Phoenix – It was somewhat supposed to be the case already But Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams confirmed after training on Thursday that fourth-year striker Cam Johnson would start.
Williams enjoyed Monday’s media day with a “we’ll see” and a smile when asked next, a question that became even more important after Jay Crowder and Suns agreed that the veteran would not be in camp training on Sunday.
The head coach was answering a question about goalkeeper Landry Schammit and his role in the team, and talked about how Johnson’s move opens the reserve to more opportunities now that Johnson, the sixth man in the final, is in the starting lineup.
Johnson noted on Thursday that he has plenty of familiarity with the other four starters already. He has played a total of 239 minutes with that quartet in the past two seasons and has made 27 combined appearances. He sparked situations like his first boot camp when Kelly Orbe Jr and bridges were hooked up, so he’s been running with the first unit as a rookie.
It’s not entirely new,” Johnson said. “It’s just an adaptation to playing with that group full-time in the first unit. That is the only change.”
Williams outlined Johnson’s game and move.
“He’s more than just a shooter,” Williams said. “He’s got a game industry, he’s got the ability to be a linker because he’s willing to pass and his athletic ability is something most people don’t talk about. … Defensively is where I told him he should draw a line in the sand, if you will.
“When he’s guarding a younger guys or if he’s some of those dynamic guys, he’s got to be a keeper. Conversely, I’m thinking of those guys who are going to have to guard him and that’s an exciting thing when you think about how he could open up our attack.”
On that note, Williams said that although it was only three exercises, the overall goal was for Bridges and Johnson to control the flow of more possessions and the ball into their hands. That’s something Suns fans were really calling for last regular season, and the limited amount of options on the ball bit the Suns in their post-season exit.
“The hope is that he and Michal can help get off the ground,” Williams said of Johnson. “These guys have the ability to facilitate and I didn’t give them the opportunity. And we talked about feeling comfortable about uncomfortable change. There will be times when it doesn’t look great but I think that’s where they will grow.”
“Hopefully, as the season moves forward and we get to a place where we take our steps and move into the playoffs, we hope that these guys feel more comfortable because we let them explore and make mistakes and figure out some things. But they both have the potential to expand our attack in that way. And that part is exciting when you think about in those opportunities.
Williams said Offense has always been some kind of free-flowing system where players can play and suggest things that eventually turn into plays, as the philosophy is “make plays, not play plays.” He said they’ve had enough as now but wrinkles can develop over the course of the season with Johnson in mind. They’ll run their normal stuff to start and then figure out other ways to do it.
One of those new dynamics appeased point guard Chris Paul, who is glad he doesn’t have the ball anymore. We saw Crowder do a lot of that in the playoffs last year.
Johnson described rebounding and fitness as his “big focus” this year, which is part of Crowder’s Crowder niche. Crowder’s rebound rate hasn’t been high by any means but he’s had 21 regular season and seven postseason games the past two years when he’s grabbed at least eight. There will be nights and confrontations when Johnson has to go after her.
Johnson wants to be much better at rebounding than he has been in the past. Johnson referred to how the coaches at the University of North Carolina used to preach to him about recovery, so Roy Williams and the other coaches will give a call to voice this part of his game.
We’ve previously told that he also receives constant comments from his family, and that his mom is the one who deals with him about the shattering glass.
So how much would you like to see Johnson snatch a game as a start?
“Mom wants 10! Greedy mom! Mom wants so much! ” He said.
Do you think Johnson is Deandre Ayton?