James Johnson

Don’t ask why I was awake at four in the morning, but that was when Marc Stein tweeted and then posted to ESPN.com about James Johnson getting sent to Sacramento for a future second round pick. The trade clears $2.8 million off the Raptors’ 2012-13 payroll, so this could be a precursor to another move — either that, or the Raptors simply wanted to do whatever it took to ensure Johnson wasn’t on their roster next season.

There was some kind of altercation between Johnson and Raptors coach Dwane Casey in April that resulted in him being benched for a couple of games. We never really got specific details about what occurred that led to this pseudo-suspension, and neither party has been forthcoming about those details. After Johnson missed the second game, Casey mysteriously said, “We chose as a staff not to play him. We’re going to build the program the right way, we’re going to do things the right way, and we’ll go from there.” It turns out “going from there” entails dumping him for essentially no return.

I know most of you didn’t value the contributions of Johnson and Jerryd Bayless the way that I did, but they were my two favorite Raptors last season so the way Bryan Colangelo cast them away is pretty disconcerting. Was Johnson a goner even if the Knicks matched the Landry Fields offer sheet? Did they even consider getting rid of Linas Kleiza and keeping Johnson? We’ll probably never know the answers to these questions, nor will we get a straight answer about whether the April kerfuffle had anything to do with this move.

Colangelo runs a tight ship when it comes to this kind of information, and it’s not like we’ve got a rabid team of muckraking reporters digging for scandals about this team — if Johnson was consuming fried chicken and beer in the locker room, we’d probably never find out about it. Regardless, he’ll likely compete for the Kings’ starting small forward position next season and he should help improve their defense, which ranked 29th in points allowed per 100 possessions last season.

Some people will point to the fact that he’ll begin his fourth NBA season with his third team as a sign that he’s going nowhere fast in this league. I see a promising 25-year-old player who improved his Player Efficiency Rating in each of his last two seasons and is one of the best shot-blocking wings in the sport. There is a lot of talent there, if it can be harnessed. My best guess is that Casey doesn’t think he’s worth the effort.

Comments (31)

  1. Totally with you Scott, Bayless and JJ were two of ny favorites.

    Feels like neither got a true chance for various ressons, I’ll trust the coaching staff though. They see more than any fan or reporter could.

  2. One reason for getting rid of JJ that I’ve seen consistently is that he tried to do more than what the coaching staff wanted him to do. In other words, he refused to play his role.

    Reminds me of Hump…wonder if the BC would have taken a mulligan on that one.

    Anyway, impossible to say what was going on behind the scenes and what kind of character/immaturity issues there may have been, but it is a bit odd to see the brass give up so readily on young players with talent that are showing real signs of improvement.

    JJ struck me as a bit of a knucklehead, but I would have liked to see him get another year under his belt here.

    Again, if it’s a precursor to getting a serious upgrade at the SF spot, it makes some more sense.

  3. I’m with you on both these guys, not sure why you get rid of two guys who seem to be quickly improving just to keep guys with all kinds of question marks.

    My feeling on JJ though was that Casey/BC wanted him to be a defensive role player and, though JJ didn’t think of himself as the next Michael Jordan, he wasn’t ruling it out either.

    Going to miss his shot blocking though, don’t know how you give that up as a defensive coach.

  4. He got caught for smoking weed on a damn plane.. dude will be out of the league in no time.

    • Where did you hear this? I haven’t heard ANY reason for why he was benched.

      • Some anonymous poster on realgm said he heard that rumour about the plane, so there’s about a 0.0001% chance it’s true. Amazing what some people believe with zero credible sourcing.

        If Casey didn’t like him, given all JJ’s defensive bonafides, he must have been a pretty bad headcase. I guess they figure Fields gives them most of what JJ provided (clearly not the shot blocking), + some other benefits (mostly better shooting if he returns to rookie form) and fewer problems.

        • I really hate when people post unfounded rumours. Don’t these people actually, you know, check the validity of these things they read?

  5. A second round pick isn’t nothing, atleast we got something for him instead of nothing like Bayless.

  6. James Johnson was the only returning Raptor I gave a good grade to for last season. If there really was a serious problem with him last season, then fine, but Colangelo is giving up assets for next to nothing left, right and center.

    Not that all this means everything, but it’s interesting to note that Johnson had the 4th highest PER, 3rd highest Defensive Rating, the highest Defensive Win Share, and the 4th highest Win Share. He was obviously weak on the offensive end, but when guys like Bargnani and DeRozan still appear to be untouchable, I’m questioning this whole defense-first and accountability mantra we keep hearing.


    • Exactly. JJ was one of the only positives about the team this year. Outside of Amir and Davis, he was the only guy who actually played defense on a “defensive minded team” as they call it.

      Could you imagine it was something as simple as JJ getting into an argument with the players, coaching staff or management because of players like Bargnani weren’t held accountable? In fact, I wouldn’t even rule out the possibility of that. There must have been a bunch of times when Johnson bailed out Bargnani alone on the defensive end.

