The mental challenges of the upcoming season will determine whether the Raptors‘ James Johnson can survive in the NBA, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. As Johnson enters the final year of a contract that will pay him $2.5MM this season, one of those challenges will be a shortage of playing time. Johnson is stuck behind Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson at power forward and behind Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo at center. It’s a familiar situation for Johnson, who has never averaged more than 28 minutes per game in his six years in the league. “It’s very difficult because I know how hard James has worked, my heart goes out for him, but he’s got guys in front of him here so he’s always going to be in that role,” coach Dwane Casey said. “That’s what’s going to keep him in the league for a long time . . . him embracing that role in a positive way and being able to play multiple positions because he is such a valuable tool.”
There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- New Raptor Cory Joseph sees the benefit of the “role cards” Casey hands out to players to remind them of his expectations, according to Mike Gantner of The Toronto Sun. The practice is new to Joseph, who signed with Toronto in July after four years in San Antonio. “It creates some structure,” he said.
- Willie Reed‘s injury leaves the Nets short on frontcourt players, writes Tim Bontemps of The New York Post. The rookie will miss six to eight weeks after having surgery to fix a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb, leaving Brooklyn with just four healthy big men — Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young, Thomas Robinson and Andrea Bargnani.
- Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck told Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com that the organization has been adding the right type of players to build a winner. “I think we’ve brought in guys, just as an example, David Lee and Amir Johnson, we’re not bringing in divas,” said Grousbeck. “We’re bringing in guys who have been in the league and know how to do it right. And Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, those guys aren’t worried about individual stats and they are not going to pout. They are going to get after you and try to strip the ball and try to pass it to somebody else.”