What's it all mean?
They say it’s not a message but it can be seen as one; they contend it’s not a threat, either, but it can be perceived as precisely that; they are steadfast in their opinion that it’s just taking a look at a new guy but you can also see it as taking stock of what’s here as well.
Linton Johnson is in town and it’s like a sword hanging over the other Raptor swingmen, even if it takes reading between the lines to figure it out.
Coach Sam Mitchell said this morning that Johnson’s arrival on a 10-day contract should be seen as nothing more than what it is.
"It’s not a message to anybody, it’s a message that we’re always trying to improve,” he said today.
But then, practically in the next breath, Mitchell adds:
”We’re 36-35. We’re trying to get better. Now, if someone perceives it as a message, c’est la vie. Go home and look in the mirror.”
Just who is in Mitchell’s crosshairs isn’t hard to figure out. Anthony Parker’s been giving Toronto everything it’s asked of late and Mitchell went out of his way to mention that Jason Kapono’s been playing hard, and well, of late.
And because the Raptors think Johnson can guard both forward positions in some situations, it would leave Jamario Moon, Carlos Delfino, Andrea Bargnani and Kris Humphries as guys he might supplant.
"We were looking for defence, rebounding, all those intangible things, getting on the floor, getting loose balls, bringing some grit and toughness to our basketball team,” said the coach. “You can’t keep asking for that. So after a while of asking, it’s Bryan and my job to start trying to find that. We’ve been asking for that but if it’s not in someone’s DNA, you know what? Let’s find someone that it’s in their DNA.
“I tell players all the time, you have to step outside yourself and do what you need to do on any given night to get the job done. The reason: ‘That’s not who I am?’ That’s not good enough, that don’t cut it.”
Johnson, who has been with five teams in five NBA seasons, including a run to a championship in 2005 with San Antonio and two 10-day deals with Phoenix that ran out earlier this month, said he knows not to try and do too much with a new team so late in the season.
"I really appreciate that it is so late, teams have their identity, you just have to come in and try not to grow a new brain, come in and do what the team is already doing,” he said. “Playing basketball all your life, from team to team a couple of words change but it’s pretty much the same thing.”