|Young Guns Firing For Raptors...|
December 21, 2009 - 4:30 p.m.
They are like day and, well, day.
While DeMar DeRozan has gathered attention for his rapidly maturing game, the Raptors other two young guns, Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson, have had a significant hand in the team’s improving play.
Consider the numbers: the 22-year-old Johnson is second in the NBA in offensive rebounds per 48 minutes and 21st in the league in rebounding despite a modest 17.2 minutes per game of playing time. He ripped down a dozen rebounds, Sunday, in a win over New Orleans and had 18 points and seven rebounds in Friday’s rout of New Jersey.
Weems meanwhile, has hit double figures in scoring three times this month and while he is just averaging 5.3 points a game he has boosted his minutes from 4.6 minutes a game year in Denver to 14.9 mpg this year.
“Amir has been a great surprise because he’s been thrown into a great number of games and he’s brought a lot of energy,” said Raps head coach Jay Triano. “He understands his role and he just goes in there and does what we ask him to do.”
“We knew Sonny was an energy guy. We didn’t know how much we was going to play or how much he was going to fit in. Every day in practice the kid wants to play and he comes back to shoot at night. He is playing with a lot of intensity right now.”
Wednesday’s game in Detroit is important to Johnson. The last player drafted out of high school, Johnson spent four years of tutelage under Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess and Chauncey Billups. “I’m going to try extra hard against my old team,” he said.
That he was able to start 24 games for the Pistons last season told Johnson what he what he needed to know.
“You think to yourself that you started with five All-Stars so you’ve got that confidence going. You know you can go in with anybody and play with energy,” he said.
Johnson is a power forward with the athleticism of a small forward. Since his minutes are limited, he can leave whatever he has on the court, especially against the opposition’s second unit.
“I know I have something that nobody has on the court, which is I run the floor, rebound and block shots,” he said. “ I know I can do stuff that other big men can’t do so when I go in there I do it to the fullest.”
In his second full NBA season, Weems has begun to climb up the depth chart.
"If you come and see us practice, I am always going hard. The confidence level has always been there. It was just a matter of showing it when I got on the court."
Weems insists the modest amount of success he has begun to enjoy will not change his hat size.
“I’m 22 year old,” he said. “I have a lot of learning to do, a lot of growing up to do. I am willing to learn and the old guys try to teach me. My ear is always open.”