Being a member of the Detroit Pistons, Stanley Johnson becomes part of a team that is known for its toughness. Most of his predecessors in Motown were preceded by a never-back-down reputation and a knack for roughing up opponents.
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Johnson tried to live up to the Piston tradition when they were matched up with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of last season’s playoffs, and his target was none other than LeBron James. Obviously on the receiving end of a gross mismatch, Johnson resorted to play some mind games which, as everyone witnessed, did not help his plight.
In his article for The Players’ Tribune, the athletic swingman looked back on his actions and did not appear proud.
Now, do I regret what I said about Bron?
No. I meant every word I said.
I wasn’t going to just roll over because he was the best player in the league. At the time, I felt I was making the game hard for him. I never back down from competition and I always feel like players put their shoes on the same way I do.
But was my delivery wrong?
Yes. It was a rookie mistake.
I was letting the game get away from me and making it less about the team. It was about us winning the series not the one-on-one between LeBron and me. After the series was over, my biggest learning experience didn’t come from being on the court. Or the outcome of the series. It came in the locker room with my teammates.
Chalk it as a greenhorn mistake. Johnson had no idea what he was getting into, and his choice affected his team. It’s hard to imagine that someone like LeBron James, a player who has probably seen it all, will be distracted by some rookie’s words.
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It backfired, but the experience, as taught by James the hard way, will be a positive turning point in Johnson’s career. With the trajectory that the Detroit Pistons are in, the possibility of them locking horns once more with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the postseason will linger in the background over the next few years.