Yes, it's only the preseason, but that hasn't stopped some fans from nit-picking Michael Curry's rotation, and in particular Amir Johnson's minutes. As Curry pointed out this morning, though, he's been impressed by Johnson's performance. From Dana Gauruder of the Daily Tribune:
Johnson, a likely starter, had a fast-break dunk in the opening minutes but that was his only field goal. He committed two fouls in the span of 14 seconds midway through the first and wound up with as many turnovers as rebounds (two)."I thought he was a little nervous tonight and rightfully so," Curry said. "He gets a chance to start for the first time at home, even though it’s the preseason. The kid has been battling for three years, and now this being his fourth year, trying to get on the court.
"Throw his stat line out the window," Curry continued. "If you saw the intensity in which he plays, the speed and the athletic ability he brings to the starting unit, we’ve just got to work with the rest of the guys so they can pick up the pace a little bit more."
Curry has been particularly impressed with Johnson's defense. From A. Sherrod Blakely:
Curry has a grading system which focuses on every offensive and defensive possession. Following Thursday morning's practice, Curry said the offensive grades had yet to be posted, but "defensive grades, he (Johnson) really scores well," Curry said. "He usually follows the game plan. The problem that he has, is sometimes he gets caught up under the basket and doesn't box and doesn't get the guy out the paint."
What's this grading system Curry speaks of? He explained it to Blakely in a little more detail before last night's game when talking about Rasheed Wallace's notorious tendency to rack up techs:
Curry added, "We grade out. So a possession in which Rasheed gets a technical, he'll get a minus on that possession. It's no different than a possession when someone doesn't close out and contest a shot. And so, with that being said, the guys are always trying to score the highest, or grade out at the highest possible grade they can. It also puts awareness to him that this is important, try to take care of it. But he is an emotional guy. Some of that comes with him, as well as some of the other guys. We want them to be able to control themselves, but also you're going to have some emotional outbursts at times."
Arron Afflalo turned in an outstanding performance last night, hitting 6-7 from the field, including 3-3 from long-distance. Just to put that in perspective, he hit 10 three-pointers all of last season. After the game, Curry had this to say:
"I thought Arron played really good," coach Michael Curry said. "He's actually struggled some throughout camp. He's been getting after it defensively, but he has struggled to find any kind of rhythm offensively.
"What we've been telling him is let your defense keep you out on the court and eventually you will have offensive opportunities."
Back during the summer league in Las Vegas, it was obvious that Afflalo was more comfortable with the ball in his hands. Instead of deferring, he seems more confident taking a shot anytime he's open. As Afflalo told ASB, that's not a coincidence:
Known for his defense at UCLA and now in the NBA, Afflalo admits he used to try his best to prove he was more than just a defender.
"It used to be (important), but I'm just going to let my game speak for itself," Afflalo said. "That used to be something that was on my mind. But I'm going to go out there and defend my heart out, and try to take advantage of the things that I can do offensively."