The Chicago Bulls finished with the best record in the NBA
this past season; a product of their coaching upgrade from Vinny Del
Negro to Tom Thibodeau; as well as the major roster overhaul they made
over the course of the past year and a half.
But as they've succeeded so have ex-Bulls John Salmons and James Johnson.
We'll begin with Johnson.
Since being acquired from Chicago in exchange for a 2011 first round
pick on Feb 22nd, Johnson has started all 26 games for the Toronto
Raptors, averaging just under 9 points and 5 rebounds. He had a season
high in points (18) and minutes (40) versus New Jersey on the 10th.
The 6-9, 245 second year guy from Wake Forest is finding better
rhythm playing the three exclusively, and his development stems from his
considerably slimming down, and spending some time in the d league.
"I'm getting comfortable, starting to fell like me again, still a
couple of bonehead mistakes, got a lot of growing up to do, but I get to
play through my mistakes and figure out what the NBA is all about,"
Johnson said during our exclusive chat in Milwaukee. His trials and
tribulations in the league has made him a stronger player.
"A lot of confidence seeing I can play with these guys in this
league, and I finally got a chance. I'm glad the detour took me the
route it did, it made me steronger and hungrier, and makes me want to
work because I never want to be in that predicament again."
Johnson keeps in touch with his former Bulls teammates, including Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer . He also described Joakim Noah as "like a brother to me." we stay in touch.
Johnson's coach Jay Triano talked about Johnson's development, and also what else he needs to work on.
"We still bug him about being a little loose with the basketball, but
he also makes great plays if he doesn't try to to do too much, and once
he figures out the fine line between distributing and being loose with
it, he's going to be a fine passer, and a great player. Because he's
aggressive when he goes to the basket, and has the ability to be very
good if he works on his jumpshot."
The Milwaukee Bucks
acquired John Salmons from Chicago on 2/18/10, and he was re-signed
last summer. He had a Bucks team high 32 points Saturday versus the
going from 14-18 from the field. He followed that up with a 24 point,
9-14 shooting, 7 rebound performance in the Bucks home finale. After
last year's breakthrough season in Milwaukee, the Bucks took a big step
backward, and failed to reach the postseason.
"We've had go fan support all year. It's just disappointing given the
atmosphere we had last year in the playoffs, and the buzz we had
throughout the season. But we'll try to work hard to come back next
year," he said that evening.
The Bucks had sky-high preseason expectations.
"At the beginning of the season, some people had us picked above the
Bulls, we had a lot of expectations and to me it just feels like a
failure of a season, just couldn't get it together, it's disappointing
all around," Salmons continued.
Salmons suffered a knee injury in training camp, Corey Magette was
hurt, and injuries were pervasive in Milwaukee right from the start.
"It was tough, we were behind the 8 ball all year from the beginning," he stated. But there is some hope for next year.
"It's not like the talent is going anywhere, it's just up to us, to make it work and put it all together"