Nielsen on Raptors: Johnson rides the pine

April 7, 2012, 4:43 AM

James Johnson is not in Dwane Casey’s bad books. At least that’s what the Raptors coach says.

“James is not in the doghouse,” Casey said after the Raptors 84-80 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night. “I just thought Linas (Kleiza) and Alan (Anderson) did a good job at the (position). It wasn’t any one person; it was a group thing more so than anything else.”

Anderson, who had his contract with the Raptors extended on Friday for another 10 days, did not register a point in the contest while Kleiza managed a grand total of eight points.

The Raptors scoring ran dry in the fourth quarter as they blew a 13-point lead yet Johnson still remained glued to the pine.

Johnson has gone from starting at the small forward position to sitting on the end of the bench in the blink of an eye, and it seems a little far-fetched that he wouldn’t at least warrant a shot to turn the tide as things fell apart in the fourth quarter if, as Casey proclaimed, he wasn’t in hot water for something.

Casey did drop a hint of an issue when he said, “We chose as a staff not to play him. We’re going build the program the right way, we’re going to do things the right way, and we’ll go from there.”

For his part, Johnson remained mum on why he picked up his second ‘did not play — coach’s decision’ in the same number of games.

“I just work here,” he said. “I’m happy to work here. The guys are playing well and I’m going to cheer for them.”

Johnson has appeared in 52 games for the Raptors this season averaging 8.9 points to go along with 4.6 rebounds.

When asked if there was an explanation for his move to the bottom of the pecking order Johnson said, “I don’t really need one. It’s an internal matter between coach and me, and I’m going to deal with it.”

Casey said Johnson was available to play on Friday night and he would again be suiting up on Sunday when the Raptors face a much more deadly foe, the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“He’ll be available to play (Sunday in Oklahoma City); he was available to play tonight.”

I guess we’ll see how much longer before Johnson is cleared for takeoff.


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