Stan Van Gundy on Stanley Johnson: 'He's a 19-year-old kid'

ByNick Friedell ESPN logo
Friday, April 22, 2016

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Detroit Pistonscoach Stan Van Gundy acknowledged Thursday that he met with rookie Stanley Johnson in the wake of comments Johnson made regarding Cleveland Cavaliers forwardLeBron James after Wednesday night's Game 2 loss.

Johnson, a 19-year-old rookie out of the University of Arizona, said after the game that he was "definitely" in James' head, despite the fact that the Cavs star was 6-for-6 against Johnson as his primary defender, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and finished with 27 points.

"I had a talk with Stan today, and so I'll leave it at that," Van Gundy said during Thursday's media availability. "I told him what I thought about his comments and everything. That's a discussion that we had today."

Van Gundy admitted that he cringed a little when he first saw the comments.

"Well, look, you do [cringe] a little bit," he said. "But you also, you have to realize he's a 19-year-old kid going through this for the first time. You get him right after a game like that, and he's frustrated and all of that. We met. We talked. He knows how I feel, what my concerns are, but it wasn't a -- at least I hope he didn't take -- it wasn't an anger session. It wasn't a 'You're an a--h---' type of thing. It wasn't. It's just another learning experience for a 19-year-old kid."

Johnson has been outspoken throughout the series about his belief that he could give James problems on the defensive end. Johnson doesn't say it boastfully, but rather with more confidence than rookies usually show. Asked after Game 2 why he's not afraid of James as many other young players would be in his situation, he responded with a question of his own.

"Why would I be?" he said.

Throughout the series, Van Gundy has said he isn't surprised that Johnson hasn't shied away from the challenge of guarding James. But Van Gundy knows that Johnson didn't do himself or his team any favors with his remarks.

"I'm not fining him or doing anything like that," Van Gundy said. "They are [grown men]. They're grown men, and they talk to the media and the whole thing. But I wanted to let him know what my concerns were, and so we talked about it. I thought it was good, and I thought that he understood and received it well."

Van Gundy does not believe James will enter Game 3 with extra motivation.

"Look, LeBron understands that it's about the game. I don't think a guy like him needs much more motivation," Van Gundy said. "They're talking about trying to win a championship. That's a lot more motivating than something a rookie might have said."

Van Gundy was then asked if he wished he had a few more veterans on the team who could have pulled Johnson aside and discussed the situation with him.

"Nah," Van Gundy said. "They would have probably told him the same thing I did. Again, I'm not going to go into what he and I talked about, but we did talk."

Game 3 is Friday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Cavs lead the series 2-0.

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