Amir Johnson's unsung improvement

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

NEW YORK — Quite often in a season like the one the Raptors have just gone through, what you’re not talking about at the end can be as important as what you are.

And when it comes to the Raptors the one topic of conversation that does not get the same kind of run these days that it did earlier in the year is Amir Johnson’s problems staying on the floor. And that’s a good thing.

Quietly and effectively, Johnson has figured out how to stay out of foul trouble and stay in the game without giving up any of his aggression and energy.

Early on it was a near game-by-game issue with Johnson to the point where Jay Triano and his coaching staff would provide Johnson with day-after-the-game tape of every foul he committed the night before.

“You don’t want to take that aggressiveness or ability to chase away but he’s just become a lot smarter about how to use his fouls and how to play without fouling,” Triano said.

Johnson welcomed those day-after film sessions because they showed him how silly and avoidable some of the fouls were to the point now where the film sessions are no longer necessary and Johnson himself rarely thinks about foul trouble any more.

Most of Johnson’s fouls were committed when he was coming over to help a teammate on his man. Most of them were either reaching in or pushing an opponent or even grabbing him to either prevent a basket or keep a defender off one of his teammates who was looking to score.

“Sometimes I do still pick up some silly fouls but I’m getting better,” Johnson said. “The key is don’t anticipate the foul. Just play your game. I’ve got better about jumping with my hands straight up instead of reaching in too.”

Johnson admits he has still got his tricks of the trade that are either at or beyond the lines of playing within the rules like every veteran NBA defender, but it’s a matter of choosing when the right time to try something like that is rather than just trying to get away with it on every possession.

“It’s a matter of being smarter with where to reach and when to gamble and play straight up and defend the rim,” Triano explained.

It’s one more example of an area where the Raptors have made strides in a season in which progress has been measured in baby steps rather than huge leaps.


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