Johnson played 22 games for Sioux Falls, averaging 18.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game. [Sioux Falls coach Mo] McHone is familiar with what Johnson possesses -- athleticism, fluidness, ability to make things happen around the basket. His back-to-the-basket windmill jams are breathtaking.
"I was watching the game last night and feeling that I'd love to see him go against Tyrus Thomas," McHone said Tuesday, referring to the Bulls' 20-year-old forward who was named to the NBA's all-rookie team. "He and Amir remind me so much of each other, but I think Amir has a better upside. He has better basketball skills, but Tyrus might be the better athlete."
As for the likelihood of Johnson getting any minutes in the playoffs, McHone knows it's probably not going to happen. Not this season.
"Everything the Pistons are doing is geared toward winning the championship," McHone said. "Even if they win their next game in Chicago, I don't see them activating him. But Amir knows he's in their future. He understands his spot. Amir understands why Dale Davis and some of those guys on the playoff roster are ahead of him. But deep down in his head, he knows he can help. I would definitely have (Johnson) on the roster -- he was my go-to guy. I've had him when the game means everything. We were one game under .500 without him and 17-5 with him. He's all about winning."
I understand the logic of not having Johnson active -- in the extremely rare case that multiple players went down, Ronald Dupree or Nazr Mohammed might be needed -- but I think Johnson proved whenever he got a chance to play late in the year that he'd be ready to contribute.
On a side note, Thomas has received a lot of attention around the league, but I'm not sure he's better than Jason Maxiell or Johnson. Am I being a homer when I say that? Perhaps, but Thomas' game is predicated almost solely on athleticism, whereas Maxiell actually has some moves around the paint as well as a jump shot. Perhaps Thomas' long-term ceiling is higher, but I haven't see anything this year to make me think he'd actually play ahead of Maxiell were he on the Pistons.
In any case, one of the reasons I'm so high on Johnson's future is because of his youth. How does a young NBA player spend his 20th birthday? By having his mom make cake and tacos for his friends:
To help with the transition, Johnson's mother, Deneen Griffin, often travels from L.A. to stay with him when he's in Detroit. On Tuesday, she contemplated going shopping for more food. Amir has three friends in town, and they ate all the chicken.
Last week, Griffin adhered to her son's request of having a low-key birthday. He turned 20 on May 1.
"I had a cake made, and I called a couple of his teammates -- Jason (Maxiell) and Will Blalock -- and I made tacos," she said. "I tried to sing him happy birthday, and he ran away from the table."
(Also, Need4Sheed fans -- aren't we all? -- will enjoy the article's opening intro...)
Johnson adapts to waiting game [Detroit Free Press]