When Loul Deng went down, James Johnson got thrown right into the middle of a playoff race. The Bulls are trying to catch Toronto for the right to be destroyed by Cleveland in the first round, and the Wake Forest rookie was suddenly the starting three on a team that needed wins.
And he’s been solid. In his last 10 games Johnson has been scoring 10 points a game on 53 percent shooting, and pulling down five boards a game. All that while battling an injury of his own, a partially torn plantar fascia in his right foot.
That Johnson is playing the three shows an impressive work ethic — he came into the league a true tweener that had to bulk up and be a four or get lighter and faster and be a three. He went small, he told the Daily Herald.
According to Johnson, he’s managed to drop 35 pounds since the start of training camp, which might be one reason why he’s been able to handle Deng’s starting job temporarily.
“I was 267 and we weighed in (recently), it was 232,” Johnson said. “So I’ve lost a lot of weight. I feel like I’m moving faster. More weight is going to come off that needs to come off and when it does, I feel like I’m going to be the player I’m capable of being.”
All that without buying the P90X.
Johnson is an athlete and playing at this weight and speed seem to suit him. With him in the first year of his rookie deal, the Bulls think they might have a nice role player piece to go with Derrick Rose, Deng, and that big star they are going after this summer. Of if not, Johnson can just keep starting.