Johnson’s D-League stint off to a good start


Jan 29

Bulls General Manager Gar Forman said he was encouraged by James Johnson’s debut in the NBA Developmental League on Friday. But Johnson shouldn’t get too comfortable playing for the Iowa Energy, as his D-League stint will likely last only eight games.

Johnson started in his first game for the Energy and scored a team-high 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including eight-of-eight from the free throw line in just over 30 minutes of action.

“I think it’s going to be a real positive for James,” said Forman. “We had talked about doing this for several weeks and we looked at our schedule. We wanted to find a window where he could get a lot of time on the floor. While we’re out west the next two weeks, he’ll get eight games in.”

Forman was in touch with Johnson following Friday’s game and plans to have regular communication with the small forward selected 16th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft. While Bulls scout Pete Myers is with Johnson currently, Forman will see Johnson play in two games towards the end of his stint. The plan is for Johnson to rejoin the Bulls for their next home game, Feb. 15 against the Charlotte Bobcats.

Between the Bulls hitting the road for a five-game trip that starts Wednesday in Los Angeles and Forman’s conversations with Nick Nurse, Iowa’s coach who said he’d welcome the addition of Johnson and play him 35-40 minutes per night, the timing was right to make the move. Forman stressed that sending Johnson to the D-League is in no way a demotion; rather an opportunity to play whereas in Chicago, he wasn’t.

“James has become very serious about becoming a player at this level,” said Forman. “He understands fully that our team is having success and we have a set rotation that is working well together. I think he looks at it as an opportunity to go get on the floor and play.”

Furthermore, Forman said the Bulls remain confident that Johnson will be a contributor in the NBA.

“We’re as high on James as we’ve ever been,” said Forman. “He’s made great strides this year, even though our fans haven’t seen since he hasn’t had a lot of time on the floor. From a conditioning standpoint and working on his game, spending extra time and becoming a more mature player, he’s grown a lot professionally. The next step, at least in the short-term as far as his development, was for him to get some time on the floor.”

As for what he expects to see from Johnson while he’s with the Energy, Forman is hopeful Johnson takes the success he’s had in practice and applies it against the competition.

“We want to see him put into use in game situations the things he’s been working on this season, all while playing within himself and making good decisions on the floor,” said Forman. “That includes making basketball plays under control, using his athleticism to attack the rim and taking good shots on balance.”

Bulls vs. Pacers season notes

Chicago is 2-0 against the Pacers this season … the Bulls lead the all-time series with the Pacers 83-72 and are 55-21 against Indiana in the Windy City… since the 2003-04 season Chicago has gone 12-3 against the Pacers at the United Center ; Chicago is just 5-18 all time at Conseco Fieldhouse … the Bulls have won or split the season series versus the Pacers the last six seasons … against the Pacers last year, Derrick Rose averaged 24.8 ppg, 6.3 apg and 4.8 rpg rpg in 39.0 mpg; in three contests against the Bulls, Danny Granger paced Indiana with averages of 25.7 ppg and 8.3 rpg in 37.3 mpg … last season, the Bulls outscored the Pacers 105.8 ppg to 101.5 ppg … in 153 games between the Bulls and Pacers, they have gone to overtime just three times (Chicago is 2-1), with the most recent overtime contest occurring on March 19, 1995, a 103-96 Pacers win at Market Square Arena.

Audio—Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau’s pregame comments (01.29.11):

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