TrueHoop: Wesley Johnson

Wednesday Bullets

October, 19, 2011
10/19/11
6:39
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Jason Richardson was hoping to go as one half of Milli Vanilli for Halloween, but might have to settle for Cameo.
  • Del Harris, now in a dual role as head coach and general manager of the D-League's Texas Legends, tells Rob Mahoney of the Two Man Game that he's been working with advanced stats for decades: "I’ve been doing metric analyses since the 60s and was the first in a lot of areas in the 80s to implement electronic data systems and things when I was coach and Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Bucks. Then that continued on with the Mavericks in a more elaborate system of metrics. But the basic metrics that I use for coaching a game really only involve basic chart-keeping, so we will be utilizing things that I’ve done for over 40 years to evaluate our points per possession, our pace of the game, our momentum. I can train a guy to do that in 10 minutes."
  • From Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Major League Baseball has put the kibosh on Dirk Nowitzki's throwing out the first pitch in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night in Arlington, Tex.
  • Hakeem Olajuwon and LeBron James, all smiles.
  • One of the few beneficiaries of the NBA lockout -- the Basketball Channel. They'll stream yet another star-studded exhibition on Sunday, this one in Oklahoma City.
  • The Lakers had the most expensive secondary -- or resale -- tickets in the NBA last season, while the Pistons were the cheapest ticket in the league. Of note: the Raptors placed 5th, the Clippers 9th and the Jazz 28th.
  • The Timberwolves were markedly better with Wes Johnson on the floor. Ben Polk of A Wolf Among Wolves has a theory: "First, despite his inexperience in most phases of the game, Johnson moves the ball willingly and with some vision. Second, Johnson was second-to-last on the Wolves in usage last season, ahead of only Anthony Tolliver. He didn’t shoot well, but he also didn’t shoot too much or turn the ball over too prodigiously. On a team with Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph and Jonny Flynn contributing a full portion of heedlessness each, such judicious self-awareness counts as a genuine skill."
  • In its Euroleague opener, CSKA never stops moving against the zone -- and all that motion pays off. For a primer of Euroleague's first round, visit The Painted Area.
  • More impressions of Michael Redd, who has likely played his last game as a Buck, from the gang at Bucksketball.
  • Four players have won titles in both NBA and Euroleague. Can you name them?
  • Mark Ginocchio's enduring love affair with Drazen Petrovic continues, as Nets Are Scorching counts down the 44 greatest Nets of all time: "I would argue that Petrovic IS the Nets in a solitary player encapsulation. A guy who couldn’t break into the rotation of a far superior team who emerged as a borderline all-star with the Nets only to shockingly die less than two years later. The other elements -- his PER, his scoring average, his lack of an All-Star Game appearance, his intentions to leave the US after the 92-93 season -- come across as irrelevant when you think of Petro in these terms. He is both what’s awesome and overwhelmingly depressing about being a Nets fan wrapped into one player. Someone who was never expected to amount to much, yet left us before we could actually say without question what he was actually worth to the organization."
  • Trolling for celebrities who could potentially buy the Hornets.
  • A gay American playing professional basketball in Europe comes out to an old friend back in the U.S. via text.
  • Shop early and stuff your stocking with Goodman League swag. Proceeds go to Project GiveBack in Washington.
  • On LeBron James, straw men, a hero's journey and conspiracy theories.

Day Five Las Vegas summer league roundup

July, 14, 2010
7/14/10
12:35
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
At summer league, athleticism is the most commonly cited variable to distinguish NBA-caliber players from the rest of the talent. DeMar DeRozan's athletic gifts established him as a Top 10 pick in 2009, despite an underwhelming one-and-done season at USC. DeRozan displayed his explosiveness and agility for much of the 2009-10 season at varying levels of refinement, finishing his rookie campaign with a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 12.58. He showed strength (finishing near the rim) and weakness (playmaking) in the precise areas where you'd expect an athlete to succeed and fail.

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
Can DeMar DeRozan fill the void in Toronto?


Chris Bosh's departure leaves the Raptors with a vacuum in their offense, and DeRozan is probably the only player on the roster with the dynamism to fill that void. But to be the name on the marquee in Toronto, DeRozan will have to graduate from an athlete who can ball to a ballplayer who can leverage his athleticism. If he's going to achieve as a shooting guard, he must extend his range to beyond the arc, where he converted only four shots during his entire rookie season. DeRozan will also need to apply all that athleticism and length against the scorers who are torching Toronto on a regular basis.The Raptors finished dead last in defensive efficiency last season. As he enters his sophomore season DeRozan is well-aware of this opportunity, and the improvement in his game it will require on both ends of the floor.

