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In defense of Amir Johnson’s motor

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First of all, let me say that I have all the respect in the world for Kelly Dwyer; the guy watches more basketball than any 10 fans combined. That said, his take on the Amir Johnson trade simply confused me:

Bucks coach Scott Skiles doesn't have the best history of developing young talent, but he does have a sterling history when it comes to getting the most out of players, effort-wise, for short spells. And Amir was lacking in effort, to say the least, during 2008-09. A season designed (with a new coaching staff in Detroit) to bring out the best in Detroit's interior prospect.

Flush with room under the luxury tax (after jettisoning Richard Jefferson to San Antonio) to muck about and extend salaries, the Bucks took a chance on a talented youngster who clearly didn't have the drive or interest in doing much of anything last season.

I've obviously developed an admittedly well-deserved reputation for being an Amir apologist, both among regulars readers of this site and beyond, and I'm willing to concede that my expectations may never completely jive with reality.

But a huge reason for my infatuation with the guy's game is that he has a motor that doesn't quit -- he gets rebounds other players can't, he snags loose balls most veterans concede. If anything, his hyperactivity has held him back, at least in regards to needless fouls. I'm completely convinced that if Johnson ever fully realizes his potential, it'll be because he plays with more restraint, not more effort or drive.

(And, for what it's worth, I'm guessing most Pistons fans will agree that any individual success any player on the roster had last year came in spite of the new coaching staff in Detroit, not because of it. That's not to blame Michael Curry and co. for Johnson's failure to take the next step, but Curry made a habit of saying one thing today and doing the opposite tomorrow. Will life under Skiles be better? Sadly, I'm not optimistic; this is a guy who thought it perfectly sane to start Luke Ridnour and Chris Duhon over the likes of Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon.)

Even while being jerked in and out of the rotation, Johnson has kept his head up and his outlook positive, at least from my conversations and locker room observations at 80-some games the last couple of years. Perhaps I've fed the hype machine too much with my expectations for the guy, but let's not blame his current career arc on some type of character flaw.