While I was at summer league all the talk of James Johnson was wonderous and hopeful. I overheard one Bulls staffer telling someone James Johnson was the second best player in the draft. However, with the media gone, the news leaking out to me hasn't quite so positive.
The Bulls are privately concerned about his work ethic and attitude which was the one area I had some concerns with myself. With Johnson, the talent is obviously there, but the fact that he gained so much body fat after his college season ended prior to the official NBA predraft workouts planted a red flag on him.
Don't get me wrong though, I still would have taken Johnson and am still glad the Bulls did take him. His talent level vastly surpassed the other options available and most rookies don't work nearly hard enough until they get schooled by NBA players and see how badly they need to. These guys have been kings at every level and frequently have unrealistic expectations for how easy it will be at the next level.
For what it's worth, when I interviewed Johnson he was humble and talked at great length of working hard and not disappointing anyone. However, as we've seen with many players there is sometimes a gap between what is said and what is done. I don't think it's because they're lying or lazy, but rather because the bar for hard work is set so high that they often have no idea how hard they need to work to qualify as "working hard" at this level.
On one occasion, Johnson has tried to cut short a workout, thanking an assistant coach after a few drills and trying to leave only to be scolded that they weren't done yet. One source within the organization said he expects forgotten man Taj Gibson to have a bigger impact than Johnson in their rookie years. There seemed to be an air of pessimism in general over what Johnson will provide out of the gates especially among those working out with him.
However, there's plenty of time for Johnson to prove himself in camp and preseason. At this point, things can turn around quickly especially when Johnson is on the court creating rather than working in a drill/conditioning environment. One thing's clear though, Johnson's going to have to earn his minutes. There's certainly no entitlement minutes and a healthy Bulls team might struggle to squeeze him into the rotation if he doesn't pick it up a notch.