"If I want to be more effective, I really have to slow down and not only use my athleticism all the time," DeRozan said. "I have to learn how to play different kinds of ways and I'm learning."

On Tuesday, we saw glimpses of DeRozan's learning curve and his expanding game. He scored 23 points, shooting 10-for-15 shooting from the floor. Although he unleashed some ferocious dunks, there was substance and nuance to go along with the aerial effects. DeRozan showed off a tighter handle against pressure, something that hampered his one-on-one game at times last season. That added confidence in his ballhandling allowed DeRozan to make better decisions off the dribble, whether it was spinning away from help defenders or finding a seam.

"Athletes last for [only] so long," DeRozan said. "Being young, I want to develop now so that I can go 50-50 with my game -- skills, then use my athleticism when I have to."

DeRozan still exhibited plenty of that raw athleticism, especially in tandem with Sonny Weems, his closest friend on the team. The two wingmen teamed up on consecutive alley-oops in the second quarter. The first jam came in the half court when Weems snuck behind the Houston defense on a dive to the hoop, where DeRozan found him with a lob. On the next possession -- a break in transition -- Weems returned the favor when DeRozan ran the baseline and met Weems' pass at the rim for the slam.

"That's what young guns do," DeRozan said. "When we came out, Sonny said he was going to go back door and I threw it to him. Then I knew when we were on the fast break together, I knew he was going to throw it up."

DeRozan's primary defensive assignment on Tuesday was staying with Chase Budinger (and occasionally Jermaine Taylor) in Houston's active three-man sets, closing out on the second-year sharpshooter and staying with him in transition. For the most part, DeRozan succeeded on all three accounts. He selectively provided help, but usually opted to stay glued to his man.

"I need to improve my defense, especially going at the 2 position, going against players like Kobe [Bryant], Ray Allen, those type of guys every night."

Evidence gathered at summer league has to be viewed with a jaundiced eye. As DeRozan himself suggests, there's simply no substitute for meaningful NBA games. Matt Janning and Chase Budinger aren't exactly comps for Bryant or Allen, but at least DeRozan acknowledges that the trajectory of his growth as a player will be central to the Raptors' fortunes.