  7. Bye bye James, enjoy the weed in California. Not to mention the weather.

    Hello softie, jumper clanking, non-defending, and most importantly to BC, overpaid, SF’s Kleiza and Fields! Minutes await both of you in our utterly disfunctional basketball family.

    Do not believe BC has an as yet unseen plan at SF. Isn’t it time for pitchforks and torches yet?

  8. Another asset flushed down the toilet for pretty much nothing.

    He could have been a part of a bigger trade for the wing player they covet so badly along with Calderon’s expiring contract.

  9. I mentioned this in the Fields post, but you guys should really look at Alex Rucker’s twitter page. He’s pretty much explaining, without explicitly naming JJ, why he wasn’t necessarily as good a defensive player as some fans think.

    The guy is employed by the Raps, so he obviously is tweeting away with the brass’ blessing. I think it’s kind of refreshing to have someone associated with the team engaging this much with fans, but I’m a little surprised that he has this much freedom. Especially since it’s not clear how much the rest of management is influenced by his work. I would love to know what their advanced analysis says about DeMar, Jose and Andrea.

    • I don’t think Johnson is a great defensive player, by any means, but I think he’s been the best wing player the Raptors have had, during his tenure, and possibly even the best defender, period. That probably says more about the lack of good defensive players on the Raptors, but I think he’s got the most defensive potential among all the wing players on the Raptors.

      And, yes, I’d love to know what ANY of his advance stats say about those three, for different reasons.

  10. Re: smoking a joint on the plane.

    Is there any truth to that rumor? Where would it come from? It seems a bit out of left field.. if someone wanted to invent a rumor they could have said anything. Smoking pot on an airplane seems a bit farfetched, no?

    I don’t want to see Johnson’s life turned upside out (and inside out), but who can find out about stuff like this?

    • There does not appear to be ANY truth to the rumour. Seems like it’s the internet at it’s worst, quite frankly.

      • I dunno though, it feels like it’s coming out of nowhere. Like it’s too random to be fake. Then there’s the part about Casey “wanting to do things the right way”. What does that even mean? It seems cryptic considering that Johnson, to me, is the epitome of the type of work ethic you want your players to be living out. He’s that scrappy, hardworking guy that we all love as Canadians. Now Casey is saying they didn’t play him because they want to do things the right way?

        Something’s not adding up. Maybe it’s not smoking pot, but it seems like there is more to this story than what has been released to the public.

        • Obviously there’s SOMETHING that we don’t know, but I refuse to give unfounded rumours even a second thought.

        • Just carrying pot on a team plane, especially when crossing the border and going through customs would be incredibly stupid. Top it off by smoking it on a plane?

          No, sorry. I just can’t believe a word of the rumor. I think it was more of a power play / embarrass the coach in front of the players thing. Perhaps even multiple times. That can be kept internal and would be a reason for benching. Pot on a plane? That is suspension / voided contract time.

          JJ, I’ll miss your D, your effort, your humor. You were one of the most entertaining players on the team last year. Too bad whatever bonehead thing you were doing got you tossed for virtually zero return. Learn from this and make BC look like a fool for dumping you – please.

          • Well, I don’t know if he’s really going to the best environment to turn things around. He teammates might look tame, by comparison.

  11. fields & johnson’s per-game numbers for last season:

    Johnson (in 25 minutes) 9.1 ppg at .450/.317/.704, 4.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.2 steals, 1.4 blocks
    Fields (in 28.7 minutes) 8.8 ppg at .460/.256/.562, 4.2 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.2 steal, 0.3 blocks


    • To be fair, you are comparing JJ’s best season ever to Fields worst. JJ was playing his position, and Fields was not. Plus, fields had to play with Black Hole Melo, while JJ was playing with Feed Em All Jose.

      I’m sad to see JJ go, but think we have a pretty good replacement in Fields. Not thrilled with Fields contract, but not going to hold it against him either.

  12. Read my blog, I’m unbiased.

  13. Take it easy doug

  14. Maybe I get a shot now?

    Colangelo is killing me slowly here. How much of this do I have to take? So we are gonna keep Kleiza?????????????????????

    When Bayless gets his chance, I think he can be a top PG on a Good team; and James Johnson can be an all def candidate down the road.

    Colangelo has gotta go.

    • Don’t forget Aaron “All-star” Gray, Solomon “Hall of Fame” Alabi, or Gary “The Legend” Forbes.

      If we’re gonna criticize BC for shipping out premier talent, then let’s give him credit for bringing it in, too.

      Holy crap Raptors fans.

  15. Good player although, you have to think another move is on the way and they need every penny freed up between JJ & Bayless … otherwise why would you give away a solid rotation guy

  16. I did not like how the raptors dealt with bayless and Johnson either. One thing I know for sure is that the Raptors and their fans will be choking on crow once the season starts.

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