Raps' Johnson ready to face former club

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

As the last NBA player drafted out of high school, Amir Johnson always will be the answer to a trivia question.

But the Raptors forward is more interested in putting some meat on his resume than being just a player who basketball fans sit around and discuss when it comes to guys who never made a huge impact.

And there’s no better time for Johnson, who had a season-high 12 rebounds off the bench in a victory against the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday, to show why he had enough talent to make college an afterthought.

The Raptors face Johnson’s former team, the Detroit Pistons, Wednesday night in Auburn Hills, Mich., before they play host to the Pistons on Sunday afternoon.

“I wouldn’t say it did not work out (in Detroit),” Johnson said after practice Monday. “(But) I’m going to go extra hard. I think it will be fun to play against my old teammates.”

Johnson was selected in the second round of the NBA draft in 2005, the final year before the league mandated that players must be one year removed from high school to be draft-eligible. He has taken full advantage of the extra court time as Reggie Evans recovers from a sprained foot.

“I know I have something that nobody has on the court, which is out-run the floor,” Johnson said. “I know I can do other stuff that other big men can’t do. When I go in there, I do it to the fullest.

“(Playing in Detroit) helped me to be confident, not being scared. You get that confidence to know you can go in there with anybody.”

The hustle of the 6-foot-9, 210-pound Johnson has been a revelation even to Raptors coach Jay Triano. Johnson doesn’t always have the easiest time staying out of foul trouble, but Triano can look past that somewhat when he sees Johnson’s enthusiasm. Against the New Jersey Nets on Friday, Johnson had a season-high 18 points.

“We expected Amir to be a major player when we found out Reggie was hurt,” Triano said. “And he has been a great surprise. He has brought a great amount of energy and understands his role and does what we ask him to do. That has been great.”

Johnson appeared in just 11 games in his first two seasons in Detroit, but then played in 62 in each of the past two years. The Raptors got Johnson and Sonny Weems from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Carlos Delfino and Roko Ukic, after Johnson’s rights were traded to Milwaukee.

Johnson’s 24 starts for the Pistons in 2008-09 were his only ones in Pistons garb, but he does not ponder how his pro basketball life might have turned out had he gone to university.

“I have no regrets,” Johnson, who is covered in tattoos, said. “Sometimes I kind of look back and think of what would have happened, where would I be, but I am fine. I feel good about it.”


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