To return to respectability, Toronto will need a superstar -- and there's only one candidate on their roster.
  • Yes, that was J.R. Smith out on the floor starting for the Nuggets. You can't find Smith on the published roster, nor on any of the box scores from the Nuggets' first three games here in Las Vegas. So what's he doing here? "I'm just working out," Smith said. "I'd rather play somewhere like this than a high school gym and get hurt." Smith is rehabbing his left ankle. "Of course it's not the NBA season, but it feels good to see some familiar faces and feels good to come out and play."
  • James Johnson's teammates spent a lot of time telling Chicago second-year forward where to set up offensively in the half court. When Johnson doesn't have the ball in his hands, he floats purposelessly around the floor. Should he work off the ball to elude his man? Should he go to the ball? Often, Johnson has no idea. On the positive side, Johnson has some impressive ball skills. He has the handle and agility to find seams to the basket -- and the strength to finish. Unfortunately, he doesn't display the desire or wherewithal to make a play when he encounters heavy traffic.
  • DeMarcus Cousins posted another strong showing. The numbers were solid -- 19 points and 12 rebounds -- but the breadth of Cousins' game was most impressive. Cousins displayed a lot of polish against the Lakers' squad. Whether he was delivering a nice pass against collapsing defenders to a diving Omri Casspi for a slam, or working Derrick Caracter off the dribble from the top of the arc (finishing with a soft hook off the glass), Cousins revealed finesse to accompany that power. He even drained a jumper from 20 feet and launched a smart outlet pass that led to a bucket on the break for Casspi. Above all, he's still showing signs of becoming a pick-and-roll force. On one possession, he set a high screen for point guard Donald Sloan, then made a beeline to the rim, flushing Sloan's missed shot for a putback. Even on Cousins' misses (he finished 8-for-20 from the field), he unveils a range of skill. There's a whole lot to be explored here.
  • If Dan Dickau can play NBA ball, then it seems to make sense that Matt Bouldin should. The big point guard out of Gonzaga can deliver a sharp pass, pressure the ball, fight through screens and make good decisions with the ball in late shot-clock situations. At 6-foot-5, he has NBA size at the position.
  • On a high ball screen, the man guarding the screener is charged with the responsibility of letting the man about to be screen know the pick is coming. In the opening possession of the Houston-Toronto game, the Raptors' Joey Dorsey failed to do that and got an earful from the Toronto coaching staff. In a sparsely filled arena on a Tuesday afternoon, that bark reverberated from the rafters. Suffice it to say that, for the rest of the game, you could hear "by yourself!" and "right! right! right!" every time Houston was in a ball-screen set.
  • Jonny Flynn interviews Wesley Johnson after Matthews' first summer league game.
  • Brian Kamenetzky talks to Lakers' point guard Ibrahim Jaaber.
  • Bret LaGree of Hoopinion on Othello Hunter: "Three weeks ago Atlanta Hawks Assistant General Manager Dave Pendergraft called Othello Hunter's season-and-a-half with the team as an experiment they didn't see through. Hunter appeared in just 23 games for 125 minutes with the Hawks. Despite having no immediate need for him, the Hawks assigned Hunter to the D-League for just 3 games during the 2008-09 season. After the Hawks released him in January, he finished the 2010 season in Greece, averaging 10 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes per game for Ilisiakos. His first stretch of regular playing time since his senior season at Ohio State may have given Hunter the confidence to again demonstrate his strengths on the glass and around the basket. Through four games with the undefeated Denver Nuggets summer league team, Hunter has again produced when given playing time, averaging 13 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes per game while making more than two-thirds of his field goal attempts."
  • D.J. Foster of ClipperBlog and ESPN Los Angeles on Patty Mills: "Most 6-foot point guards with diminutive frames would be weary of mixing it up, but Mills isn't your typical guard. Despite his stature, Mills is a scorer first and foremost who actually does some of his best work off the ball. One display of his aptitude without the rock came when Mills hurled himself at a Hornets defender almost twice his size, setting such a thick baseline screen that his own man had to scurry off to help. The suddenly wide-open Mills then floated to the perimeter for a clean 3, bringing his total on the evening to 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting. In Mills, the Blazers look to have another threat off the bench who can pack a punch offensively, whether he's the primary ball-handler or not. With players like Brandon Roy and Jerryd Bayless typically dominating the ball, Mills' abilities away from the play should prove valuable going forward.
  • Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball on Hasheem Thabeet: "As he often does, Thabeet showed his shot blocking ability, rejecting three shots, but he still looked unsure of himself on offense. 20 seconds into the game he caught a pass and brought it down to his chest, allowing a guard to sneak in to tie him up. Later in the game he grabbed a rebound and again brought the ball down low before watching it get slapped away by a much smaller player. While signs of progress are there, Thabeet was 6-9 from the free throw line and rotated well enough on defense that his coaches were very vocal in their praise from the bench more than once, Tuesday's game reinforced the idea that Thabeet is still very much a work in progress."
  • Joe Gerrity of Hornets247 on Quincy Pondexter: "The first-round pick continues to impress on the defensive end. He's active off the ball and has shown the capability to stay in front of his man, something the Hornets desperately needed last year on the perimeter. Under the tutelage of new coach Monty Williams the Hornets are expecting an immediate contribution from Pondexter. Offensively he's a quality finisher and capable of cutting to the hole or hitting a pull up jumper at an NBA level. Before too long he should be in contention with Julian Wright to receive substantial minutes in relief of the aging Peja Stojakovic."
By John Krolik

Wesley Johnson's first summer league game did not feel like the professional debut of a top-five overall pick. The Thomas and Mack center was nearly empty, with only a few hundred people there to populate the full-sized home of the Running Rebels. The starting lineups were listlessly announced to little fanfare. The pregame song was the theme music from Space Jam. To put it plainly, nothing about the start of Wes Johnson's pro debut felt like the start of something big.

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
Wesley Johnson didn't dominate, but he showed off his skills.


When one watches Johnson play, it becomes clear why he doesn't have the kind of hype surrounding him that most top-five players do when they come into the league. Johnson is a perimeter player, but he doesn't seem to have the mentality of a go-to scorer. The Syracuse product only scored 16.5 points per game during his final year with the squad, and he wasn't looking to take over his first summer league game. After the contest, Johnson said that he's still "trying to find his spots" in an offense he's still trying to learn, and "wasn't going out there trying to over-exert himself."

