C's Johnson looks for strong summer


C's Johnson looks for strong summer

ORLANDO, Fla. As the Celtics arrived in Orlando Friday afternoon, JaJuan Johnson was among the players on the C's summer league team being asked to take picture after picture by fans near the baggage carousel awaiting their checked-in luggage.

As one flashing light followed another, Johnson gave them all exactly what they wanted -- something to remember.

Now with an NBA season under his belt, he's hoping to deliver in a similar capacity to the Celtics beginning what he hopes will be a strong showing for the Celtics' summer league team with play beginning on Monday.

"It'll be a little different," Johnson told CSNNE.com of his post-rookie life in the NBA. "But at the end of the day, it's playing basketball."

That's something he didn't really do much of as a rookie last season, appearing in just 36 games (out of a possible 66 due to the lockout) while averaging 3.2 points per game.

As a grade-point average, 3.2 is not too shabby.

Scoring average in the NBA?

Not so good.

But impact is directly related to opportunity. Something Johnson did not get much of last season.

Part of that had to do with Boston's frontcourt depth which was repeatedly put to the test courtesy of a slew of unfortunate injury-related circumstances.

A bigger factor was that Johnson, to be frank, wasn't ready to be the kind of difference-maker the Celtics needed in the frontcourt.

And part of that had to do with the lithe 6-foot-9 forward not really establishing himself as a viable option at the power forward position.

Celtics assistant coach Tyronn Lue is coaching Boston's summer league team.

He said Johnson will play primarily at power forward, but he'll also experiment with him some at small forward, too.

"Doc (Rivers, Boston's head coach) said, 'we might have a (Kevin) Durant and not even know it.'" quipped Lue.

While Johnson is in no way being compared to Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Johnson does have some small forward-like skills that the Celtics would be wise to at least explore this summer.

Johnson is open to playing small forward, power forward, any position that will get him on the floor.

"Everybody wants to play and help the team win," Johnson said. "I'm no different than anybody else. But I know you have to be patient. But yeah, I do think my time to contribute is now. I just have to do what I can to make sure I'm ready for the opportunity when it comes."

A big part of Johnson's preparation last season was listening to the sage words of wisdom that he found himself hearing from the lips of Kevin Garnett who will return to Boston armed with a three-year, 34 million contract.

The two have talked a couple times and exchanged text messages this summer, with those interactions primarily centering around their families.

As far as any message or words of advice from Garnett this summer, Johnson grinned and then said, "just go hard. That's pretty much what he said; that's pretty much the way he goes."

E'Twaun Moore, Johnson's teammate with the Celtics as well as in college at Purdue, said he has noticed a definite change in his good friend.

"His work ethic is definitely better," Moore told CSNNE.com. "He's working a lot harder. He has to work hard - we all have to work hard - to be successful."

For Johnson, that is essentially what it comes down to this season.

Finding ways to not only help the Celtics win, but also prove his worth to a team that spent both of its first-round picks adding frontcourt size with players that will be competing for minutes off the bench just like Johnson.

"Everyday you have to compete, but they are your teammates still," Johnson said. "You have to help your teammates out. They are your teammates still; we have to help each other out. I had help when I got here. It's my job to help the younger guys come along, too."

The best way he can do that is simply doing the things that made the Celtics so high him leading up to the 2011 draft when they sent the draft rights of Marshon Brooks to New Jersey in exchange for his rights and a future (2014) second-round pick.

When asked what he would like to see out of Johnson this summer, Lue said, "being athletic, explosive, scoring, rebounding, just playing free. I want him to go out and play free, have fun and just take away what he learned this year from KG and those guys and try to use it during the summer league."

And if he were to do that, Johnson would be giving the C's something similar to what he gave those ear-to-ear grinning fans at the airport -- something to remember.

Celtics to begin season with Marcus Smart on the shelf

Celtics to begin season with Marcus Smart on the shelf

WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics will be a bit shorthanded for the first few games of the season with Marcus Smart being out with a left ankle sprain injury.
The Celtics were holding out slim hope that it would heal in time for tomorrow’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Smart confirmed a CSNNE.com report shortly after the injury on October 19 that it would likely be at least a couple weeks before he returned to action.
Following Tuesday’s practice, one in which Smart watched from the sidelines, he gave an update on his ankle injury which occurred in the Celtics’ last preseason game, a 121-96 loss to the New York Knicks.
“A couple weeks, that’s the projection (of a return) they gave me,” Smart said. “They want to make sure we can limit this from happening again.”
Smart said the two-week timetable began from the time of his injury, which means it’s likely that he will miss the Celtics’ first four games of the season.
That’s a much rosier timetable than the left ankle sprain injury Smart suffered as a rookie which kept him sidelined for several weeks afterwards.
“It shouldn’t be too long,” Smart said. “Better safe than sorry.”
His absence will certainly have an impact on a Celtics defense that ranked among the NBA’s best a year ago, and has only gotten stronger with the addition of Al Horford.
But the Celtics have been a "next man up" team for since Stevens has been the head coach. With Smart out, that’s not going to change.
“That’ll be a great opportunity for someone else to step up in his place,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
Boston guard Isaiah Thomas echoed similar thoughts.
“When somebody’s hurt, the next man has to step up,” Thomas said. “Guys have to take advantage of these opportunities.”
And for Smart, it’ll mean displaying his leadership skills from the sideline.
He’s totally comfortable taking on that role right now.
For his teammates, it might take a little bit of getting used to. Smart has been very loquacious on the Celtics sideline since suffering the injury.
“These last four days, he has been yelling … I told him to shut up a few times,” quipped Isaiah Thomas. “That’s just him, especially when he’s not playing. He’s very vocal.”
Terry Rozier, the likely benefactor in terms of minutes played due to Smart’s injury, agreed.
“He’s been sitting right there in that seat,” said Rozier, adding, “and he hasn’t shut up yet. It’s good; you’re going to need a guy like that who is going to talk to you. It’s like a guy, he says things … it’s like he’s been in the league 10 years. He knows his stuff.”
Smart’s knowledge bank includes understanding that his current injury will probably happen again at some point. The key isn’t dealing with the injury, but how you move forward from it.
“This isn’t my first ankle sprain and I know it won’t be my last,” Smart said. “I just have to let it heal on its own and let your body do what it does.”