Johnson, Moore veterans in each other's life

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Johnson, Moore veterans in each other's life

When JaJuan Johnson and ETwaun Moore met for the first time in seventh grade, they didnt realize how closely their lives would be tied together.

They didnt know they would become teammates on the Purdue University mens basketball team -- and college roommates on top of that.

They had no idea they would be drafted by the same NBA team.

They didnt imagine one day they would be sitting next to each other in the Boston Celtics locker room.

The 12 year olds who shared the dream of playing in the pros had no way of knowing they would be achieving it together nearly ten years later in a green and white uniform.

Johnson and Moore were part of the same basketball circle in Indiana. They first crossed paths during a game held in Johnsons hometown of Indianapolis. Moore lived in East Chicago (Indiana), three hours north, and the young guards skills preceded him in his travels.

He was real laidback but he was one of the better players in the state, Johnson recalled to CSNNE.com. He got a lot of attention.

Moore remembers meeting Johnson, a lanky forward with impressive abilities.

He was goofy, Moore told CSNNE.com with a laugh. Always being athletic but real skinny.

The duo became closer as they entered high school. Johnson powered the front court at Franklin Central High School and Moore led the back court at East Chicago Central High School, where he helped propel his team to the Class 4A state title. With both gaining recognition, they were teammates on the Indiana State All-Star Team.

Weve been knowing each other a really long time, Johnson said, pausing after counting the years. It doesnt seem like that long.

After high school, Johnson and Moore teamed up for four seasons on the Purdue basketball squad. Johnson was named Big Ten Player of the Year and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, among other accolades. Moore's honors included first-team All-Big Ten and being named a Wooden Award finalist.

The 6-10 forward and 6-4 guards chemistry clicked on the court.

Weve been playing together for some years and we always know how to find each other, said Moore. Ill come off the pick-and-roll, I know he likes alley-oops and pick-and-pop shots, so its good.

Johnson replied, Its kind of like picking your poison. If I set a screen for him and pop or roll, its whichever one you want to give up. Either hes going to have a wide open shot or Im going to have a wide open shot. It just depends on the defense on what they want to do.

After playing the final game of their senior season, most college athletes part ways with their teammates. Some go on to face each other on opposing professional teams; others do not make it to the next level at all. But on Draft Night last June, Johnson and Moore experienced a very rare reunion only months after their collegiate finale.

The Celtics drafted Johnson through the New Jersey Nets with the 27th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Shortly before the evening came to a close, they selected Moore with the 55th pick.

The friends were back together again, only this time they werent leading a college squad -- they became 22-year-old rookies on a veteran NBA team with future Hall of Famers and All-Stars fighting for a championship.

This season the two sit next to each other in the Celtics locker room. They warm up together before the game, talk on off days, and go to dinner with one another on the road. Not only do Johnson and Moore have their best friend on the team, they also have an automatic support system.

Its always good to have somebody that youve been around, youre real comfortable with, you can say anything around, said Johnson. Its just nothing but making the transition easier for myself and him. We spend a lot of time together, in practice, outside of practice, we talk quite a bit. Anything that comes to mind, we can say it and pretty much the other person is feeling the same way.

The move from college hoops to the NBA is an adjustment in itself. Going from being a star student-athlete to a rookie with limited playing time further magnifies the change.

In his senior year, Johnson averaged 20.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in 35.4 minutes per game. Moore averaged 18.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in 33.9 minutes during his fourth season at Purdue.

Playing behind Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, and Chris Wilcox, Johnson has played in nine games this season, averaging 1.9 points, 0.7 rebounds, and 0.1 blocks in 3.1 minutes. Recent injuries to the Celtics backcourt (Rajon Rondo, wrist; Keyon Dooling, knee; Ray Allen, ankle) have created more minutes for Moore as of late. He has appeared in 12 contests, posting 1.8 points, 0.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 8.7 minutes.

Having someone to talk to, communicate with helps me, especially when things arent going your way or at first we both started off not playing as much, said Moore. Just motivating each other, keep going, keep working hard, it helps it be easier. You dont feel as bad. Youve got somebody to talk to right here thats going through the same thing. It makes you feel confident.

Even if they have had limited opportunities on the court this season, Johnson and Moore have seen developments in one anothers game over the years.

Obviously his shots gotten a lot better, Johnson said of Moore. I think hes starting to understand the game and play at his pace, and thats the biggest thing I really see about him. Defensively hes improved so much. I think he takes it more serious the older he gets.

Said Moore of Johnsons game, It definitely developed a lot. He got stronger you can still say he might need to gain some weight but he got a lot bigger, a lot more athletic as he got older, and all-around his game just got better.

Less than a year after college graduation, Moore says they occasionally talk about their days at Purdue and reminisce from time to time, mostly during long road trips. Johnson believes its too soon to realize how far they have made it.

I think its still too fresh, he said. Its not even a year since we left college and we won the most games at Purdue ever as a class, so individually weve had a lot of success and probably without the other one, it wouldnt be the same. Right now when somebody brings it up, you can think we definitely did accomplish a lot, but its still early for us.

Sitting in the Celtics locker room, Johnson and Moore think back to the first time they met as seventh graders in Indiana. Their dream of playing in the NBA was years away, but the reality of achieving it together was closer than they ever realized.

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

BOSTON - It would appear things can’t continue the way they are for the Bruins' power play. 

After a disastrous first period helped dig them a hole in a 4-2 loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, there was some pretty serious soul-searching going with a man-advantage that has been both toothless and mistake-prone on far too many nights. 