Johnson was all but invisible during his first stint on the court for the Timberwolves, and his first basket of the game didn't come until he crashed the offensive boards for a tip-in. For most of the first half, Johnson waited around for a ball that wasn't coming to him. While Jeremy Pargo and Wayne Ellington were busy dominating the ball, missing 14 of their 20 field goal attempts, and committing a combined 10 turnovers, the No. 4 overall pick waited patiently for his turn to get a shot or make a play. The sparse crowd in the Thomas and Mack Center didn't come expecting to see a show, and Johnson wasn't looking to provide one.

Johnson didn't dominate the game by any stretch of the imagination. But he also didn't waste possessions, which is a bad habit most summer-league guards and wings have a hard time kicking. When Johnson did get a chance to make a play, it became apparent why the Wolves think he was worthy of a top-five pick. There was the time Johnson came off a pick and smoothly drained a 33. Then there was the moment in the second half where Johnson made a perfect cut, caught a Patrick O'Bryant bounce pass without breaking stride, and easily dropped in an and-1. Then there was the resounding tip-slam that drew audible gasps and finally got the stadium buzzing, even after the dunk was disallowed.

Johnson isn't a No. 1 option, but he has every skill you could ask for in a wing player. He's a smooth but explosive athlete, and can get to the basket with one or two long steps. He calls himself a slasher, but he can punish teams if they leave him open from beyond the arc. With his athleticism, length, and defensive instincts, Johnson will be a plus defender from day one; the Spurs' Alonzo Gee was the first NBA player to get shut down by Johnson in the half-court, but he won't be the last.

