James Johnson - "I'm moving a lot better off the ball this year"


I caught up with James Johnson at media day, and if you didn't listen to my podcast then let me say this about James Johnson.   He's the one guy on the team who completely treats you like you're just any friend he has.   He never big times you, is extremely friendly, actually wants to talk to you, jokes around, and is always fun to speak with.

From a personal level, there's no one I'm rooting for more than James Johnson to have success.  He struggled last season, and while I think Del Negro didn't give him enough opportunities or opportunities in the right way, everyone has to have some serious doubts about what he can do on this level after a poor first year.  In fact, I think he has a long way to go to prove himself just to have his third year option picked up.  That said, more so than anyone else, I hope he's able to prove his doubters wrong.


You look like you've gotten into tremendous shape just looking at you this season, how'd you go about that process?
Just living here at the Berto center working out with Coach E (Eric).  We've just been working hard.  I was dedicated, and he was dedicated for me, and I just wanted to get lean.

Besides getting into better shape what have you done to improve your game this season?

I'm getting into better shooting habits, better shooting routines, and making my shot tighter.  Pretty much working on my overall game and doing what I have to do for my role and working hard.

What do you anticipate your role being this year?

Right now I can't really say, but I hope everything works out, and whatever the coach asks that's exactly what I'm going to do.

At Wake you had to play on the ball a lot, but on the Bulls you have to play off the ball how have you had to adjust?
I'm moving a lot better off the ball this year.  Having a great point guard like Derrick Rose, you have to do that.  I had to learn to make quicker moves and quicker decisions when I do get the ball and not take them through my tutorial.  It's been working.  The quicker moves have helped my game and complement my game more than pounding the ball.

The  Bulls definitely need a lot of three point shooting and don't have much of it on the roster, have you been working on your three point shot?
I've definitely been more consistent, but it's practice in gym.  When the lights come on that's when it has to fall.  I feel we have a great shooter with Kyle Korver coming in.  He's a tremendous shooter.  Watching him and seeing what he does helps out a lot with my technique with shooting.

Have you gotten to know Tom Thibodeau yet?

Oh yeah.  We've been in the gym.  He's taking us through drills and things like that.  Everything we could need a head coach to do he does.  Some coaches ask the assistants to do it, but Thibodeau's down here working us out and working us hard.  It's great to develop a relationship earlier with him.

How would you contrast Thibodeau and Del Negro?

Well, I wouldn't contrast, they are two different coaches, but I really like Thibodeau's style.

If anything what do you think will change between last year and this year in terms of your role?
I have no idea right now.   He's a defensive coach and we've been working drills on defense, learning his terminology.  The offensive is going to come and scoring will come, but right now we're more concerned with stopping people.

Last year you blocked a tremendous amount of shots per minute as a SF, do you see yourself making your mark as a defender?

I just want play both sides of the ball.  I don't want to be great at just offense or great at just defense.  I want to be an all around player.  Last year that's what was asked of me, and I got some good experience, and this year I'm hoping to put it all together and have a great year.


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  • Were you able to ask JJ who would win in a fight between him and Mayweather?

  • Doug, do you see Thibodeau asking James to bring up the ball at times and playing a little point forward?

  • I think JJ will get lost and will not get a chance unless there is an injury or somebody sucks really bad. That's not good for the Bulls either as they cannot use him nor can they showcase his talent for a trade(which is at a low right now). It's a lose-lose situation for both.

  • This interview doesn't sound good for JJ. Between that and the McGraw article it's just general "I was dedicated to losing weight" and "Thibs is taking US through defensive drills" type stuff. Nothing to suggest he has a carved role of planned future with the team. I know the are trying to trade him for Rudy but nothing suggests they have any expectations of him developing into a real contributor. I really like JJ and his potential and hope I'm wrong.

  • Johnson has the athleticism, though perhaps not the personality, to potentially carve out a role for himself as a Matt Barnes- or Jared Dudley-type player, bringing sheer hustle and grit from off the bench. Unlikely, but it's be nice.

  • Johnson has the athleticism (and maybe the personality?) to potentially carve out a role for himself as a Matt Barnes- or Jared Dudley-type player, bringing sheer hustle and grit from off the bench. Unlikely, but it'd be nice.

  • I know the expectations are high for JJ ... and they should be, but I'm willing to still give him the benefit of the doubt.
    It's only his second year after all. He could still find his niche at the NBA level.

