Dandy debut for James Johnson

DAN ILIKA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:07 PM ET

James Johnson got the fresh start he was looking for Wednesday night literally and figuratively.

The newest Raptor started the game for Toronto against the Chicago Bulls, donning number zero to signify his new begining with the Raps.

The 6-foot-9, 245-pound Johnson was solid in his debut, scoring nine points, grabbing five rebounds and three blocks.

But the intangibles Johnson brought in his 27 minutes on the floor dont show up in the boxscore.

I thought from the opening tip he brought an aggressiveness that we wanted him to have, Toronto head coach Jay Triano said. He is basically running blind out there on the offensive end (but) thats something that will come around.

Johnson, who said he found out about the trade late Tuesday night, had no time to practice with the team and learn plays, instead relying on pick-and-rolls and put-backs.

Known for his defensive tenacity, the Wake Forest product brought just that last night, frustrating marksman Kyle Korver on the perimeter and running Luol Deng off mid-range shots.

Johnson held Korver to just three points in 18 minutes of play and held Deng to a respectable 19 points on 7-for-16 shooting.

Know your man

He practised and played against Luol Deng every single day in practice and hes had to guard Korver in practice, Triano said. We just thought, you know what, if you play these guys every day we are going to throw you out there and we want to see what you can do.

Despite questions about his ability to get in shape out of college, Johnson put his athleticism on display with a sky-high alley-oop in the first quarter.

In fact, heading into the 2009 draft, Raptors brass took a good look at Johnson and kept him as somewhat of a backup plan.

Theres a reason he went 16 in the draft and theres a reason we were looking at him heavily, Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo said. In fact, I had a deal in our pocket (last year) that if DeMar DeRozan was off the board at nine we were actually going to trade the ninth pick back a few spaces ... and the guy we were targeting was James Johnson.

Toronto gave up a first-round pick to acquire the 24-year-old forward, but Colangelo said it may have been well worth it when considering the quality of this years draft combined with the upcoming CBA negotiations.

Weve taken a very strong look at this draft, Colangelo said. Its not a great draft by star-quality standards (and) when you look at the unknowns of how the potential labour situation this summer will play into the fact that some guys may decide to stay in school.


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