Hungry Jack's NBL
Stability has been the key to the Perth Wildcats meaning the release of their first import mid-season since 2008 came as a shock to many, but the coaching staff believe team balance is critical to success. Johnson was deactivated by the Wildcats on Monday morning as he became the first import at the club to suffer that fate since Rashad Phillips was replaced by Gerald Brown six games into the 2008/09 season. It is that stability in the playing group and faith the organisation has shown in imports Kevin Lisch, Galen Young, Jermaine Beal, James Ennis and Casey Prather that has helped Perth to championships in 2010, 2014 and 2016 along with the core group of Australians. But after three games of the season the 'Cats made the decision to sever ties with Johnson. The 24-year-old had quiet performances against the Brisbane Bullets and New Zealand Breakers, but delivered a stunning fourth quarter and overtime against the Cairns Taipans for 26 points. However, the club made the choice that he wasn’t the right fit for the group with Andre Ingram all set to play against the Illawarra Hawks at Perth Arena tonight. Wildcats forward Jesse Wagstaff is a three-time championship winner and 220-veteran having come to Perth straight out of college. This is the first time he has seen an import let go mid-season. "Jaron was such a great bloke around the club so it's super tough when it happens to a nice person like that," Wagstaff said. "But it is a business. It's the first time in my time at Perth that I've seen an import let go so it's definitely strange." Casey Prather is in his second season as an import with Perth. He was tremendous last season on the way to the Wildcats' seventh championship while winning the club's MVP award and understands it's a decision the club felt they had to make. "When you come in as an import you know it's a business and that the coaching staff and everyone involved with the club has to do what's best for the team. It's not a knock to Jaron, it's just the fact that it's the business aspect of the game," Prather said. "My initial reaction was confusion. I didn’t really know what was going on because I had just woke up so hearing the news was kind of surprising. "Then I came in and we talked about it as a group so we send our best wishes for Jaron. He is a great player, a great guy and I know he will do well wherever he goes." Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson, his staff and club management didn’t make the decision to part company with Johnson lightly. But the dual championship winning coach is confident that once his replacement arrives, the 'Cats will be a more well-rounded team particularly with more of a threat from the perimeter. "It's a big call to make but experience tells me we had to make this move. Hopefully it's going to make us better and we'll start to find that out on Friday night," Gleeson said. "We don't do it lightly and it's the first time we've replaced someone that I've been here, and in 10 years I've only done it twice. Hopefully it's the right decision to help us challenge for the championship. "I have no hesitation in saying that he (Johnson) can play in this league for a long time but his skill set was something we already had with Casey. It was really about the team balance and getting the right piece of the puzzle."