Amir Johnson Develops In Sioux Falls
by Matthew Brennan, D-League.com
Amir Johnson of the Detroit Pistons has been a dominant force in the D-League this season while on assignment to the Sioux Falls Skyforce. The second- year forward, who was drafted out of high school in the 2nd round of the 2005 NBA Draft, is averaging 18.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks a game for the Skyforce.
Johnson has put up outstanding individual numbers in the D-League, but a better measure of his impact can be seen by the Skyforce's record. Sioux Falls is 15-2 this season with Johnson in uniform and has emerged as a serious contender for the Eastern Division title since he was assigned for a second time on February 27. I had a chance to speak with Johnson where he discussed his success in the D-League and how his assignement is helping him to develop as an NBA player.
“I feel pretty good. I love playing with the team and I’m getting more comfortable with my game. It’s been a great experience.”
When you learned that you were being assigned to Sioux Falls, were you disappointed or did you look at it as an opportunity to work on your game?
“I actually went into the office and asked Joe (Dumars) if I could go back down there. I was definitely happy to return to Sioux Falls, I really had no problem with it.”
As an NBA player in the D-League, do you feel that there may be more of a bulls-eye on you from other players who are looking to make an impression?
“I know that there are a few players that do that, but our squad, the Skyforce, we play as a team. We are doing very well; since I got here we haven’t lost a game. You know there are some players, they see you on TV and everything and want to go hard at you, but I just play my game and don’t really worry about that.”
How is your time in the D-League helped you improve?
“Just getting more experience, becoming more familiar with my game. Just playing and getting my wind back. I haven’t been playing in Detroit too much because there are a lot of veterans on the team. I’m just using my time here as a chance to build up my energy so that I will be ready to contribute when I get back to Detroit.”
Are there still aspects of your game you want to work on for your return to the NBA?
“Right now I’m tryting to work on everything for my position, the three spot, especially my dribbling. I’ve gone coast-to-coast a few times since I’ve been down here. I’ve also focused on my shooting, a little bit of everything so I can be prepared to play any position like what they do with Tayshaun (Prince).
What is like to play for Coach Mo McHone? Does he use a system system similar to the Pistons?
“He’s a great coach, he just goes out there and lets us play and run the floor. We still run some plays, but for the most part we just go out and let the game come to us.”
“I just call them and see how they are doing. I talk to some of the players all the time. They will send a scout out here sometimes to see us play. Basically I keep in touch with them to see what’s going on, but they will call me often as well.”
What are some differences between the D-League and the NBA in terms of traveling and life off the court?
“There’s a lot of differences between the NBA and the D-League, we have to take the commercial flights instead of the private jets. Teamwise, we just hang out and have fun. That’s the same everywhere. But out here in Sioux Falls there’s not too much to do, I just try to relax and stay in the hotel, I don’t really do too much.”
You entered the NBA right out of high school, does the competition in the D-League make up somewhat for not gaining more playing experience in college?
“Yes, I’m missing a whole level basketball by not playing in college. Here in the D-League I am playing against some of the best former college players every night. It’s definitely helping me in terms of improving my game, so I have no regrets as far as missing college.”
This is the last season you can be assigned for the D-League. What are your goals heading into next year with the Pistons?
“Just to get a chance to play some minutes, play hard and show what I can do. Just show the coaches that I can play in the NBA.