On Monday we booted up our postseason report cards with a look back on Sasha Vujacic and his final moments in Lakerdom. Today we grade someone we never would've seen had Sasha not been traded. The Lakers signed Trey Johnson on the last day of the regular season to fill out a backcourt rotation stretched thin by Steve Blake's chickenpox. Had Sasha been kept around, that playing time would've been his to soak up. Instead, we got an all too brief look at the great Trey J, and our lives are richer for it.
The amount of time it'll take me to write this might exceed the time Trey actually spent on an NBA court this season. He played a not so grand total of 25 minutes: 13 in the regular-season finale up in Sacramento and then 12 in playoffs, mostly in garbage time. No Laker has logged so little action since 2005, when Slava Medvedenko injured his back in early November, never to work in this town again. There's no real significance to that fact, but I thought I'd mention it since I went to the trouble of looking it up and it's always fun talking about Slava.
As for Trey, he did just fine when pressed into duty. Amid a tense atmosphere in Sacto he scored six points off the bench, making two of three field-goal attempts and two of two from the line. He knew where he was supposed to be on the floor and wasn't overwhelmed by his sudden change of circumstances. It helped that he'd been part of the Lakers organization for a while. Trey spent training camp with the Lakers last fall and has been a regular with the Bakersfield Jam, for whom he was the D League's second-leading scorer. He knew the Lakers' playbook, and the Lakers knew what he could do, so his call-up made all kinds of sense.
(Blink-and-you'll-miss-it Trey J action at the 2:05 mark.)
A lot of us would've liked to see him get more run in the playoffs. Phil Jackson gave him six minutes in the Game One loss to New Orleans, and again Trey looked solid. For whatever reason, Phil never went back to him in a moment of any consequence. Obviously it wouldn't have made a difference in how the season ended, but it was hard to watch Derek Fisher, Steve Blake and Shannon Brown fumble around like total goobers and not wonder whether Trey could do a smidge better. So acute was our collective annoyance with guards not named Kobe Bryant that Trey J became our a fantasy projection. He was a figure of mystery who held out the hope of minimally competent guard play. We loved him because unlike those other bros, he'd not yet had an opportunity to disappoint us.
Have we seen the last of Trey? Perhaps. The organization is fond of him, but it's difficult to see what role he'd have on the team next year. Assuming Shannon exercises his player option, which strikes me as a near-certainty, the Lakers will have the same backcourt two-deep. A trade is possible, but no one's lining up to take Fish or Blake off the Lakers' hands. Even if the front office were willing to keep Trey in the fold as a league-min fifth guard, he might not take the deal. He could well prefer to stay active in the D League or Europe in the hope of catching another team's eye, rather than gathering dust at the end of the Laker bench. In that case, it's possible he gets called up again as a midseason injury replacement, if and when real minutes come available.
Trey J seems like the basketball equivalent of a "Quad A" baseball player: too good for the minors, not quite good enough for the big leagues. But I wouldn't mind seeing someone give him another shot. There's nothing in his track record to suggest he could be a 6th or 7th man in the league, but he also doesn't seem appreciably worse than any number of guys hammering checks on guaranteed contracts.
For his brief but memorable time with the Lakers this past season, we give him a C. We wish him all the best in his efforts to catch on somewhere. If that doesn't work out, we'll look forward to seeing him again in training camp, whenever it rolls around.
Previous Report Cards
Sasha Vujacic.... F