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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Living in a van down by the river
Daily Raptor Dish - 06.02.11
Raps' Johnson just getting better
Feschuk: Draft lottery last real hope for Raptor turnaround
For the season, Johnson is averaging a modest 10.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
The big strides have come in the past dozen or so games where the former Detroit Piston is averaging 15 points and 8.3 rebounds a night.
Off the court, Johnson is having an increased impact as well.
Throughout the 13-game losing skid, Johnson took to his twitter account to keep himself, his teammates and even the fans upbeat.
Prior to each game Johnson would tweet something encouraging. Whether it was “2night IS the NIGHT” which came right before the Minny win or “Practice makes perfect ... let’s sweat it out” which followed the Atlanta loss, Johnson seemed to be doing whatever he could to keep help the faith.
Johnson said it is just this season that he has been asking more of himself from a leadership role both on the court and off it. He pointedly adds the contract — a five-year deal worth $32 million US that has drawn some criticism — isn’t the reason.
“I knew I kind of had it in me,” he said. “Once you get more comfortable and you know you are going to be on the team for a while I guess you just give it your all. But I do that regardless of the contract.”
Even in team huddles during the game, Johnson now adds his own input, something he never did in previous years.
“I’m not used to that but I am more vocal in the locker room and at practice,” he said. “Playing through all these injuries has made me a lot more vocal I guess.”
It’s also allowed him to make himself that much more valuable to a team that is looking for pieces to build around for the future.
Raptors Blog by Doug Smith
Still, the optimism among Hogtown’s hoops types isn’t exactly Blue Jay-esque. And that’s because, while every day’s a new day, the current run of futility has an awfully familiar feel. It feels, specifically, a lot like 2005-06.
That’s the season the Raptors finished with the fifth-worst record in the league, won 27 games, got torched by Kobe Bryant for 81 points, kicked two fans out of the Air Canada Centre for waving signs endorsing the firing of GM Rob Babcock, and not long after fired Babcock. That’s the season Vince Carter, in a spectacular post-exit return to the Air Canada Centre, reeled off 24 fourth-quarter points in a dramatic retort to an arena full of boos.
That’s also the season the Raptors gave a GM named Colangelo a five-year contract, and struck it lucky by winning the draft lottery with an 8.8 per cent chance at the coveted No. 1.
Certainly it goes to show the role of dumb luck in NBA architecture that, picking from a class that lacked a consensus top pick, the Raptors selected an Italian named Andrea Bargnani and have lived with Bargnani’s unwillingness to be anything but a 7-foot streak shooter ever since.
Why does this season feel similar? The coming weeks will see another highly anticipated return of a not-so-beloved former franchise cornerstone; Chris Bosh and the Heat are here on Feb. 16. Colangelo — who, for all his mistakes, has never given off the in-over-my-head vibe that Babcock transmitted — is in line to get another contract. If the lottery was held on Saturday, the Raptors would have been facing those 8.8 per cent odds of getting the first pick in the draft. And, crappily enough, more than four months from selection night, the crop of prospective draftees appears alarmingly short on star quality.
That’s not to say there won’t be some intriguing talent coming to Toronto’s training camp next fall. The guy who is perhaps the best-available possibility, Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, has missed most of the season with a ligament injury to his right big toe, so it’s been difficult to get excited about his waterbug magnificence. And this time two years ago few scouts were raving about the can’t-miss monstrousness of Blake Griffin, the Clippers’ rookie forward. The No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, who missed all of last season recovering from a broken kneecap, has turned the Clippers, who visit Toronto next Sunday, into a must-watch attraction.
A lot can change in a few months, in other words. The NBA is rigged to help bad teams morph into good ones in short order. Still, some bottom feeders never seem to move up the food chain. And nearly five years removed from seeing the lottery reap a disappointing jackpot, Raptor fans, the ones who are sticking around, can only hope sports history, which repeats itself a lot in these parts, takes an unfamiliar turn for a change.
Post Picks: Brawling goalies and twisting Leafs
Q: Doug I was wondering if you could give me your thoughts on something. I was listening to the fan 590 the other night and the host brought up a really good point that I hadn't thought of.
Due to talks of a possible lockout as they get the new CBA worked out, how does that effect players who are eligible to declare for the draft? Will some players wait til the last minute to declare for the draft? What is the deadline to declare? If it looks like a strike do you see some of the top players staying and playing another year in college or overseas?
Martin H, Kingston
A: The CBA issues are sure to give rise to players having second thoughts about declaring. And I’m sure a few will stay in school and am certain schools are urging them to.
But underclassmen have to declare their eligibility by April 24, can’t withdraw their names after June 13 and the CBA doesn’t expire until July 1 so not sure how much of a problem it will ultimately be.
The Raptors, meanwhile, continued their hilarious descent into the abyss — which, as Bruce Arthur argues, might actually be a sign that things are going according to plan. Not that more than a rogue win would not be nice once in a while, but this kind of destitution is the sort of thing to expect from an injury-ravaged team in the throes of a proper rebuild. Even newcomer Linas Kleiza did his part by stepping down for up to a year after knee surgery. That’s the sort of team-first attitude you like to see.