TORONTO - Amir Johnson spent a large portion of his summer shooting baskets from a chair.
He wasnít trying some revolutionary new training regiment. Surgery on his ankle early last June put him off his feet for two months. Instead of filling his days watching daytime soap operas, Johnson would take a chair on to a court, set it up about 18 feet from the basket and work on his form.
Then it was off to the weight room for more work, this time from a seated or supine position.
On the surface the physical changes are obvious. Johnson who was all lean muscle a year ago, appears more bulky this season.
But yesterday it wasnít the way Johnson looked that raised eyebrows. It was the extended practice he put himself through.
Johnson hasnít been one to stay after practice and work on his shot in the past, so it was a bit of a surprise when the young big man outlasted all his teammates Monday in the Raptors practice gym.
He and shooting coach John Townsend were all that remained after the rest of the staff and roster headed downstairs to take part in the annual media day that normally is a precursor to training camp but got shoved back this year because of the lockout and the roster uncertainty.
Johnson though needed to get a little more work in before handling his media duties.
ďI just wanted to stick to the routine I had this summer,Ē Johnson said, following a shooting workout that no longer requires a chair.
Johnson, like many who watched him in the pick-and-roll last season, is well aware how much more effective this part of his game can become if he can become a consistent shooter.
The key is a quick catch and release, something he did not have a year ago.
ďLast year I would take my time and look to see what my man (in coverage) was doing first and I would pull up,Ē Johnson said. ďIf I can be like (Andrea Bargnani) and just shoot, that would be good.Ē
Unless Johnson is under the basket tapping in rebounds or going back up with them for dunks, the vast majority of his offence comes out of the pick and roll game. Fine-tuning that is crucial.
ďAny time Jose or Jerryd gets me the ball I want to be able to hit that shot,Ē he said.
And while heís already seeing progress, the catch and shoot without a delay remains a work in progress.
ďIím feeling pretty good. I just have to get it off a little quicker.
ďAs I take my time and slow down, I can pretty much hit the shot from anywhere on the court, but if I get it off quicker itís going be better for me.Ē
As for the bigger body, Johnson said it was the result of a lot of work in the weight room, not the result of two months where his movement was restricted.
ďItís good weight. Itís all muscle,Ē he said. ďMy body fat percentage is still probably around zero. Iím pretty sure I will lose any weight I gained (with the upcoming hectic schedule), but I want to try to keep that muscle I added so Iím constantly in the weight room before and after practice.Ē
Johnson arrived in camp with his surgically repaired ankle at 95% and while management may have been a little ticked off that he didnít head straight from the regular season into the hospital at seasonís end last year, Johnson said he didnít delay things that long.
ďI wanted to take the month of May off,Ē he said. ďIt was my birthday. I knew what was coming (a strenuous rehab) so I went on a vacation and had like a birthday month.Ē
If management didnít like that decision, they had to be somewhat mollified to see Johnson putting in the extra work after practice on Monday.