  • True, they probably no longer are.
    He has some decent physical tools though ... if he could find his spot in the NBA, don't you think he could still be a decent player?

  • He gave the standard answers to the questions that were asked, but I hope he realizes he has to define himself. It's a no-brainer that he has to be ready and willing to play whatever role the coach gives him. Coaches also like players to show initiative. With Thibs being known for defense, Johnson's best bet would be to concentrate on using his size and athleticism to earn minutes as a dependable defender. He should follow the lead of Shane Battier, Shawn Marion and Bruce Bowen and define himself as a versatile defender that can knock down open jumpers out to the 3pt line. If he does that, I think Thibs will find minutes for him at either wing and maybe even some spot minutes at the PF depending on the matchups.

  • I think he has the opportunity, as anyone doies on this roster, to carve out a niche as a 3 pt shooter. If he can hit that, and use his athleticism on the defensive end, I think he can grow as far as the mental aspect. He just needs NBA mionutes, everything will come if he gets minutes: confidence, the ability to play loose without thinking too much, & experience. But he'll have to earn minutes by shooting & playing great D.

  • I would try him a little at point. He is athletic enough to play it, and as you mentioned he has the handle. Like in life, some people who are lost benfit from a greater responsibility, from having a purpose they can elevate themselves to. Its like that way in sports sometimes, and I could see James growing as far as being a more cerebral player if you ask him to do more, to orchestrate the offense and to have that clear role.

    He has the capacity to be such a versitle player, he just needs to find himself as a player on this team. Like you Doug, there is no one I am rooting for more than James. His teamates in the locker room have to feel the same way, and you know they love having him around and cheering & clowning around on the bench. Sure it helps to keep everyone loose, which is a sharp contrast to the team 2-3 years ago which didn't seem so close as a group, and as outgoing as individuals.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    I think he can be that true 6 man that we need. We have a solid deep bench, but it feels like we are missing something. Taj is probably the first one off the bench now, but in the future if Johnson can grow, I could see him becoming that ideal type of 6 man. A guy that gives you energy, is versitile and could sub for anyone should the flow or foul trouble dictate that, and can do multiple things and be a scorer off the bench. He would seem to have the potential to play the 1-4 positions.

    Its just a matter of him putting it together. Far from likely, but the potential is there, and if anyone can bring it out it seems like a coach like Thibadeau can. He will at least get an opportunity barring a trade.

    I'm cheering for the guy.

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    In reply to ChiRy:

    I'm cheering for JJ too. He can be a solid pro given time and opportunity. But it's going to be a very tough road for him with one of Thibodeau's top priorities being low turnovers. I'd love for him to come out of nowhere and really light it up. There aren't a lot of guys on this team that can break down zone with dribble penetration: Derrick, CJ, JJ and I guess Noah from time to time. He's got to make his own role, because it doesn't look like the coaching staff is going to do it for him.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    That is because we got rid of the dual poison(s) known as the big ben bums, Wallace and Gordon.

  • Wouldn't it be great if we could actually convince another team of that.


    Carlos Boozer fractured his hand. He'll be out for 8 weeks.


  • In reply to MrHappy:

    ya i got the text from the Bulls thing. That sucks. miss about the first month, but i hope this injury doesnt nag. sucks we wont have full roster to start season

  • In reply to MrHappy:


    If I were Paxson and/or Forman, I would be sign Earl Barron or Josh Boone.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    Now you can shutup about Carmelo-_-

  • In reply to joeacook3:


    And you can SHUT UP period!!!

    Melo is a SF, not a PF. DUMBASS!!!

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    Hey now... Carmelo did play PF for Team USA against guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, and Luis Scola. He did an amazing job too and made the All World Team.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    Earl Barron is a pure center he is not a power forward, does that deserve a capital dumbass.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    When I lived in Sacto I wish they got Boone...heck I wish they got Rondo isn't of Douby who was a 6'3" SG...anyways Boone looks to be a servicable young PF not bad to have him around. I wish we would have gone after Amundson could see him here with his Noah like intensity!
    Nice to see Mr. Happy isn't making negative comments on JJ thought for sure I'd see that in this thread!
    I hope JJ carves defensive SG-PF stopper this year...asking a lot but with his size and athletism he can be very versatile!
    Go JJ!!!

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    hard to believe that neither of those guys have a roster spot yet.

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