Joe Johnson playing off the ball with Nets

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Joe Johnson playing off the ball with Nets

BOSTON The ball isn't in Joe Johnson's hands nearly as much as it was in Atlanta, and both he and his new team -- the Brooklyn Nets -- are better for it.
Although Johnson became a perennial all-star with the Hawks, it's clear that he is at his best when he's off the ball more, like when he was with the Phoenix Suns.
Johnson will be one of the many challenges the Celtics will have to deal with tonight when they host the Nets who are in unfamiliar territory these days -- tops in the Atlantic Division.
"I honestly don't look at it (division standings), I really don't," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "I know it's a lot of good things. Philly and Brooklyn, New York, I mean everybody is pretty good now. But I honestly can't tell you were anyone's at. I never look."
However, Rivers has seen enough of the Nets to know that Johnson's play with the Nets is similar to how he played with the Suns.
"Joe, in Atlanta, handled the ball a lot," Rivers said. "He was the point guard, you could make the case in many games, especially in the fourth quarter. Joe Johnson was the point guard in the fourth."
Because of that, Johnson's nickname in NBA circles was "Iso" Joe for frequent number of times the Hawks would call isolation plays for Johnson.
But things are different now that he has teamed up with Deron Williams to form one of the top backcourts in the NBA.
"Now he has a guy that can facilitate the offense for him, which makes him even better," Rivers said.
Playing off the ball more appears a role that Johnson is quite comfortable in playing.
Although his scoring numbers have taken a dip -- he's averaging 15.2 points per game -- there's no mistaking the impact that his mere presence has on the game.
At 6-foot-7 playing shooting guard, Johnson has a size advantage just about every time he steps on the floor.
And with the ball not having to be in his hands as much as it was with the Hawks, he's using his size more in the post than ever.
Nets coach Avery Johnson said his team has become more of a half court squad in part because it fits in better with Johnson's strengths.
"I don't think Joe wants to play at a break-neck speed," said Avery Johnson. "So we have to adjust to Joe, we have to adjust to our big guys, playing with two big guys."
Brooklyn averages 95.6 points per game, which ranks 18th in the league. However, they are giving up just 91.3 points, which is the second-fewest points allowed in the NBA this season.
"It's been working for us, obviously," said Joe Johnson when told of Avery Johnson's comments. "No need to change anything. I don't know if it was beneficial or not. I just try to do what I'm asked, come out and play hard every night."

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan didn't get a chance to answer one question in his postgame interview before being interrupted by Kyle Lowry, Jared Sullinger, and LeGarrette Blount.

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

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“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”