LA Bound: Johnson Reacts to Rookie Selection


LA Bound: Johnson Reacts to Rookie Selection



Jonah Ballow
Wolves Editor/Writer

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During the 2010 Wolves Media Day, rookie Wes Johnson did not shy away from an outlandish request from an online chat session. A hometown fan asked the No. 4 overall pick to dunk on the No. 5 overall pick DeMarcus Cousins in the opening night matchup at the Target Center.

Reacting in a shy and unassuming way, Johnson replied to the fan, "I don't know about dunking on DeMarcus but I'm going to try to do something special."

Three minutes into the second quarter of his 2010-11 season debut, Johnson jumped out on the fastbreak, received a pass from Sebastain Telfair and dropped a hammer one-handed poster dunk on Luther Head. The former Syracuse standout registered 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting in 18 minutes of action in his first NBA game.

On November 3, head coach Kurt Rambis placed Johnson in the starting lineup, where he has played alongside the first unit for 35 out of the 47 games this season. The versatile guard/forward gained valuable experience while filling in for the injured Martell Webster through October and November. One of the early career highlights for the Texas native was a scoring outburst at home against the Hornets. Johnson scorched the road team for a career-high 24 points, including six treys and helping the Wolves defeat New Orleans 113-98.

"I'm really just learning a lot and trying to transition myself throughout the whole season and learn more and get better as much as possible," Johnson said.

Perhaps his most impressive achievement thus far is the resilience and maturity displayed when Rambis sent Johnson back to the pine. In fact, Johnson did not receive one minute of court time in a January 17 game in Portland. The 23-year old showed no signs of despair and found his grove once again by returning to his basketball roots. Ignoring all the mind games that will send some rookies into a state of a panic, Johnson focused on the skills that made him the Big East Player of the Year in 2010.

"I was just more relaxed," Johnson explained. "I'm very comfortable playing out there now and I really came into my own. I'm really learning more about that game, so I'm really getting into my own self out there on the court, so just really trying to keep going and push forward."

Johnson bounced back in a big way, scoring in double figures in four of his last five outings and averaging 16 points per game prior to Wednesday's game. In contrast to early in the season, Johnson has showed a more aggressive approach to attacking the rim while working on his back-to-the-basket game.

All the hard work inside the practice facility and improved play on the court led to a spot on the Rookie roster for the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge during All-Star Weekend. Johnson joins top draft picks John Wall, Blake Griffin, Derrick Favors, and DeMarcus Cousins against a Sophomore team that features Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, and DeMar DeRozan. All the action will take place on Friday, February 18 in Los Angeles at the Staples Center.

"It feels real good. To be in the Rookie Game in an honor and I'm very privileged I'm going to be in this, so it will be fun going out there and get some good weather," Johnson laughed.

The Minnesota rookie faces a difficult challenge in attempting to knock off the Sophomore team that owns an 8-3 record over the first-year players. Aside from enjoying a little sunshine, Johnson has his mind set on an upset victory, "I'm trying to get the win, that's the main thing. That's my motivation; I'm definitely going to have fun playing with those guys too but to get the win as well. It's going to be a good experience for all of us."

For Johnson, the journey to NBA stardom starts with a little taste of the All-Star life in LA and his chance to represent the Wolves at the league's showcase weekend. For more info on the T-Mobile Rookie challenge & Youth Jam, visit NBA.com.
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