TORONTO - There’s a lot about last season that Amir Johnson is not going to miss.
And the losing record is only part of it.
Johnson’s season was marred from the very beginning. There was an off-court personal issue, one he publicly revealed but kept the details to himself, that weighed heavily on the 25-year-old centre/power forward.
There was also a foot problem that lingered most of the season and kept Johnson from playing at 100%.
As media day wound down Monday, Johnson declared both those issues problems of the past.
The off-court issue, whatever it was, has been resolved and the foot is no longer a concern.
“I’m 100% with my foot which bothered me all last year,” Johnson said. “This summer I pretty much worked on just being healthy and being ready. I did a lot of physical muscle endurance training so I feel good about this season”
And that off-court issue, which Johnson admitted affected his play, was just something he had to play through.
“It hurts a little but you just have to suck it up,” he said of dealing with it all last season. “You have to suck your pride in and just keep playing.”
With Andrea Bargnani having locked down the power forward position, Johnson is going to be battling Aaron Gray and rookie Jonas Valanciunas for minutes.
Leaving his baggage behind can only help his cause.
Andrea Bargnani knows first-hand the NBA indoctrination that awaits rookie Jonas Valanciunas.
Big men coming over from Europe to play in the NBA go through a learning process as established big men test the newcomers’ mettle.
While he can’t recall a particular moment or play when this was made clear to him, Bargnani says it definitely exists.
“It was a process where I realized how the NBA is hard and playing against the best players in the world I had to work harder. I don’t think there was one play where I realized that.”
But having watched and played against Valanciunas in scrimmages this past month, Bargnani has no doubt that the Lithuanian can handle whatever comes his way.
“Physicality is definitely going to be a big factor,” Bargnani said, “but he is not afraid of that.”
Nor does he back down as, Amir Johnson learned.
“There’s going to be a lot of players that are going to test him and I’ve tried to do that in practice for him,” Johnson said. “Just throw a couple of elbows at him and let him learn how to deal with that.”
According to Johnson, Valanciunas didn’t just absorb the punishment, he pushed back.
But Johnson still has one more piece of advice for Valanciunas.
“You just have to show them on the court. Get in there and throw some elbows of your own,” Johnson said. “Maybe throw an elbow on purpose just to show them you’re not a wimp.”