Johnson, Moore veterans in each other's life

652984.jpg

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.

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

bruins_tuukka_rask_110315.jpg

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and David Backes are back from competing in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you’ll see those players on the ice over the next couple of days. Perhaps the trio will practice on Monday in the fourth on-ice session at main training camp, but Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that none of those returning players will suit up against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the B’s preseason debut at TD Garden on Monday night.

“Yeah…absolutely,” said Sweeney when asked if those three players have been ruled out for Monday night. “They’re going to get through the weekend here. Next week, we’ll evaluate [them] when they get on the ice. But, all those guys will not be on the ice until next week.

“It might be case-by-case for each guy. Those guys have been playing for a while at a high level. It’s unique for David Backes coming into the organization, so he’d like to integrate himself. I talked yesterday with all three of them just to get a read of where they’re at. But, sometime first of next week, they’ll be on [the ice].”

Both Pastrnak and Rask have checked in with the Bruins media over the last couple of days after returning from Toronto, and the Bruins goaltender, in particular, has plenty of motivation coming off a down statistical season. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage were well below his career numbers, and people like B’s President Cam Neely have pointed to Rask as somebody that needs to have a better season for Boston to rebound back into the playoffs this year.

“There were a couple of years where the standards pretty high, so obviously when they go down there’s something to rebound from. You kind of know where you can be. That’s where I try to be every year and I’m working on being there this year, and taking us to the playoffs and moving forward,” said Rask. “But every year is a new year where you’ve got to work hard, and set your goals to be at your best. More often than not you hope [being at your best] is going to happen, and I hope this year is going to be a great year for us.”

Clearly Rask wasn’t alone in his struggles last season behind a mistake-prone defense that allowed plenty of Grade chances, and that could be a repeating phenomenon again this season for the Bruins unless the defense is substantially upgraded along the way.

As far as the other three B’s players still taking part in the World Cup, it could be a while for Patrice and Brad Marchand as Team Canada has advanced to the final best-of-three series that could also feature Zdeno Chara if Team Europe is victorious.