The memories of my high school junior basketball team tenure are mostly pretty bad. We went 3-9 on the season and most games weren't close. In one outing, we went scoreless for a quarter. In another, a team's press and zone defense were so terrifying I don't think we took a shot from within the three point arc. Of our three wins, two came against a private Jewish school who fielded a team with no players of any considerable height. The other came against a now disappeared school from the well-known neighbourhood around Jane and Finch. It was this game in which I had my career-high of eight points.
My only other memory of that game is the near fights that almost broke out during and afterwards. (We had a couple of hotheads on our team.) Let me tell you, I've never stepped faster towards a TTC bus. Still, in a strange way, this proximity to violence was something of a bonding exercise for the team. We weren't particularly unified -- partly because some dudes are assholes, and partly because we were a random collection of competitive teens (so, yeah, assholes). In those moments though, it felt like we were in something together, under threat as one.
I don't think any of James Johnson's teammates -- in Toronto, in Chicago, in Memphis -- have ever disliked him. Even when he blows a defensive assignment or does something wacky and ill-advised with the ball. While he doesn't always seem to be on the same page as everyone else (on the team or the planet), there is a calming, positive energy that radiates from him. If shit goes down, Johnson has your back.
I think back sometimes on what my old stupid team could have accomplished if this attitude had been applied more consistently. We probably still would have been quite bad. But I think we would have had a better time.
Did James Johnson Play?
The more astute among you will recall that this is not Johnson's first appearance in these playoffs. He did get into Game 4 of the Pacers series, but if you're like me you've already erased that game from your memory. On that night it was three minutes of garbage time.
Last night in the Raptors' Game 2 showdown with the Miami Heat, Johnson was called into duty once again, this time for real. The occasion felt particularly momentous. Joe Johnson, the man who killed the Raptors two years ago, was at it again, relentlessly working his way off screens or into the post. DeMarre Carroll was trying his best, but he is but one man. And with DeMar DeRozan getting abused on D, it fell suddenly to the one man we thought we wouldn't see again. James Johnson was at the scorers table and the cheer from the crowd brought a smile to my face.
So how did Johnson do? With the Raptors' lead in the third dwindling to two points, Johnson's presence on the court just happened to coincide with a 9-2 run for Toronto and a lead pushed back up to 61-52. The lead would shrink again after that and Johnson would come out quickly for Terrence Ross. Our man contributed just one rebound in those five minutes. But the memories will last a lifetime.
In lieu of any specific in-game highlights (because it's hard to find "stout post defense" on Youtube), we go to the post-game footage of Johnson. Behold this clip:
First, Johnson's kid is adorable. Let's just get that out of the way. Second, and stay with me here, Johnson's sartorial choices remain at the top of the Raptors fashion power rankings. (The rest of the top three is filled out by DeMarre Carroll and Patrick Patterson; don' t @ me.)
Here, Johnson appears to be going with the full-on Alejandro Jodorowsky. Once you see his appearance in The Holy Moutain, it's hard to unsee.
For good measure, Johnson's riding with his kid in the clip which, to my sleep-deprived eyes, invokes only the mad solo mission of the one, the only, El Topo, a different and no less bizarre Jodorowsky trip:
Does this make sense? Is Johnson secretly a huge fan of the avant garde cinema of the 1970s? Let's let Alejandro decide.
"I wanted to make a film that gave the people who took LSD at that time the hallucinations that you get with that drug, but without hallucinating."
I can think of no finer summary for Johnson's play.
Prediction for the Week
All that being said, if Johnson plays again in this series, something has probably gone wrong.
Over/Under Minutes: 4.5
Could Johnson get into a blowout? Could he be pressed into anti-Joe Johnson duty? Where is any of this going?
I don't know man, but it freaks me out.