Cat Claws: Keeping an eye on Nick Johnson Tour


Nick Johnson is saying he’s having fun during his many workouts because not a lot of people to experience the opportunity.


Everybody knows Nick Johnson can jump, but how does he match up one-on-one with elite players? That’s the premise Boston took when Johnson worked out for the Celtics on Monday. Johnson told the Boston media that he considers his athleticism a factor, especially on defense. “I think I use my athleticism for a lot more than just dunking and jumping,” Johnson was quoted as saying by NESN.com. “I use it on defense a lot. One of my challenges is using it more on offense. I think the NBA game is more spread out, so I’ll have a chance to do that.” The question for NBA scouts: Can he stick the jump shot and lead a fast break off the dribble and pass to somebody else for a scoring opportunity? In other words, can he play point guard after primarily playing the shooting guard position at 6’2” at Arizona? . . . Johnson’s ticket to the NBA is his defense. He can be placed on a taller point guard if necessary because of his ability to stay between the ball-handler and the basket. He can also jump, of course. Johnson had a rematch with former San Diego State guard Xavier Thames at Boston. They played twice against each other last season, including the Sweet 16. Johnson was also paired against Louisville’s Russ Smith, among others. “I think teams are starting to warm up to me being a combo guard and me just being a basketball player,” Johnson told NESN.com. “I think they’re starting to realize I’ll be able to guard the one and two position in the NBA, and that’s something I can do right away. Right now, they really just want to see me use my athleticism a little more and continue to get more comfortable with the ball and knock down shots.” . . . After working out with Toronto on Tuesday, Johnson was headed back home to Arizona to showcase his skills for Phoenix on Wednesday. …

Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, a former Arizona Wildcats standout, will become a free agent after this season. This could either be a season in which Briggs proves he can prolong his 11-year NFL career with Chicago or another club, or succumb to Father Time. He was sidelined for seven games last season with a shoulder injury after missing just four games in his first 10 NFL seasons. Briggs has been present for some but not all of the Bears’ organized team activities (OTA) or voluntary workouts in the last week. If this was a couple of years ago, Briggs would be criticized for missing workouts. Chicago must allow his aging body rest before the grind of a five- to six-month season starting in August with the preseason. . . . Arizona is in hot pursuit of five-star Concord (Calif.) De La Salle High School defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, who said he was most impressed with the Wildcats and Tennessee during recent visits. “Arizona wasn’t really a place that I thought would be a really great place for me, but once I got there I loved everything about it,” McKenzie told SBNation.com recently. “I love the coaches, I loved the facilities, I loved the city. It wasn’t too hot when I was there visiting, which was nice. Everything was really nice about it.” McKenzie’s family ties to Knoxville, Tenn., might be difficult for Rich Rodriguez and Arizona’s coaches to overcome. McKenzie also said he wants to take his five scheduled official visits. Trips to Alabama, Texas and Notre Dame are possibly on the itinerary although he plans to announce a commitment next month. If Rodriguez lands McKenzie it will be the greatest defensive recruit for Arizona since 2008, when five-star cornerback Robert Golden of Fresno, Calif., signed with the Wildcats. Mike Stoops also attracted five-star prospects Louis Holmes and Gabe Long, both defensive linemen, in 2006. Long never panned out. Holmes became a second-team All-Pac-10 selection.

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.


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