Stanley Johnson: LeBron 'jabbers,' should talk trash when score is 0-0

ByNick Friedell ESPN logo
Thursday, April 21, 2016

CLEVELAND -- Detroit Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson didn't hold back in his assessment of how he thinks he has defended Cavaliers star LeBron James over the first two games of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

"I'm definitely in his head, that's for sure," Johnson said after a 107-90, Game 2 loss to the Cavs. "That's for sure."

Johnson, a 19-year-old from theUniversity of Arizona, has been outspoken the past few days about his feelings that he could give James some problems defensively.

James was 12-for-18 from the field Wednesday and scored 27 points, but Johnson said he felt he held his own.

"I could care less if I'm in his head or in his mind or anything like that," Johnson said. "I'm just trying to play basketball. It's up to him how he wants to react to whatever he does. I think I'm in a good place. He had a great night. He's had a couple great nights. He made a couple tough-ass shots.

"He hit two 3's, which is not, like, his norm. He hit a tough-ass turnaround on me, and he played really physical. I battled physical. He didn't get any paint touches. He made a bunch of tough shots. So he's going to have to go 40 minutes and make those same tough shots every game for them to do what they did tonight."

According to ESPN Stats & Information, James has scored 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting against Johnson as his primary defender in the series. James was 6-for-6 against Johnson for 13 points on Wednesday.

Johnson was asked about a moment in the first quarter Wednesday night, when it appeared he and James bumped each other. Johnson felt that James initiated the contact.

"I don't know what y'all take from that," Johnson said. "I don't take anything from it. But a cheap-ass shot, a cheap-ass bump. I don't know."

James, who spoke to reporters before Johnson made his comments, avoided assigning blame when asked about the bump.

"For me, like I always tell you guys, the game is played in between the four lines, and everything outside that means absolutely nothing," James said. "I'm just happy I'm able to be in a position where I can lead this team and try to make plays for myself, make plays for my teammates and come out the way we did tonight."

James did take exception to being hit by Marcus Morris' elbow in the fourth quarter. There's a video circulating of James taking issue with the hit and mouthing a threat.

"There hasn't been one dirty play in the series,'' James said, downplaying the teams' dislike for each other. "I will make sure my guys understand that we're here to play basketball. Everything else is irrelevant. There's a video here, a video there -- means absolutely nothing. I took a shot, but I'm OK, I'm still standing tall."

Johnson said James has talked some trash to him when they have been paired up, also taking a shot at the rest of the Cavaliers' roster.

"He jabbers," Johnson said of James. "He moves his mouth sometimes. Their whole team does, kind of like their little cheerleaders on the bench. Every time you walk in the right corner. They're always saying something like they're playing basketball, like they're actually in the game. There's only seven or eight players who play. I don't see why the other players are talking. They might as well just be in the stands, in my opinion."

Johnson thought that the timing of James' words could be better.

"I wish he would just talk when [the game] is 0-0, not when he's up 16," Johnson said. "I think that's more -- that means something. That means you're confident in yourself. You believe what you're about to do. Don't talk after you made a couple shots. Anybody can do that."

Asked why Johnson wasn't scared of James, as many other players would be in his situation, especially in the playoffs, Johnson responded with a question of his own.

"Why would I be?" Johnson said.

When told he had never been on the playoff stage and that there weren't many players like James, Johnson wasn't fazed.

"He laces his shoes up the same way I lace my shoes up," he said. "He has to come out there and compete and make his shots. He doesn't come prepared. That's the NBA. Anybody and everybody can get busted any night. From the last guy on the bench to the first guy out. He's going to have to strap his shoes in every night tight because I'm going to strap my shoes in every night tight.

"I'm going to play hard and compete every night as much as I can. Like I said before, he's a great player. I never took that away from him. I never said anything about that. I just said I'm going to compete every night and give my hardest effort every night and live with it. He makes shots like he did tonight and plays like he did tonight, ain't many people in the league, ever, probably ever, that can match that. So it is what it is. He had a great game, and move on."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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