has been all aflutter today thanks to a doofy column from the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons. The imbroglio in question is over a late night stroll through a casino by Raptors players DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph. The column is wrong in a bunch of ways: it attacks the players' reputations, but doesn't talk about their existing good rep; it ignores that NBA players are night owls who nap in the afternoons; it weakly implies that their poor play in Game 5 was a result of being up late, as if every other player in that game was tucked in before midnight. Then, finally, it settles on the "optics aren't good" as an argument. It is a Bad Take.
When someone says don't chase the night -- in this or any context, really -- they're advising you against looking for trouble, the implication being that nothing good could possibly be happening after 2 a.m. But who among us can resist that siren song of the night? Who has not been out late, checked the time, and convinced themselves they'd be fine the next morning? Who has not purchased drinks they don't need with money they maybe don't even have to keep the good times going? Who has not pursued something or someone in the face of all reasonable sense? Unless you yourself are a monk: I say this has been you at least once.
To bring this back to James Johnson and actual basketball (because what the hell, why not), I have to say he produces this feeling in an actual in-game context; especially as the Raptors find themselves chasing for and grasping at anything resembling consistency. Playing JJ now, so deep in these playoffs, is not without risk. When he checks in there's a kind of breathless minute-by-minute accounting that happens. Everyone starts calculating the odds of one good discrete Johnson decision leading to another, which will then develop into something special on the whole.
That's the hope, anyway. In practice, the outcome is usually unremarkable or vaguely disappointing, both team and player not really better or worse off for having tried. We all just wake up the next day.
Did James Johnson Play?
Johnson worked his way into all four of the Raptors' games this week, which is no small feat considering they were Games 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately, the outcomes of all four of those games suggests a lack of necessity where Johnson is concerned. He played a total of just over 47 minutes -- so you win if you took the under -- but he also didn't have much of an impact. Oh sure, he had 11 points in a Game 2 blowout, hit a three in a Game 3 win and got a no-call jump ball with Matthew Dellavedova in a Game 4 win. But in Game 5, with the Raptors absolutely smashed from the first quarter on, Johnson only got 11 minutes. He also inspired some, uh, not nice tweets.
The Raps might have to play JV and Biz together just so they don't have to play James Johnson— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) May 26, 2016
Oh, no. James Johnson should not be guarding LeBron. That is bad.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) May 26, 2016
Johnson finished the week with sixteen points, eight rebounds, four assists and a steal (and one dope-as-hell shades look). But gotdamn, when your performance in Game 5 of the ECF has people bringing up something that happened six years ago, it's not going well. Look away from the following clip if you want to preserve any good feelings you have left.
All that being said, look at my dude Zach Lowe mentioning Johnson in his latest column on the ongoing Cleveland vs. Toronto battle:
• James Johnson has come out from hibernation and made just enough positive plays to stay relevant -- and stabilize Toronto's rotation so that Casey doesn't have to overplay Scola.
He's 4-of-6 from deep in this series, and he hurt Frye off the dribble in Game 4. Cleveland is sticking its centers on Johnson, a non-shooter, so that its speedier power forwards can scamper along the perimeter with Patterson. That's smart; it's the same way the Cavs treated Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha in the second round. If Johnson can squeeze out a couple of productive drives against Cleveland's bigs, that's a nice little victory on the fringes for the Raptors.
I feel like a proud father. Or at least a proud little brother.
Prediction for the Week
The realities of the Raptors vs. LeBron and the Cavaliers are starting to catch up to this recent column resurgence. I didn't think we'd end up here at all -- with Johnson or the team -- but watching things soar to great heights and then fall apart hurts just the same. The Raptors have Game 6 on Friday, and if they bounce back from a historically bad Game 5, they'll force a Game 7 on Sunday. Something in the scores of all three games in Cleveland suggests that Toronto will not win that game.
Johnson's been hovering around six to 11 minutes in the past three games (despite that massive blowout in Game 5), so something tells me we'll see him a bit. The line will be set based on how confident I am in an eventual Game 7.
Over/Under Minutes: 13.5
It's been a hell of a run.