Michael Curry revealed yesterday that Amir Johnson will join the starting lineup, beginning with tonight's preseason opener in Miami. From Chris McCosky:
"Amir does things without having to have the ball," Curry said. "He's able to pick up baskets through his activity, by running the floor and playing off the other four guys. He does all the intangible things, and through that he's able to create offensive opportunities for himself."
How long Johnson holds onto the spot is completely up to him.
"I am glad I got the opportunity," Johnson said. "It's been a long time coming. I've been sitting on that bench for three years. I am ready to play."
A huge part of the reason that Curry wanted to move Antonio McDyess back to the bench was because he often got lost in the shuffle as the fourth or fifth option on offense as a starter. Johnson, of course, will face that same hurdle, but his ability to change the game without the benefit of a designed play reminds Curry of a former long-time starter. From A. Sherrod Blakely:
"Ben [Wallace] was another guy who could make a tremendous impact on the game without having plays run for him," Curry said. "In that sense, Amir is a guy that has an impact on the game; has an impact on how we rebound the ball, has an impact on the speed in which we play offensively and defensively with his presence on the court. With the starting unit, he's sort of a welcomed addition to that group."
Johnson knows his role and sounds eager to meet expectations, telling McCosky:
"I just do the little stuff, the garbage can stuff," he said. "I get rebounds and putbacks. I know the other guys like to shoot, so every miss I am going to try and get every ball."
I know a lot of people were disappointed when the Pistons sat still this summer instead of overhauling their roster, but if Johnson makes the type of impact I think he's capable of doing, I think fans will quickly forgive (and perhaps even thank) Joe Dumars for his inactivity.
Between Rodney Stuckey doubling his playing time, Maxiell continuing to develop and Johnson finally being given a real opportunity to contribute, no one will be able to label the Pistons an old team with a straight face.