Johnson is the rare summer league player who will look better playing with and against the best players in the world rather than trying to dominate the rookies and fringe prospects that populate NBA Summer League rosters. When Johnson's teammates start looking for him and setting him up with opportunities to finish plays, he'll shine as an offensive player while making an impact on the defensive end. Johnson probably won't be a superstar in the NBA, but he has a very good chance of being an above-average starter in this league for a very long time. Teams can, and have, done much worse things with a top-five pick.
  • There's a lot to like about Knicks second-round draft pick Landry Fields. Fields isn't the most athletic guy in the world, but he uses every ounce of athleticism he has. He knows where the ball is going to be, wants to make plays, and does a great job using his body to keep defenders at bay when he puts the ball on the floor or goes up for a layup. There's no telling whether or not Fields' tricks will work against NBA defenders, but he certainly looked good today.
  • Devin Ebanks knows how to set himself up for his jump shot -- his footwork is good, he's usually squared up when he shoots, and he can get his shot off from a variety of spots on the floor. At one point, Ebanks turned down a 3, took two hard dribbles, and pulled up for an easy mid-range jumper. It's surprising how few slashers have that move in their bag. The problem with Ebanks is that he's much better at setting up his jumper than he is at making it. Ebanks flicks his shot up there, and his release leaves a lot to be desired. If Ebanks can fix some of the mechanical issues with his jumper, he could become a surprisingly complete offensive player.
  • Derrick Caracter played an extremely sloppy game, and ended up committed eight turnovers and eight fouls. On the other hand, his ability to finish in traffic continues to be impressive.
  • Toney Douglas had a sloppy game as well, and he spent more time forcing shots than trying to be a real point guard. Maybe he's trying to prepare himself for his new role as a bench scorer, which the Raymond Felton acquisition will almost certainly relegate him to.
  • Gerald Green had one stretch where he made a smart swing pass, hit an open 3 and swished a tough pull-up jumper. For a second, everyone in the arena wondered why somebody that talented didn't make it in the NBA. Then Green got picked clean in transition and got stripped going to the basket on consecutive possessions.
  • Alonzo Gee looked amazing in full-court situations. He's a great rebounder for a guard, can start the break after grabbing a rebound, is a wonderful passer on the break, and is more than capable of finishing the break with a resounding slam. In the half-court, Gee was completely shut down by Wes Johnson, who might be the best perimeter defender I've seen at Summer League thus far.
  • Patrick O'Bryant has bounced around the league since he was a top-1o pick, but he looked like a serviceable pro on Monday. He's still a legit 7-footer, showed some nice touch around the basket, made a nice low-post seal and bucket at one point, and was telling his teammates where to be on defense. He'll never live up to his top-10 billing, but there could be a spot for him on the end of somebody's bench.
  • Dwayne Mitchell turned some heads when he scored 12 points in 12.5 minutes against the Wolves without missing a shot, with five of those points coming on a 3 3and a resounding alley-oop dunk.
  • Rob Mahoney on DontÚ Greene: "It's entirely possible that DontÚ Greene was put on this planet purely to thrive in Summer League games. His ball-handling skills and decision-making aren't exposed against the inferior competition, and he essentially has license to fire at will. As a result, Greene reveals the flashes that made him such an intriguing prospect coming out of Syracuse. Yet that's part of the problem. Greene is so athletic and so talented for a 6-foot-11 player, but he's more or less the same talent he was a year ago or the year before that. DontÚ manages to catch lightning in a bottle in Vegas, but in the big leagues? He still has a fair way to go."
  • Rodrigue Beaubois is really trying to add a more consistent jumper to his game, and has turned down some opportunities to drive in order to set up that jumper. The results have been mixed in Summer League, but he'll be scary if he can add that dimension to his game.
  • Harvard graduate Jeremy Lin might be the most fearless driver in Summer League. He goes straight to the rim, and isn't afraid to take contact when he does. His and-1 while being taken down by Larry Sanders was one of the best plays of the week.
  • Jeremy Schmidt on Jeff Teague: "He was the name many Hawks fans were calling for last season when Mike Bibby was showing his age. Teague gave a sampling of what he's able to do on Monday night. The Hawks second year point guard took advantage of Memphis' lack of a true point guard and was able to use his terrific quickness to repeatedly beat them off the dribble. Teague shot 5-7 from the free throw line, often drawing contact in the lane after getting by his first man. Teague controlled the game better than his three assists and four turnovers would indicate and, even with O.J. Mayo out there, often looked like the best player on the floor. Hawks fans will surely hope to see more of him next season.
  • Michael Schwartz on Scottie Reynolds: "The Suns were not sure if Reynolds was supposed to play at all because of a strained Achilles he suffered last week, but Reynolds surprised even his coach Dan Majerle by coming in ready to play today. He then sparked the Suns with 16 points in 19 minutes in their 96-88 win over D-League Select. Reynolds led Phoenix at a Suns-like pace by pushing the ball up the court and his shooting touch was on target in a 4-for-6 outing that that included a pair of 3s. 'He brought a lot of spark pushing the ball,' Majerle said. 'It was good to see.'"
  • Nick Young looks like a new man when he can take catch-and-shoot 3s off of John Wall passes. Between Young and JaVale McGee, Wall is already showing his ability to make his new teammates better.
  • John Wall isn't just a leaper, he goes to the basket with force, and he can finish after taking a hit. Eric Bledsoe bounced off of Wall before he converted an and-1 in transition. Something else to feel good about: Wall looked much happier after throwing a successfully converted alley-oop pass than he did after making the aforementioned and-1.

The TrueHoop Dossier: Wesley Johnson

June, 24, 2010
6/24/10
7:54
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
Wes Johnson
Getty Images Sport/Jed Jacobsohn
Will Wes Johnson get a taste of success?


The demands of the workout process on draftees often go unmentioned. Prospects are shuttled around the country, measured, weighed and prodded like steers at a cattle auction. Then there's psychological testing, meet-and-greets with team executives, media sessions, etc.

Jonathan Givony of Draft Express was on hand for one late-night workout with Wesley Johnson and Ed Davis:
11 p.m. Central Time, Saturday night, Tim Grover’s ATTACK Athletics gym in Chicago.

... Johnson and Davis are exhausted, but they need to get a workout in, and trainers Tim Grover and Mike Procopio are here to accommodate them in this incredibly important time of the year. Their agent, Rob Pelinka, is on hand as well, keeping tabs on everything that is going on inside the gym. Johnson’s brother Craig sits right next to him, urging Wesley along.

In the corner are two sneaker company executives, here to evaluate the players both on and off the court and envision how they might look representing their company’s brand.

They have to like what they’re seeing.

Johnson stands out immediately. He looks every bit as smooth and polished as we envisioned coming in. The explosiveness he shows is unmistakable despite the late hour and the fact that his body is running on nothing but adrenaline at this point. Some of the dunks he pulls off are incredibly impressive. He glides through the air with the body control of a 6-2 guard, despite measuring out the previous day at 6-7 ╝ in shoes with a 7-1 wingspan (ideal size for an NBA wing). He’s going to be a terror in transition right off the bat. There’s no question about that.

