The Pistons called early last week and gave him the option of returning to the NBA or staying in Sioux Falls for the rest of the D-League season - including a run at the title.
"I told them I wanted to stay," says the 2005 second-round draft pick, relaxing in a booth at a local pancake house. "In Detroit, I kind of got depressed not playing, because I'm a young guy and I want to show what I can do. I'm having a blast right here, and we've got a chance to finish with a championship."
Johnson, an explosive 6-foot-9 power forward, is a big reason for that. He leads current Skyforce players in scoring (18.6), rebounding (8.8), blocks (3.3) and bone-jarring dunks (a lot). ...
Of course, Johnson is still the property of the Pistons, who can summon him at any time to fill a need. But the kid's devotion to the D-League impressed team president Joe Dumars.
"Joe's thinking was, 'Let's have Amir vested in this decision,' " says John Hammond, Detroit's vice president of basketball operations. "And it shows you an awful lot about Amir Johnson that he's committed to helping (the Skyforce) win. There are a lot of players who feel like, 'If I'm in the D-League, get me out of there and back to the NBA as soon as possible.' But Amir wants to keep playing - and keep winning."
The entire article is worth reading -- it's actually a pretty good profile on Johnson, who's impressed everybody with his freakish athleticism:
As for Johnson's dunking skills - he thrilled Arena fans with several windmill jams during the weekend sweep of Tulsa - McHone and assistant Nate Tibbetts admit to being in awe.
"When it comes to that stuff," says McHone, "he's definitely the best that I've ever coached."
The coach recalls a home game against Austin, when Johnson got the ball in the open court and started swooping toward the basket.
"He was going in for the slam, and I was worried that the defender would run into him and maybe they'd collide," says McHone. "Amir came back to the bench and said, 'If that was going to happen, Coach, I would have jumped over him.' And I believe that he would have."
What scares me at least a little is that Johnson will be a restricted free agent this summer -- the Pistons will have the right to match any offer, but might a team out there throw silly money at him with the intention of giving him a ton of minutes? We already know that there's interest in him around the league.
There's little doubt that if Johnson were a sophomore coming out of college this year that he'd be a first-round pick. I don't have a clue how high in the first round he'd go (especially in this draft, which is loaded since no high schoolers were allowed to enter the league last year), but after spending two years practicing with a veteran team and learning from NBA coaches, I'm not in the camp that thinks not playing has stunted his development very much (and his performance in the D-League, while against questionable competition, supports that). Time will tell.
Soaring in Sioux Falls [Sioux Falls Argus Leader]