— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) July 10, 2014
Well look at Gary Parrish breaking some NBA news! (At least on my Twitter feed).
James Johnson -- Dr JJ, Bloodsport and many other known aliases -- is headed back up north to Toronto for his second stint with the Raptors after his renaissance with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Two years is around what I thought Johnson would get after his breakout-ish season with the Grizzlies where he showed incredible athleticism, fiery energy and a passion for chaos. Maybe his little marital scuffle at the start of the offseason wasn't as much of a deterrent to other teams as it was to the Grizzlies, but I still wonder about his personal issues and I hope for his sake that the incident was just a little speed bump in the life of Dr. JJ. He's too fun to watch and to respectful of a person to not find success in life and the NBA.
However, I'm not surprised to see him leave Memphis, and I'm not surprised his card was called so early into free agency when others saw him as a Grizzlies' backup plan later this summer. He's got undeniable talent and a nice set of skills (although lacking one of the main features the Grizzlies need, shooting a basketball) and it makes sense for him to return to a team where he's arguably had the most success and playing time in his career.
JJ has a great knack for getting to the free throw line (when the refs are paying attention) and, more importantly, knocking them down as he hit at a 84% clip from the charity stripe in Memphis (a full 25% better than his rate the season before) and isn't afraid to defend some of the best basketball players in the world, although they usually ended up getting the better of him. Defensively he might have single handedly created a stat during the 2013-14 season by blocking an incredible number of 3pt shots, a testament to his tenacity and freakish body control.
Johnson had a rough tumble to end the season in Memphis as he was played sparingly through the final two months of the season before logging only 28 minutes in the 2014 NBA Playoffs as the Grizzlies went seven games against the OKC Thunder. It was a disappointing climax for a fanbase that had lamented the starting presence of Tayshaun Prince all season and desperately wanted some fireworks at the wing position. (It was confusing that the Grizzlies publicly announced their midseason-desire to acquire an "athletic wing" when they seemingly had just that in James Johnson.)
Ultimately, however, I feel as though he didn't quite match up to the system that Dave Joerger wants to hone this offseason. We've got our chaos master in Tony Allen, and we're honestly still trying to figure out exactly what the hell to do with him a lot of the time. There can be only one, apparently, and since neither Johnson nor Allen can shoot a basketball away from the rim it was unlikely that they could ever coexist on the court together for more than a couple of minutes.
If James Johnson was a backup plan for the Grizzlies I'm assuming they also considered he could fly the coop before they had a chance to get into any serious discussions with him. With options at SF dwindling for the Grizzlies as Mike Miller pines after LeBron and other candidates receive massive offers around the league, it will be interesting to see what their Plans B, C or D have in store for the roster.
A final salute to you Dr. JJ. I've still got my unused Grizzlies neck tattoo to haunt my box of personal nostalgia, and we've still got some incredible highlights to relive with his time here in Memphis.
James Johnson links from GBB