TUALATIN, Ore. — The first time the Blazers called up center Chris Johnson, he dubbed it a dream come true. Mistake. If that were the case, how is he supposed to describe this?
The 6-foot-11 NBA Development League All-Star had a 10-day stint with the Blazers in early February, seeing action in two games and tallying four points and four rebounds in 16 total minutes. But the Blazers didn’t sign him to a second 10-day deal.
However, after trading away three players — two of them centers and the other a power forward — Portland again sought Johnson’s services, signing the LSU product to a deal through the end of the season.
“It means a lot more now that I’m here for the rest of the year. I’m just going to try and learn as much as possible,” said the 25-year-old, who is playoff eligible. “It’s a huge dream come true. It hasn’t really hit me.”
Johnson signed a 10-day contract with Boston at the end of February and totaled six points and five rebounds over the span of five games. In the D-League, Johnson has posted averages of 16.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks while shooting 51.7 percent from the field.
McMillan called Johnson a “young guy with potential” who the team will scrutinize throughout the season. Johnson, meanwhile, said his primary responsibilities will be to be active and “show my length.”
At 210 pounds, he definitely won’t be showing his width.
Having suited up on three different teams, Johnson has had quite a few different sets to memorize over the past few weeks. He said he’s learning, but has a contingency plan should he become confused.
“If I get lost, I’ll just go ahead and set a ball screen,” Johnson said. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Gerald Wallace was wearing a black jersey in practice Monday, a shade generally reserved for the first unit. But Wallace hasn’t yet supplanted Nicolas Batum or any other Blazer in the starting lineup — he was just filling in for a missing center.
Marcus Camby did not practice on Monday because he was getting his knee examined due to soreness. Batum also rested after spraining his ankle against Atlanta Saturday, although he did walk through various sets Monday. McMillan expects both to play tonight against Dallas.
Portland is 0-2 against the Mavericks this year, even though they had the luxury of facing them sans Dirk Nowitzki in their first meeting.
A missed opportunity, no doubt. And with just 16 games remaining on the schedule, the Blazers can’t afford many more of those.
Portland assistant coach Bill Bayno said on the Trail Blazers TV show “Courtside” that Andre Miller stood up in front of the team Monday and implored them to ratchet up the focus for this closing stretch.
“Nothing’s a guarantee. It’s going to come down to the finish,” said Miller, whose team is currently seventh in the West, three games in front of ninth-place Phoenix. “Some of the games we lost earlier might catch up.”
McMillan wants to ensure future games — like Friday’s loss against the Bobcats — don’t get away from his team.
He said the Blazers are becoming too stagnant in the fourth quarter, although much of that has to do with the fact that they aren’t getting defensive stops.
He’s also been going with a smaller team in the final period, leaving Camby off the floor while playing Miller, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace and a revolving-door fifth man. Does he plan to shake that up?
“I would like to have some shots made in the fourth. You gotta make those,” McMillan said. “You put the guys out there who are making shots.”