There’s no denying that forward Alize Johnson has put himself in the discussion for a guaranteed roster spot with the Bulls — which is why final decisions about those spots were expected to go late Friday night and possibly into Saturday morning.
Johnson came into camp with a reputation for being a rebounding machine and has been as good as advertised, backing up center Nikola Vucevic while Tony Bradley was recovering from a back injury. Watching all those Dennis Rodman videos has clearly shaped the way he plays.
“His energy, competitiveness and just a winner,” Johnson said, explaining his admiration for the former Bull. “Right now, I’m trying to be that. When I go out there and rebound, I have a knack for the ball. I love to do it. It’s something that goes unnoticed on the floor sometimes, but it’s one of my strengths.”
It hasn’t gone unnoticed by coach Billy Donovan, who was flat-out asked Friday if Johnson was in the mix for a roster spot.
Donovan was reluctant to show his hand ahead of decisions with the front office but praised Johnson for his work this preseason, especially against much bigger centers.
“He’s just got a tenacious attitude,” Donovan said. “I don’t worry about [size] with him because the one thing about Alize is he has rebounded at every level he’s been at, whether it’s been high school, college or now the NBA. That’s just what he’s going to do.”
Johnson’s one weakness could be whether he’s able to play the four in Donovan’s system.
“I don’t really have that answer,’’ Donovan conceded.
In some systems, the four and the five are interchangeable, but that’s not necessarily the case under Donovan, especially this season, with the offense and defense tailored to what Vucevic does at center and what Patrick Williams does at the four.
“We’ve switched a lot more this year,’’ Donovan said. “So I think if you look at the time [Johnson’s] had defensively on the floor, he’s predominantly been in coverage as a center, been in some form of pick-and-roll coverage. I do think he has the ability to switch, but he hasn’t really done that a whole lot.
“The other part of that [is], offensively, we’ve used our five men as facilitators. So that would require [Johnson] being off the ball a lot more and being a cutter, a mover and a floor spacer, and that’s something he really hasn’t done.”
Williams (left ankle) and Bradley (back) made their preseason debuts against the Grizzlies on Friday night, with both restricted in their minutes. Their participation was great news for the Bulls, who will be almost fully healthy for their season opener Wednesday in Detroit, barring any setbacks.
Guard Coby White is still at least a month away from testing his surgically repaired shoulder and giving the Bulls a more definite idea of when he can return. But adding two healthy bodies to a frontcourt that has lacked depth is big, especially as Donovan tries to figure out how rotations will look.
“It’s not so much about who’s starting, but it’s how you’re necessarily rotating,” he said. “And I think that’s gonna be something we’ll have to go through and gain more and more information on, even as we’re going through the regular season a little bit.”