In the Colorado loss a couple of early power-play possessions, one that was completely ineffectual with zero meaningful possession or shots on net and then a second that turned into a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal, dropped the B’s into a hole they couldn’t climb out of. The shorthanded sequence was particularly damning with a desperate Torey Krug diving to keep a puck in the offensive zone, and then watching helpless as MacKinnon beat him to the loose puck and then took off down the ice behind the last line of B’s defense. 

Krug placed the blame on himself for the high-risk play at the offensive blue line, but it’s hard to wholly blame somebody that was using hustle to try and make something happen offensively. 

“I thought they were tired, and if I could keep it in then we keep them hemmed in and get them running around. At the end of the day, it’s a 50-50 play, but maybe early in my career, I learn that now and probably won’t do it anymore. Sometimes you’ve got to go through those things to learn,” said Krug. “It’s just one of those plays I thought instinctively I could get there and keep him hemmed in, and you could even tell when he went in on the breakaway that he was tired.

So, if I keep that in and we keep them hemmed in, hopefully we get a couple chances. But we’ve got to be better, some of our better players on our team, and we’ve got to take the onus on ourselves to start capitalizing on opportunities and changing the game for our team.”

Nobody is going to reasonably suggest that a dangerous power-play guy like Krug be removed from the special-teams unit, but clearly something needs to change. The Bruins are tied for 25th in the NHL on the power play with a 14.1 percent success rate, and they can’t blame lack of opportunities because they’re middle of the road when it comes to power-play chances this season. 

Only the Flyers, Stars and Blackhawks have allowed more shorthanded goals than the Bruins (four) in 28 games played as well, so the Black and Gold essentially aren’t playing good defense or offense on the power play this year. Krug saie that it’s a mindset thing and that the Bruins need to get back to the confident, energetic way they attacked penalty kills last season. 

“We want to make plays, we want to help our team. It’s not like we’re out there not trying to make plays or anything, but we just have to be better,” said Krug. “We’ve got to have better focus, crisper passes, making quick plays to the net and making things happen. I feel like right now we might just be standing there, [just kind of] static, just hoping that things are going to happen and we’re not making them happen. 

“So, we’ve got to change our mindset, and like I said, those guys on that unit are the guys that will go to work and make sure we’re better next time for our team.”

But it goes beyond simple approach. The Bruins lost their second-leading PP goal-scorer last season when Loui Eriksson signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Other top unit PP performers like David Krejci,  Krug and Ryan Spooner haven’t been as good this season. Still, perhaps the biggest reason is the all-around offensive disappearance of Patrice Bergeron, who had 12 goals and 13 assists on the PP last season for a team-best 25 power-play points. This season, Bergeron has one goal and two points on the PP in 25 games and has been neutralized by opposing penalty kills from his “bumper” position roving up and down the slot. 

The Bruins are determined to ride things out with Bergeron both five-on-five and on the PP, and rightfully so, given his quality, productive body of work with the Bruins. He’s Boston’s best player and you don’t ever go away from those guys. 

But Bergeron has been ordinary for the Bruins on the PP after being extraordinary last season, and not much is going to change with the B’s man advantage unless No. 37 begins to find the range, confidence and short-term quick burst that’s needed for the B’s power play to flow through him like a well-oiled scoring machine. A greater impact by David Backes on the net-front power play could help and an uptick in PP production from Krug, Krejci and Spooner would obviously be welcome for the Black and Gold. 

But the Bruins power play is designed to play off Bergeron’s many qualities and strengths when he’s at his best, and a big part of the B’s troubles and Bergeron’s troubles are linked together because No. 37 has been less than his best in a season that’s been challenging for him from the very beginning. 
 

Brady, Harbaugh found common ground on plane ride back from Michigan

Brady, Harbaugh found common ground on plane ride back from Michigan

FOXBORO -- What could have been an awkward plane ride for Tom Brady and John Harbaugh was made less so thanks to a high school lacrosse player. 

Brady and Harbaugh shared a private plane back from Michigan where Jim Harbaugh and his University of Michigan program put on an event for National Signing Day. About a year earlier, Brady told a room full of reporters that Harbaugh and his coaching staff should study the rule book and "figure it out" after hearing that they were pretty upset about the unusual formations the Patriots ran during their AFC Divisional Round win over Baltimore. 

They may not have been on the best of terms.

"I was pissed off," he told ESPN's Ian O'Connor before the start of this season. "It was uncalled for. And the rules are deeper than that, and I know the rules, and I stand by why that play shouldn't have been allowed. ... So yeah, that should never have been said."

But on the flight was Harbaugh's daughter Alison, a high school lacrosse player. When Brady took some time to share a few thoughts on competitiveness with her, he and Harbaugh found common ground.

"We had a lot of fun," Harbaugh said of the flight. "I don't know if he's talked about that at all, but we ended up sharing a plane ride along with my daughter and a couple of his people, friends of his. We just had a chance to just talk for a couple hours. And really more than anything, Alison got a chance to listen to Tom Brady talk about competing and what it takes to be great at what you do.

"And one of the funny things about it was, he was so nice to her. He gets off and they go, and we get back on the plane and we're talking, and she says something like, 'Boy, Tom really is a nice guy.' And I look at here and go, 'Tom?' I'm thinking 'Mr. Brady' would have been more appropriate. She said, 'He said to call me Tom.' I got a kick out of that.

"It was good. Lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for what he's accomplished. He's very tough to compete against. The best quarterback that's played, certainly in this era, without question in my mind. That's how I would rank him. And it's just another tough challenge to have to play against him."