NBA draft: Wake Forest's Johnson makes trip to Utah

Published June 21, 2009 10:09 pm

Projected lottery pick work out for Jazz.
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Wake Forest forward James Johnson will attend the NBA draft in New York City on Thursday night, with other projected lottery picks.

So what was he doing in Utah on Sunday morning, working out for the Jazz, who own the 20th pick in the first round?

Maybe Johnson wanted to visit an older brother, who lives in Salt Lake.

Or maybe Johnson was covering his bases, in case reports of a late slide down the first round are accurate.

Either way, Johnson seemed happy to join seven other players, including the University of Utah's Luke Nevill, at another pre-draft workout conducted by the Jazz.

"It went well," Johnson said. "It was fun meeting new guys -- working out with guys I haven't worked out with before.

"We got close right away -- encouraging each other, rooting for each other. It was fun. A little tough to breath sometimes. But fun."

Two foursomes worked out for the Jazz, including a first shift of Houston's Marcus Cousin, Utah's Shaun Green, Gonzaga's Josh Heytvelt and Nevill and a second shift that included UConn's Jeff Adrien, Gonzaga's Jeremy Pargo, Baylor's Curtis Jerrells and Johnson.

Johnson hadn't previously worked out with his new friends because he has been projected to be drafted much higher than any of them.

At least until lately.

In the last few days, a reported lack of energy and conditioning during workouts for other teams might have Johnson sliding toward the Jazz.

Is that why he made a quick trip to Utah?

No, said Johnson.

"I'm going to work out every day, anyway," he explained. "So you might as well work out for coaches. That's how I look at it. If I wasn't here, I would be working out with the trainers I have. So they called me and I was more than happy to come."

Johnson (6-9, 245) averaged 14.8 points and 8.3 rebounds during his two seasons at Wake Forest.

"He's got an NBA body already," said Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin. "He's a very good athlete. He's got very good skill level. I think we were a little bit fortunate to get him here because everybody's talking about him as a lottery [pick]. He's got a pretty good upside."

Perrin compared Johnson to Charlotte's Boris Diaw -- a combination small forward-power forward who likes to go to the basket.

"He played a lot of 'four' at Wake," Perrin said. "I think he's going to be a combo three-four at our level."

Perrin seems unconcerned about any recent red- flag warnings about Johnson.

"We do our due diligence," he said.

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