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An inside look at the Detroit Pistons and the NBA.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


You hear it on the local sports talk shows. The media gets inundated with e-mails about it. Flip Saunders receives constant grief over it.
I'm referring to the Amir Johnson Fever that has inflicted an amazing amount of Pistons fans.
The people who cover the team regularly are amused and somewhat annoyed by the infatuation over the third-year forward. During the first three months, there were constant cries for Johnson to play. Saunders finally appeased those fans by putting Johnson in the rotation. When he made the mistake of not playing Johnson in Utah last week - mainly because Jason Maxiell played probably his best half in a couple of months - there was a flood of anti-Saunders e-mails from Johnson's followers.
I don't understand all the fuss. The team is rolling, the starters are getting plenty of rest and everyone's healthy. Maybe the fervor over Johnson just gives fans something to get riled up about because they can't simply enjoy rooting for a perennial contender.
Don't get me wrong. While Johnson isn't the second coming of LeBron or Dr. J, he's been quite impressive. He's blocking shots, working hard for rebounds, running the floor on breaks and even showing some nifty work on his post moves. It's fair to argue that Saunders should seriously consider him for Maxiell's role.
But as I stated in my last Sunday column, the Pistons' playoff fate will be determined almost solely by the starters. Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace are going to be on the court longer than they've played in the regular season. That's not a bad thing. McDyess and Wallace are terrific, experienced defenders who can guards power forwards and centers will equal aplumb.
McDyess' offense has been spotty but his effort is always there. He's been one of the league's top rebounders the last few months. Rasheed is still the most talented, versatile big man on the roster and one of the NBA's smartest players, though his second-guessing of Saunders' strategy at times makes him too smart for his own good.
Johnson can contribute to the Pistons' postseason effort but let's not get carried away. He's still only 20 years old and the club has done the right thing by bringing him along slowly. Johnson's playing time is not going to make or break their season, so all of his fans should just relax and enjoy the ride.


Anonymous Sable said...

I love Amir Johnson and it is a curious thing. I suppose alot of it had to do with seeing a young guy with that dreaded P-word (Potential) living up to it. I'm not going overboard. Amir shouldn't start. He's perfect for the role his is in, brining energy off the bench. Having said that, Saunders has to get him some game time each game. Why? If you've watched the Pistons since Amir has cracked the rotation, they've always gained separation when he's out on the floor. His mobility as a big man lets them pressure opposing ball handlers full court. This shaves valuable seconds off the shot clock. We had this when Ben was in his prime and now we have it again. His length, athleticism, and shot blocking have also served to convince teams into taking fall away jump shots rather than attacking the rim. So it's not so much about appreciating what we have, which I do, it's about keeping it going by continuing to give him minutes.

March 5, 2008 at 1:33 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Piston's starters have proved over the last couple of years that they can't get the job done in the playoffs. Stuckey and Maxiell playing better and added to the core is not enough. Amir Johnson has to be developed enough to be able to make a difference in the playoffs. That won't happen with him being benched. Minutes should be taken from Rasheed and McDyess.

March 5, 2008 at 2:27 AM 

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