Johnson changes speeds fluidly, looking more comfortable executing advanced ball-handling moves in this setting than we expected. His mid-range game sharpens into focus. He elevates beautifully off the floor for a pretty pull-up jumper, creating separation and banking the shot off the glass effortlessly from 17 feet. His footwork is outstanding, his moves look quick and decisive, and the touch on his shot is excellent.

Johnson's fundamentals have propelled him from a mid-Lottery name to a likely Top 5 pick. Sebastian Pruiti of Nets Are Scorching and NBA Playbook is inordinately fond of the way Johnson shoots the ball. He breaks down Johnson's stroke at NBA Playbook:
I absolutely love Wesley Johnson’s shooting form. He is a jump shooter rather than a set shooter, and his fundamentals are really on point, elbows are bent the right way, guide hand is on the side of the ball and it isn’t used during the shot. My favorite thing about his shot though is how high he keeps the basketball up on his release. Wesley Johnson is 6263 so he is already just as tall as most threes and probably taller than most shooting guards trying to defend him on the outside. With the way that Johnson keeps the ball up, there is going to be no way his shot gets altered/blocked when shooting from the outside.

Pruiti has a complete breakdown of Johnson's game here.

The Sixers are widely expected to draft Evan Turner, but Philadelphia head coach Doug Collins was wowed -- literally -- by Johnson's workout:

"Watching Wesley work out was like, 'Wow, that was impressive.' This young kid has got it. He's charismatic. He can play. He's respectful. He's older. Impressive," Collins told the Philadelphia Daily News.


Collins compared Johnson to Scottie Pippen, who he coached with the Chicago Bulls. "Not as good of a ballhandler right now as Scottie, but he's a better shooter. He has that lanky, rangy body. He has a real good feel," Collins said.


Johnson came to Syracuse as a transfer from Iowa State and his infectious smile immediately became his calling card. After the season, the Daily Orange's Matt Ehalt chronicled the presence Johnson cultivated in just one season upstate:
Vivian Alexander called it an instant attraction.

It was the summer of 2008 when Alexander, the general manager of Cosmos Pizza & Grill on Marshall Street, first met a kind, well-mannered and polite young man named Wes Johnson and began what she called a “special friendship.” It also gave Alexander a new hobby.

Starting in 2008, Alexander began cutting out newspaper clippings of Johnson to place on the mirror in the entrance. She put up ones that were the most flattering, or the ones that showed his “million-dollar smile.” She calls it the “Wall of Wes.”

Currently, there are 18 photos and stories on the mirror. They range from an action shot from SU’s preseason game against Le Moyne on Nov. 3 to an individualized cutout from the team poster to him holding the Big East Player of the Year trophy. Fourteen of the shots are focused on the charismatic Johnson.

... Senior Trace Cohen has a similar story. After seeing several big heads made for the games, Cohen decided to create a Johnson big head for the Orange’s game versus Georgetown on Jan. 25. It came in at 4 feet by 3 feet. Why did he choose Johnson? He said he has the best smile on the team, one you saw often after a jaw-dropping dunk or block.

After several games, he tried to get Johnson to sign the big head, and finally succeeded. He had a game that night, but Johnson had no problem showing Cohen appreciation for his time and energy creating the big head. Johnson even posed for a picture later in the season with Cohen, validating the encounter.

“It shows that he has real character,” Cohen said. “He’s first-class. He really does care about the fans. And that’s what it all comes down to. If the fans don’t like you, you can be great and be a star, but you won’t go down as a legend.”

... “He’s a nice kid. He’s just a genuine nice kid,” Boeheim said. “Everybody likes him. If you didn’t like him, there’s something wrong with you. That’s the way I look at it.”

Spend five minutes with Johnson and you’ll see why his coach would say that. He’s down to earth, and he’ll talk to you about anything. What artists does he primarily listen to? Michael Jackson. And yes, “Thriller” is the best album of all time, and he was scared of the music video as a youngster. Where did teammate Scoop Jardine’s, “Ooo yea, that’s hot” catchphrase on Twitter come from? Not to blow his teammate’s spot, but it’s the “Chappelle’s Show” episode where Charlie Murphy and his crew play Prince in a basketball game.

Between the sweet stroke, the hops and the swift off-ball work, you'll also see glimpses of that million-dollar smile:

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