Arizona's Stanley Johnson pitching versatility to NBA teams


Arizona's Stanley Johnson pitching versatility to NBA teams


It's a trait that was pitched by many at the NBA Draft Combine, as all players want to show they can do whatever it takes to land a spot on an NBA roster.

But for Stanley Johnson, it's a point he really wanted to hammer home.

“I can start a game at the 3, 2 or the 4. I can be a primary ballhandler, as well. I think that’s one of my traits: I can move all over the court, I’m comfortable at four positions on the court, I’m comfortable at a lot of positions on the court," Johnson said. "So for me, that’s ideal.

“I can switch on to four different positions, and that would be fairly simple for me. I’m a big, strong kid that can move his feet.”

[MORE NBA DRAFT: NBA Draft Profile: Arizona F Stanley Johnson]

It might sound a little boastful, but Johnson has plenty to boast about. The one-and-done from Arizona made quite the name for himself playing high school ball in Southern California. He arrived in Tucson looking every bit the athletic specimen he was projected to be and checks into the NBA Draft at 6-foot-7 and 242 pounds. And his play spoke for itself, as he was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year after a spectacular season with the Pac-12 champs, a team that reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament.

And though he was surrounded by plenty of other talent on one of the country's best teams, he's trying to prove to future employers that he can do it all.

“I offer versatility," he said at the NBA Draft Combine. "I can score from all three levels pretty well. I can be a primary ballhandler in the pick and roll or any two-man game situation. And on defense I’m going to play hard, I’m going to play smart and I’m a nasty competitor. I don’t think there’s many guys out there that want to win and want to compete as much as I do, and I’ll definitely bring that to a locker room in the NBA.”

[MORE NBA DRAFT: Terps' Dez Wells looking to do 'something special' in NBA]

Johnson is just 19 years old, though he's expected by many to be a top-10 pick in this month's draft. Plenty of one-and-dones have traveled a similar path, and Johnson — who clearly had little trouble with the transition from high school to college — doesn't expect any trouble with the jump to the next step, even though he'll be going from high school to college to professional basketball in just more than a year.

“High school to college was learning how to play, learning the mental game, learning the game of college basketball and letting your talent take over after that," Johnson said. "I would imagine it’d be the same thing in the NBA: learning how to play in the NBA first, the right ways to do stuff and letting your talent take over after that.”

While it might seem like a quick jump from high school to the NBA, not enough time in college for anything to really sink in, Johnson asserts that's not the case. Though he was only on campus for a few months, he said that he learned a lot from Sean Miller.

“I think we had a lot of guys. We had a mix of everything. We had older guys, younger guys, really talented guys and not-as-talented guys. We had guys that had more on the line than other people, and we had leaders on the team, as well. So that’s the main thing that happened at Arizona," Johnson said. "Arizona was probably the best year of my life. I learned a lot from Arizona, from coach Miller and his staff, the players. And the teammates are truly my brothers now. I think it taught me everything about myself, and now I can police myself, which I couldn’t say before I got to Arizona. I can really police myself. Without coach Miller being hard on me and doing what he’s supposed to do, I wouldn’t be able to do what I can today.”

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”

With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury


With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury

Jimmy Butler won't be facing the Bulls a second time this season.

Butler suffered a non-contact knee injury on Friday night in Houston. The initial X-ray only revealed he didn't have any broken bones, but the MRI had to wait until Saturday.

The Timberwolves announced that the MRI revealed a meniscus injury in Butler's right knee. There is not yet word on how long the All-Star guard will be out of action, but if it wasn't already assumed that he wouldn't play against the Bulls, it's now certain.

Avoiding the ACL tear means avoiding the worse case scenario, but this is likely still going to cause Butler to miss a significant amount of time with about a quarter of the regular season remaining. An update from Shams Charania of The Vertical said Butler could return for the postseason.

The Bulls take on the Timberwolves on Saturday night. Butler dropped 38 points at the United Center in his return to Chicago exactly two weeks ago, but the Bulls won 114-113.

Butler posted on Instagram a reaction to the injury.

Saturday's game will be the returns of Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn to Minnesota after they went the other direction in the Butler trade on draft night last June.