James Johnson needs to turn it up a notch

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.


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  • They're just young men...

    We forget these athletes are just very young men. This is where coaching and a previous comment of mine come into play.

    Coaching is 1/3 player development, 1/3 team development, and 1/3 game management.

    Good coaching from the Chicago Bulls could help JJ and Taj get off to a good pro NBA career. Every young man who can dunk a basketball either hand thinks he's a god, until he meets up with a Kevin Garnett and gets schooled.

    In time we'll see who James Johnson and Taj Gibson become as young men and pro athletes. It's like you've said Doug, this is August and NBA basketball news is slow.

  • I think he's going to play it smart and try his best to move Deng out the picture come training camp. He said in a interview recently that he would love to play on the perimeter with Derrick Rose. I saw some of his games and when he feels it from downtown... he's feeling it. I don't see why he can't beat Deng out of the starting line. He's tough, which Deng isn't; he can score in ways Deng wish he could and his talent level has no limits unlike Deng. I really like this kid now unlike before. I feel he can contribute much more than Deng can but we have to wait and see.

  • Well I guess we found our scapegoat. I was wondering who would pick up the job now that BG is gone and TT's days are numbered. Its August, JJ has no obligation to work out with the bulls yet. Its the middle of the summer in a new town, his focus isn't really there yet.

  • Why would they want this rumor to be spread? Wouldn't it hurt his value?

  • In reply to TheStig:

    If they were looking to trade him, yes. If they're hoping that a bit of negative press about his work ethic might motivate him to work harder, then I'm sure they don't mind any potential small loss in value.

  • In reply to TheStig:

    It is rare that you get world class talent and a world class work ethic in the same player, that is why there are so few Jordans, and Kobes.

    Not saying that either guy is world class in either category, but it looks like Johnson is the talent guy and Gibson is the work ethic guy.

  • In reply to TheStig:

    Doug, can't find a good place to ask questions, so I'll drop it hear.

    there are rumors that Q Richardson will be on the move from Minny within the week.

    He has only one year left on his contract, and happens to make $9.4 million this season, almost an exact match for Hinrich's salary.

    The Bulls supposedly discussed a Hinrich salary dump to Minny around the trade deadline. Any chance they might be the target for Q's departure.

    The Bulls, I assume would immediately try to buy him out and/or send him home.

    Not necessarily in favor of this move, just asking.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I believe Kurt is the most important guard on the team this season. Losing Ben was hugh! His points were game changing, emotionally upliftng!John Salmons is a very good player and I believe he will do a good job. But he scores quiet points!
    You don't know his contributions until you look at the stat sheet. But Kurt provides you with much more that is necessary
    to win the game! Know what I mean?

  • In reply to TheStig:

    Nice post. He definitely looks like he put on a lot of weight. Did you guys see the video of him dancing at that rookie photo shoot? I hope the trainers and nutritionists can work on him when they start back up...

  • In reply to TheStig:

    I think all of the comments about JJ have been acurate. JJ said the same thing all atheletes say during the draft "God I'll do anything to play in the NBA". Everyone says that! There are those
    who do it, and those who don't. Either way we will find out in no time! Its not that they don't work hard! Some just can't do whats necessary to achieve at this level! I'm pulling for him though!

  • Gaining weight and gaining muscle is two different things!

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