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#1 by sakura698 , Sat Dec 21, 2019 12:21 pm

TORONTO - James Johnson was in Houston to meet with the Rockets shortly after free agency opened on July 1 when he got the call. Blues Jerseys 2021 . It wasnt a shock to me, said the journeyman forward, admitting he wasnt exactly expecting it, either. But at the same time I was happy that an organization like [the Raptors] wanted me back. The phone call was from his agent, Mark Bartelstein. The next stop on his free agent tour would be Las Vegas, where he was scheduled to meet with representatives from Toronto. Understandably, they would have a lot of questions for the soon-to-be born-again Raptor. When the Raptors traded Johnson to Sacramento following a turbulent first stint in Toronto almost exactly two years earlier, he never thought hed be back. No, I didnt actually, he told TSN.ca. But thats part of the business, thats the nature of the business. You dont burn no bridges and you appreciate what you have. Whatever happened in a late-season practice that caused a fracture in the relationship between Johnson and then first-year head coach Dwane Casey, the team kept it under wraps. Whatever led to his two-game suspension and forced the deal that sent him to the Kings the following summer appears to be water under the bridge. What we do know is that Casey has always valued Johnson as a defender, no surprise given the forwards unique combination of size, speed, strength and athleticism, and Johnson hasnt always taken kindly to the role that Casey had assigned him. I think [it was] just his view of how he was playing and how he was being used, Casey said. Hes not different than probably 10 other players in the locker room, and especially young players coming in. They feel like their value is not being taken advantage of and that was James. He just felt like at that time, [at] that point in his career, he should have been doing more. But thats changed, or so both gentlemen tell us. Time has healed those wounds. Time and winning. Both Casey and Johnson have had the taste of success since they went 23-43 together during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign. Johnsons career hit rock bottom when he ended up in the D-League after his brief and unsuccessful stay in Sacramento left him without an NBA home. That was a turning point for him. You know, going down to the D-League changes your mindset a little bit, said Johnson, who averaged 18.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.9 steals and 3.4 blocks in 10 games with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in 2013. Your ego changes a little bit and I grew up. I got humble down there. From there, he ended up in Memphis. The Grizzlies brought him in to fill a role, a different role than hell be asked to play in Toronto, but a very specific role nonetheless. He was the utility man, a complimentary piece on an established team that, like Toronto, preaches defence first. Im the guy who just fills in the gaps, said Johnson. I filled the void of whats needed. The Grizzlies won 50 games last season (something that the Raptors have yet to accomplish, for the record) and Johnson got a taste of the playoffs for the second time in his career, the first since his rookie year with Chicago. It was also a notable year for Casey, who led his Raptors team to a franchise record in wins and division title before earning a well-deserved contract extension over the summer. The environment Johnson returns to is night and day from the one he left two years ago. The Raptors are a winning team with lofty expectations. Theyre Caseys team, now more than ever before. If Masai Ujiri and the Raptors organization were going to emulate the San Antonio Spurs, the leagues gold standard, this was always the first step. Find the right coach, commit to that coach and establish an identity (finding and building around the right players also doesnt hurt). Incoming personnel have no choice but to adapt. Johnson and Casey met twice in Vegas before the signing was made official on July 10, the first day the league allows free agents to put pen to paper. Their common ground: winning. Weve both grown, said the 27-year-old forward. I was young, took the onus on myself and now were working with each other and I think its way more positive. His approach and my approach [are] totally different than when I was first here. Im about winning and Coach Caseys about winning. When you have two guys out there on the battlefield, sometimes you say stuff you regret. Youve just gotta learn to get past that. Its just basketball. Casey has always been a strong believer in role definition, making sure his players know where they stand and buy in from the get go. Every fall he sits down with each player during camp and gives them their role card. With Johnson, that process started early. It was a prerequisite. In Johnson, the Raptors address a glaring weakness from last season, one that may have cost them their seven-game series with Brooklyn. Initially, John Salmons filled in admirably as