April 13: F Amir Johnson recalled from SIOUX FALLS by the Detroit Pistons.
I'm stoked, so stoked in fact I wrote it up for the FanHouse, and included some very complimentary quotes about Johnson from his D-League coach Mo McHone in a HoopsWorld article in which McHone proclaims that Johnson would have been a lottery pick this year had he not jumped directly to the NBA in 2005:
"If I were picking, would I pick (Greg) Oden and (Kevin) Durant ahead of him? I probably would. But after that, I can't imagine who I would take over him, after having coached him. I'm not saying there isn't somebody else out there, but having coached him, watched him and seeing what his potential is ... I know this, if you're in the top 10 and the last guy you ended up with was Amir Johnson, you'd have to be happy. And if you got him at (No. 56) where Detroit got him, you've got to be ecstatic."
What I couldn't fit into the FanHouse post were these other nuggets from the HoopsWorld article:
But he’s the quickest jumper I’ve ever seen. One of the things we do all the time is end practice with a fun shooting drill, the old knockout drill that kids love to play. Once in a while he takes a jump shot and he’s so quick, you don’t know whether he made the jump shot or tipped it in. It’s kind of mind-boggling how he does it," [said McHone].
Perhaps Johnson’s most amazing line came in a 145-122 Sioux Falls win on March 31 in which he scored 21 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, blocked seven shots, dished out eight assists and came up with four steals. In one game he made all 14 of his fouls shots, in another 13 of his 15 field-goal tries. About the only negative stat is fouls – Johnson commits more than four per game and has fouled out three times. Pistons president Joe Dumars, who drafted Johnson in 2005’s second round based on one high school videotape and one workout at The Palace, is understandably protective of Johnson, saying only, "We’re very happy with Amir’s progress and we feel like he’s starting to show why we’ve been so high on him."
McHone has been every bit as impressed with the attitude of Johnson and Pistons rookie Will Blalock. "Both of those guys are talking about winning the D-League championship," McHone said. "It’s just not something you expect coming from guys who’ve been in the NBA. The thing that everybody in Sioux Falls loves about Amir is just watching him and how much it looks like he’s having fun. That’s infectious. He always has a smile on his face. He’s always in a good mood. Those things, to me, you can’t teach. You either love to play the game or you don’t, and he absolutely loves to play the game."
In any case, the timing of Johnson's recall is curious -- the Free Press had reported this morning that Johnson and Blalock (who wasn't recalled) would stay in the D-League for the final two regular season games before the Pistons decided whether to bring them back or let them stay for the one-and-done D-League playoffs.
Considering Sioux Fall's final regular season game is Saturday, Johnson's promotion could end up being quite brief, perhaps only as long as tonight's game against Toronto -- not that the Pistons have any strong loyalty to Sioux Falls' success, but Johnson himself has indicated in the past he'd like to see the season through, and giving him a chance to experience a game with something actually on the line is worth something in and of itself. Flip Saunders has already said he's going to feature the bench the rest of the way, so here's to hoping he remembers to include Johnson.
IN DEVELOPMENT: April 9-12, 2007 [HoopsWorld]