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James Johnson Gave "Peace" a Chance

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  • James Johnson Gave "Peace" a Chance

    And if Raptors small forward James Johnson was to learn anything from them this past summer, he had one of the best teachers in the game to go up against almost every day.

    Metta World Peace, the Los Angeles Laker formerly known as Ron Artest, provided the perfect foil for Johnson, who tried to pick up a trick of the trade or two during those informal runs.

    “We went at it,” Johnson said of his summer head-butting sessions with one of the most intense small forwards in the league. “I learned a lot from Ron Artest this summer.”

    Johnson, Toronto’s incumbent starting small forward — and the only guy currently on the roster who plays that position — said he most appreciated the all-around nature of World Peace’s game and what he could learn at both ends of the court.

    The two are similar in size, somewhere around 6-foot-7, kind of thick and muscular, but World Peace’s vast edge in experience allowed Johnson to learn a thing or two that Johnson hopes will help him on both offence and defence.

    “He plays extremely tough defence and he’s also a force at the offensive end,” Johnson said after he, Jose Calderon, Ed Davis and Solomon Alabi got a pre-camp workout in at the Air Canada Centre on Monday.

    “He’s not the fastest guy but defence-wise it’s just hard to get around him.”

    Johnson would appear to figure greatly in Toronto’s plans for the coming shortened NBA season. General manager Bryan Colangelo isn’t expected to make any huge splashes in an underwhelming pool of free-agent small forwards and the job would seem to be Johnson’s alone right now.

    If the third-year product of Wake Forest — obtained from Chicago midway through last season for an inconsequential draft pick — can give new coach Dwane Casey a consistently good wing defensive presence, it will be welcomed.

    And if World Peace imparted any of his tricks, it will make Johnson a more significant factor.

    “It’s what I wanted to know and I needed to know,” Johnson said of the near-daily scrimmages that often included the likes of Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Kobe Bryant of the Lakers.
    Source: The Star

    DeRozan and Johnson got to play against two of the very best defenders in the game all summer. That's huge.
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