a veteran leader and perimeter defender off the bench, but neither he - at 34-years-old, with a bad back - nor the undersized Terrence Ross could body up with Joe Johnson in the playoffs. Thats what Johnson was brought in to do. Casey calls him their designated hitter, a clever pun that - when you think about it - is more than just a baseball reference. Whoevers got the hot hand, he may have to go designated hit, Casey said ahead of Fridays pre-season game, as one reporter started to chuckle. Youre the only one that caught that, huh? he joked. Hes going to be our defensive guy at both [forward] positions. His presence is already being felt in camp. DeMar DeRozan - a good friend of Johnsons ever since they were first teammates in Toronto - uses him as a sparring partner in practice, although the two have a slightly different take on how those battles play out. He thinks hes the DeMar stopper, but I be out there [to] let him know a lot of times hes not, DeRozan said with a smile. Thats my man, always been, Johnson said of DeRozan. If I can make him better in any way, then I will. I like guarding him in practice because I feel like Im his hardest opponent and he goes hard when Im guarding him. At the end of the day, hes an All-Star and Imma be guarding a lot of those this season. It makes it interesting because hes definitely going to go hard, DeRozan added. Its fun a lot of times when I can compete with a guy like him, the way he moves, how athletic he is, how big and strong he is. In the time since they last played together, DeRozan has blossomed into an All-Star. Johnson notices the maturity in his teammate, both as a player and as a person. He, too, has grown, evident in the way hes checked his ego at the door this time around, but the true test will come when adversity hits and it will. How will he react to Caseys brand of tough love in the middle of a losing streak or after a benching? For a team that credits much of last years success to their in-house chemistry, the addition of a strong-willed player with off-court baggage is a risk, albeit a calculated one. Its success or failure will be predicated on Johnsons continued acceptance of his role, as outlined. Sometimes you think that you have so much other talent, he said. That you just want to score, but if you can take your talent and your athleticism and [use] it on the defensive end and put all your effort into that, then it works. Maturity does that, Casey said with confidence in Johnsons headspace going into the new season. I think he understands now and hell be the first to tell you he understands what his role is and what he was brought here to do. Blues Jerseys China .Y. - His opponent couldnt stop him, and LeBron James didnt quite know what to think when his coach tried. Blues Jerseys 2020 . There were no real chances until Augsburg broke the deadlock through Raul Bobadilla in the 33rd minute. Frankfurt failed to clear a cross and Bobadilla slotted home from close range at the far post. https://www.cheapblues.com/ . - Doug Kalitta led Top Fuel qualifying Friday in the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway with a 3.Often horrendous, occasionally hopeful... overall, Englands performance in the 90s was haphazard, as a record of 43 defeats, 38 draws and only 26 wins over the decade will testify. England did have a number of excellent players at their disposal in that time but there was also a number of more unusual selections.Here we look back at four of the finest players of the decade and four of those whose time in the limelight was all too brief… THE FINESTMichael Atherton The tenacity required to captain a struggling England side for a record 52 Tests over five years in the mid-90s should not be underestimated. To do so while nursing a chronic back condition, and in a pre-central contracts era where everything was stacked against the national side succeeding, speaks volumes.Limited bowling options and inconsistent batting meant his side was often up against it and his was the wicket that opponents craved above all others. As a batsman, an average of 37 might be considered good rather than great but should be viewed in the context of Englands troubles and take into account the great pace bowlers around in the 90s - Ambrose, Walsh, Donald, Pollock, Wasim and Waqar. If ever there was a career-defining innings, his 185 not out in 643 minutes, to save the Johannesburg Test of 1995, was it.Alec Stewart The most versatile England cricketer of his generation, his best role in the team was a regular topic of debate for the selectors and never proper resolved - in the 90s, he played purely as a batsman in 51 Tests (averaging 46) and as a keeper in 42 matches (averaging 34).The highs were his twin hundreds as an opening batsman in the 1994 victory at Barbados against Ambrose and Walsh in their pomp to seal a first defeat for the West Indies at the ground in 59 years. He also took over the captaincy in 1998 and led England to a home series victory over a strong South African side - their first major series win in 12 years. Less happily was