USC: Gani Lawal

DeRozan beats Johnson in battle of former Trojans

July, 10, 2010
7/10/10
4:56
PM PT
LAS VEGAS -- Saturday, part two of the battle between former Trojans took place -- this time with 2009 Raptors' first-rounder DeMar DeRozan going up against Marcus Johnson as Toronto took on the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Summer League.

Part one featured Johnson and fellow USC alum Dwight Lewis going one-on-one for portions of Friday's Rockets-Suns contest.

"It's cool, having all these USC alums out here, going against each other now after being teammates," Johnson said. "It's real nice."

In 27 minutes Saturday, 20-year-old DeRozan had 16 points, two rebounds and an assist to lead Toronto to a 103-69 win at UNLV's Cox Pavilion. Half his points came from the free throw line, and he didn't come off the bench in the fourth quarter after the Raptors went into the final period up by 20.

"That's real cool, seeing one of my teammates in summer league, playing against him," DeRozan said of the 6-foot-6, 210-pound Johnson. "We played together last year so it's real cool to have the opportunity to play with him."

Johnson played 14 minutes off the bench Saturday after logging just five against the Rockets on Friday. He finished Saturday's game with two points and one rebound, but his primary impact came on defense, where he was assigned to guard DeRozan and former UCLA guard Michael Roll.

"I defended well," Johnson said. "Offensively I didn't play as well as I could've but I felt like I defended pretty well and that's what I'm out here for -- just to play defense."

Johnson, who spent two seasons playing for UConn before finishing his career at USC, said it was difficult to jump right in to the mix with the Suns.

"You're playing with a brand-new group of guys," Johnson said. "Every single person on this team I've never played with. It's brand new offense, a brand new coach, so, for a guy like me it takes a little adjusting."

Johnson, then 21, befriended the young DeRozan when the highly touted high-flyer came into USC as a 19-year-old freshman for the 2008-2009 season. The two were part of a solid core of players that took the Trojans to the second-round of the NCAA tournament that season, where they fell to eventual tourney runner-up Michigan State.

"A lot has changed," DeRozan said when asked about the past 16 months. "I'm living my dream, I'm in the NBA. I went through my first year, my rookie year and did well. It shows me how fast time goes by. You see other people out of the USC program, it's great."

Lewis and DeRozan will face each other Tuesday when the Raptors and Rockets play at the Thomas & Mack Center. DeRozan said he was looking forward to it.

"I love seeing my teammates -- former teammates from USC -- in this situation," he said. "It's great.

"And to see them doing well, it's even better."

A full recap and box score for the game is available here. Toronto's Sonny Weemsled all scorers with 19 points; Suns' second-round selection Gani Lawal had 18 points and a thunderous slam while 2009 first-rounder Earl Clark added 15 points.

Lewis, Johnson make solid debuts in summer-league play

July, 9, 2010
7/09/10
7:05
PM PT
LAS VEGAS -- Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson found plenty of perks while making their NBA debuts Friday in the Las Vegas Summer League, playing against each other for the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns.

Plenty of them, indeed. The pair of former Trojans were wearing NBA uniforms, defending each other mano-a-mano for a time and playing on national television while auditioning for a spot on NBA teams. For Lewis, though, maybe the best part of the whole situation was the socks he was wearing.

Yes, the socks. Playing in the NBA, interestingly enough, grants you the privilege of receiving free NBA socks -- a very important perk, Lewis said while smiling big after what he termed a positive debut.

Maybe they really were the reason Lewis' debut was so positive. Whatever it was, Lewis performed admirably for the Rockets on Friday, backing up Rockets guard/forward Chase Budinger and scoring 10 points and adding two assists in 13 minutes of play for Houston's summer-league squad.

"It was fun," Lewis said afterward. "It was a good experience, playing summer league. I always used to watch it on TV -- now I finally get to play in it."

Meanwhile, Johnson appeared for a second-half spurt and held his own, converting a lay-up under the basket for his first -- and only -- points of the night.

Late in the third quarter, Lewis and Johnson matched up on both sides of the court and appeared to have some fun, laughing during dead-ball situations. Playing defense, Lewis managed to knock the ball away from Johnson on one occasion.

The two players were friends during the two years they spent together at USC and have kept in touch since their season ended in March. Lewis said he was happy when he found out that they would be playing against each other in their first-ever professional game.

"We had a couple comments for each other — a couple jokes while we were running down the court," Lewis said. "It was fun."

Lewis' first points of the game came on free throws, setting the tone for his performance -- he visited the line twice more on the day, converting four of five attempts. He added a isolation play he converted into an and-one and a smooth 17-foot jumper a couple steps left of the key, but his best play was probably a drive-and-kick to Rockets' first-round pick Patrick Patterson, who made the resulting 18-foot jump shot look easy.

Lewis, who converted 3 of his 4 field goal attempts in the Rockets' 100-82 win, assessed his performance like this: "I got to the line a lot, got some free throws. I was able to finish on some plays. I could've taken a couple more shots that I passed up, but it doesn't matter.

"I enjoyed myself. We got the win, so I'm happy with that."

A full recap and box score for the game is available here. 2009 second-round selection Jermain Taylor led the Rockets with 25 points; ex-Virginia Tech combo guard Zabian Dowdell had 16 for the Suns while Gani Lawal and Earl Clark added 14 apiece.

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