Preseason brings a lot of story lines to kickoff the new year of NBA action. Players suiting up with new teams for the first time, new coaches testing out their various systems and rotations, and the expanded rosters bring a lot of new names to the table as well as a few old ones, all of which are here to prove their worth.
James Johnson put on a #13 Hawks jersey in Monday’s preseason opener and began his test to prove he belongs on a NBA roster. James was drafted 16th overall by the Chicago Bulls in 2009, three spots above former Wake Forest teammate and current Hawks point guard Jeff Teague. James spent a season with the Bulls where he only averaged 10.6 minutes before he was traded to the Toronto Raptors for a 2011 first-round pick a few months into the 2010-11 season. He then saw a rise in action, starting in 65 of 87 games for the Raptors before being traded to Sacramento Kings following the 2011-12 season. Johnson spent last season with the Kings, appearing in 54 games where he averaged 5.1 points in 16.3 minutes a night. The Kings had no plans to retain Johnson and he signed a two-year non-guaranteed contract with the Hawks on September 30th.
Johnson choosing to stay and fight for a roster spot with Atlanta has raised some questions as he could have easily chosen to go overseas.
In a recent interview by HOOPSWORLD, Johnson had an interesting reply when giving his reasoning as to why he took the non-guaranteed camp contract:
“I’m just trying to show I belong. I feel like there’s no other league for me. So I just want to come out and play my game. Obviously they like my game or parts of it to invite me here to their camp, so I’m just going to keep rolling. I’m not a guaranteed player so I want to go down with my head high knowing that I did everything that I could if I do.”
The former Demon Deacon may have picked the right opportunity to try to earn a spot with the Hawks as the small forward depth is a bit of a worry when looking at Atlanta’s roster. However, the front office has claimed they are comfortable with 14 players on the roster and with the strong performance from Mike Scott in the opening preseason game in Miami (13 points and 6 rebounds), its hard to see James overtaking Scott on the depth chart.
Still, James did see a lot of action in the first preseason matchup as he played 20 minutes off the bench. In contrast however, his stat line proved to be disappointing as he provided just two points and five rebounds with two turnovers in the ample amount of playing time. He did show some flashes of hustle-type play, but this was quickly eclipsed by the energy and hustle provided by DeMarre Carroll, who finished with 10 points and 3 steals. Johnson hardly got any playing time in Tuesday night’s game against the Bobcats, scoring just two points in 3 minutes and 26 seconds of action.
Five games remain for James Johnson to try to find a place with the Hawks, and even if the spot remains filled, a 10-day contract is always a possibility if the Hawks ever needed another wing during the regular season.