Stanley Johnson’s NBA comeback was supposed to be with the Chicago Bulls! Not the Los Angeles Lakers!
Stanley Johnson signed with the Chicago Bulls this offseason. Chicago signed him possibly because he dropped 35 points on them last season. The move to sign Johnson came with mixed reactions, who had earned his status as an NBA journeyman by this point.
Da Windy City writer Ryan Heckman of FanSided:
"“The Chicago Bulls’ signing of Stanley Johnson will prove to be exactly what the team needed.”"
"“Stanley Johnson to the Bulls? He’s been in the league for 7 seasons now & hasn’t developed. We already have Jones & Brown as backup SFs. Wasn’t good enough to stick on the Pistons, Pelicans or Raptors rosters. Not very high on this signing. Hopefully it’s a non guaranteed deal.”"
Johnson was never going to get minutes in Chicago. He signed with a team loaded with defensive-minded players (hello Alex Caruso!) and big-time forwards such as DeMar DeRozan.
After he was cut in the preseason, he signed with his hometown South Bay Lakers. He was then picked back up by Chicago on a 10-day contract earlier in the season but never played a game as he was forced to enter the NBA’s Health & Safety Protocols. His contract expired and he again became a free agent.
Johnson was picked up by the Lakers on Christmas Eve. The next day, Johnson’s Christmas present was playing 27 minutes on national TV while guarding James Harden.
It was like his rookie year in Detroit all over again! Johnson immediately took on the challenge of guarding the other team’s best player.
David Fizdale, the Lakers Interim Head Coach, had enough faith in Johnson to put him on Harden in the game’s closing moments.
I love the Ron Artest comparison. His quick footwork, seven-foot wingspan, and his strong yet quick hands make him an incredible defensive stopper. He backs down from absolutely nobody. He can be the modern-day enforcer like Artest was back in the day.
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This was not a surprise for anyone who had followed Johnson’s career. He always displayed flashes of offensive potential at Arizona.
But thanks to his late mother, Johnson’s identity will always be rooted on defense. He finally got to prove himself to a team that believes in him.
"“She’s always saying, ‘Defense wins championships, and when they recruited you they said you were going to win championships,’” Johnson said. It’s part of playing in a winning program. He added proudly that while it took him time to understand helpside principles—and when gambling for a steal is appropriate—he picked up Arizona’ pack-line defense quicker than she anticipated."
Stanley Johnson is a flat-out winner. He has won at every level in his basketball career. He is a perfect fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the Lakers frontline for years to come.
His mother would be proud.