his involvement in five successive Ashes series defeats (with another two to follow in the 2000s).Angus Fraser Despite only playing in 43 out of a possible 107 Tests over the decade, many of Englands most notable victories in the 90s owed much to Frasers accurate and consistent fast-medium bowling. The Caribbean was a particularly happy hunting ground - his 5/28 at Sabina Park in the first Test of the 1990 tour contributed to a shock England win by 9 wickets.A career-threatening hip injury cost him three years out of the side and led to the perception that his earlier nip had gone. This assessment was unfair and, in the 1994 Barbados Test, Frasers first innings 8-75 was as important as the Stewart batting heroics in Englands improbable win. He was in and out of the side during the mid-90s but back to his best for the 1998 home series victory against South Africa in which he took 24 wickets. Darren Gough As with Fraser, Gough was often the victim of unfortunate injuries, only playing 34 Tests in the 90s. Australia may have dominated the era but the Yorkshireman won the respect of their public on his first Ashes tour in 1994-95 with an ebullient personality and 20 wickets in the first three Tests, including a man-of-the-match performance of 6-49 (to go with 51 with the bat) at Sydney before having to return home early.The SCG was again his stage four years later when he took the first Ashes hat-trick in 99 years, his searing yorkers deserving more than being on the losing side against Australia yet again. At least he had tasted team success the previous summer with victory at home aagainst South Africa - his 17 wickets had been key. Cheap Blues Jerseys. As England emerged from the difficulties of the 90s, Gough was a key component of Nasser Hussains developing side in the early 2000s. THE FORGOTTENRichard Blakey In among several contenders, the England tour of India in early 1993 must be a good candidate for the most disastrous tour of the decade. Every excuse was used to explain away English failure, from the smog in Kolkata, to dodgy prawns in Chennai. The initial squad selection had been controversial enough with the omission of David Gower, and Yorkshires keeper-batsman Richard Blakey being chosen ahead of Jack Russell.After England lost in Kolkata, Blakey replaced Alec Stewart with the gloves for the remaining 2 matches. However, a failure to pick Anil Kumbles flipper, and to hold a simple chance behind the stumps, meant his Test career was short and not particularly sweet - two matches, both of them defeats by an innings, and a batting average of 1.75. Having expected to win the series, England suffered a 3-0 series loss.Mark Lathwell The story of Mark Lathwells career is a microcosm of the muddled selectorial thinking of the 90s. With England 2-0 down in the 1993 home Ashes series, and after seven successive Test defeats, press clamour for youth to be given a chance had reached fever pitch.The 21-year-old Somerset batsmen was chosen to open, strangely replacing Graham Gooch, who slid down into the middle order. After just two Tests, and with a a top score of 33, Lathwell was dropped, never to appear again. England used 24 players over the summer, eventually losing 4-1. For his part, Mark Lathwell retired from the game in 2001 at the age of just 29.Martin McCague That 1993 Ashes summer also saw rabbits pulled out of hats in the England bowling ranks - having been born in Northern Ireland, Martin McCague was able to play for Kent as a non-overseas player and qualify for England despite having played much of his cricket while growing up in Australia. The Aussie press labelled him the first rat to join a sinking ship but, after a fiery debut at Trent Bridge, this briefly looked like sour grapes.Alas, his bowling in the next Test at Headingley was ineffective and he was dropped. A year later, McCague was contentiously selected for the 1994-95 Ashes tour ahead of Angus Fraser, England supremo Ray Illingworth arguing that his pace would unsettle the home batsmen. In the event, his bowling in the first Test at the Gabba was less than impressive and a stress fracture meant he never appeared again for England. Aftab Habib Whatever the struggles of the 90s, the one team that always seemed beatable was New Zealand, with England being on the winning side at home in 1990 and 1994, and away in 1996-97. There was no expectation that the Kiwis visit in 1999 would be any different. Aftab Habit had averaged over 50 for Leicestershire the previous summer and was drafted into the middle order to start the series.As it turned out, a strong seam attack of Chris Cairns, Dion Nash and Geoff Allott exposed limitations in the Habib technique and he was jettisoned with an average of 8.66 after just two matches. England went on to an embarrassing 2-1 series defeat and ended the summer bottom of the world Test rankings.Watch England In The 90s On Demand now, or at 10pm on Sky Sports 1 HD on Tuesday. Also See: Butch talks England in the 90s Watch England in the 90s Bumbles Blog ' ' '

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