Johnson Raises Eyebrows at Training Camp

Johnson was the fourth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
(Greg Esposito/Suns.com)
Posted: October 5, 2012

During this week’s Suns training camp in San Diego, no player has been more magnetic to watch then Wesley Johnson.

The 6-7 swingman, who arrived in Phoenix via trade this offseason, has been captivating with his athletic swoops to the basket, impressive dunks and lights-out accuracy from long range. When Minnesota selected Johnson with the fourth overall pick in the 2010, this was the player they were hoping to see on a regular basis.

However, Johnson was inconsistent his first two years in the league, despite showing flashes of brilliance. Those flashes have been on display with a lot more regularity this week, leading his team to victory in scrimmages despite playing with the second or third teams.

“I think he’s playing with more confidence,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “And we have confidence in him. He’s shooting the ball well.”

When Gentry took over for Terry Porter in 2009, then-backup point guard Goran Dragic was a player in need of a boost of confidence. He was constantly looking over his shoulder at the bench to see if he’d be taken out after a mistake.

To remedy the situation, Gentry told him that he’d only take him out if he continued looking over his shoulder. The Suns Head Coach is taking a similar approach with Johnson.

During practice on Thursday, Gentry pulled the 25-year-old Johnson aside after he passed up on an open shot and told him that every time he has a look like that, he needs to shoot it. It’s that type of encouragement that has Johnson in a nice little zone right now.

“He’ll make the transition,” Gentry said. “It was easy. Once we told Shannon Brown (to shoot more last year), we didn’t have a problem anymore.”

All jokes aside, Gentry’s methods worked with Brown and Dragic, and they appear to be working again with Johnson.

“What they’re telling me now is building up my confidence to take shots,” Johnson said. “I think this week I’ve come into my own and have gotten back to the old Wes.”

The “Old Wes” was the Big East Player of the Year and a First Team All-American at Syracuse. After transferring from Iowa State, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim empowered Johnson much the way Gentry is doing now.

Perhaps Boeheim's formula for inspiring Johnson works that well in Phoenix.

“Everyone in the organization is making me feel like I’m at home,” Johnson said. “And I feel like that’s translating to the court.”

And hopefully those flashes of brilliance that Wolves fans saw the past two years will turn into a steady beam of brilliance for Suns fans this season.

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