MONTREAL — Dominic McGuire rather astutely referred to them as “Bamm-Bamm’s shoes.”
Amir Johnson’s faux-leopard casual kicks for the evening certainly looked to match the hat and shorts of the progeny of Barney and Betty Rubble on The Flintstones.
Alan Anderson decided to put together all of Johnson’s accessories, just to put the Raptor forward’s eclectic taste into full view of many amused onlookers. The whole ensemble was, well, bold. Johnson’s headphones matched his red-and-white jersey, which clashed noticeably with his purple checked button-up shirt, which were sent into stark contrast by his red-shaded backpack.
Try as they might, the khakis could not hold everything together. That would have been impossibly heavy lifting.
That outfit is a massacre,” Anderson observed.
“Just because it says Gucci in ‘em doesn’t mean they’re nice,” McGuire added.
The attire runs counter to Johnson’s game. Johnson’s value goes, as is being said with increasing frequency, beyond the box score. There is no reliable metric for shots altered, or merely prevented because he was in the right place at the right time defensively.
Johnson played 23 very competent minutes, with 14 points and five rebounds, in a 107-88 victory over the New York Knicks.
“If you look at all of the things people really don’t recognize besides the buckets and rebounds and everything, Amir would be a prime example of doing all of the dirty work,” teammate DeMar DeRozan said after the game. “He helps us out a lot. He hustles. He does a lot of things that go unseen by the average fan.”
On many nights, Johnson is going to be essential. Valanciunas is still learning, as was the case against the Knicks. He picked up three fouls in six minutes in the first half, the third coming needlessly as he attempted to rebound an offensive free throw — a shot that went in. One of Valanciunas’s biggest assets is his aggressiveness, outsized for a young player. That will manifest itself in foul trouble on many nights, though.
And then, Valanciunas will just plain struggle on some nights, because he is a rookie and these things happen. Friday was one of those nights, as even when he was on the court Knicks centre Tyson Chandler seemed to have his way with him. Valanciunas adapted as the evening went on, and made a few key plays in the fourth quarter.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey has consistently said the minutes in the frontcourt are going to come down to his team’s matchup. Johnson matches up particularly well in a battle against similarly athletic big men, but as evidenced by his play against Chandler, he can hold his own in various situations.
Overall, the Raptors showed well in front of a Bell Centre crowd that shames what Torontonians have been bringing to the Air Canada Centre during the admittedly dreary pre-season. In his second game back from a groin injury, Kyle Lowry kept the Raptors alive in the first half when his team was languid. He finished with 17 points.
In the second half, the Raptors effectively used the three-point shot, with John Lucas III getting especially hot as the Raptors pulled away. Both were promising signs, to be sure, as is Johnson’s quiet dependability.
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In honor of the 2014/2015 NBA season NBA.com counts down Amir’s top 10 plays as a Toronto Raptor!