Johnson picks up play to help lift Celtics

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Johnson picks up play to help lift Celtics

BOSTON -- On Friday night JaJuan Johnson walked off the court and was greeted by an unhappy Doc Rivers during an ugly loss to the Toronto Raptors. The rookie took all of it in and remembered it for the next game, a Sunday afternoon match up against the Chicago Bulls.

Im not really the type to get down on myself if the coach yells at you or anything like that, he told CSNNE.com prior to the Celtics 95-91 win. Youve just got to take it and learn from it, and the next time youve just got to do better. Hopefully thats the case.

It was indeed the case on Sunday. With Brandon Bass (knee) and Jermaine ONeal (shoulder) out of the lineup, Rivers turned to Johnson for major minutes. He delivered.

Johnson scored 12 points off of 6-for-13 shooting in 33 minutes, a career high in scoring, field goals made, and playing time. He also added four rebounds, two steals, a block, and an assist. The long, athletic forward was part of the Celtics fast break game too, in which they outscored the Bulls 33-7.

Rivers liked what he saw from the rookie and wants to see it on a more frequent basis. Johnson entered the afternoon averaging 3.1 points and 1.0 rebounds in 5.4 minutes per game.

Hes got to keep doing it, said Rivers. One game doesnt make a star. One season doesnt make a star. So youve just got to keep doing it and hes got to do it consistently. He will, like I keep saying. Hes a great kid and he wants to do it. Hes young and hes still learning focus and all that. But hes a good player.

Being ready on a moments notice is part of Johnsons transition to the NBA. His place in the rotation can change on any given night due to injuries and late scratches.

Over the previous three games, he played less than eight minutes in Fridays loss to the Raptors (2 points, 1 rebound), did not play in Thursdays loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, and was on the court for less than two minutes on Tuesday in a win over the Charlotte Bobcats.

He has to stay prepared all while still learning the Celtics system. Johnson keeps a consistent routine -- something he picked up from his veteran teammates -- and studies up on the playbook when hes not in the gym.

I definitely dont have the playbook down like I need to, so I try to study it quite a bit. Did a little bit today. I need to keep at it to know it like the back of my hand, he said. Its a job so at the end of the day, youve got to do whatever youve got to do to be fully prepared to go out there. Thats what I have to continue to work on.

With each game, Johnson feels more comfortable on the court. He is finding the balance between playing with his instincts and playing within the Celtics system.

I would say its about half and half, he said. Its a lot of mental stuff -- defensive assignments, knowing all the offensive plays -- but at the same time you have to let your instincts take control and just be ready to play. In a split second youve got to make a play on the ball and or block a shot.

Sundays nationally-televised performance was a confidence booster for Johnson.When he checked out of the game, he was met with a standing ovation from a handful of fans. It was a different reception than Friday night, one that he took with him into the game.

I thought about it a lot, he said of the loss to the Raptors. I think it was just one of those things where I was like, When I do get the opportunity, I have to be ready. Today I was like, Man, Ive got to play well if I do get the opportunity. I just tried to focus on the things I was good at.

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

BOSTON – There’s certainly some disappointment among Celtics Nation that Isaiah Thomas just missed out on being an All-Star starter in the East.

But one thing we can certainly see with the new voting system … it works way better than the old way of choosing starters.

This was the first year that the NBA decided to allow current NBA players as well as a select panel of media choose who the starting five in the Eastern and Western Conferences would be.

The fan vote would count for 50 percent while media and players would each represent 25 percent of the final tally.

From there, the players would receive a fan ranking, a media ranking and a player ranking.

Because of the aforementioned breakdown – fans count for 50 percent while media and players represent 25 percent of the vote – the fan ranking would be counted twice while the media and player rankings would be counted once.

Let’s look at Isaiah Thomas’ situation which ultimately came down to him and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan for the final starting spot in the backcourt.

Thomas was fourth in the fan voting, second in the player voting and first among guards in the media voting. So when you add the fan voting (4 *2) + player voting (2 *1) + media voting (1*1), you get a total of 11 which is then divided by 4 to arrive at a score of 2.75.

Now let’s look at DeRozan.

He was third in the fan voting, third in the player ranking and second in the media voting among guards. So his score when you add the fan voting (3*2) + player voting (3*1) + media voting (2*1), you get a total of 11 which when divided by 4 brings you to a score of 2.75 – same as Thomas.

The tiebreaker was the fan vote which meant DeRozan and not Thomas, would get the starting nod in next month’s All-Star game.

As much as it may suck that Thomas lost out because of this system, he would not have had a shot at being a starter under the old system in which the fans were the ones to pick starters.

In fact, it would have been Chicago’s Dwyane Wade in the starting lineup under the old system.

No disrespect to D-Wade, but he has not had an All-Star worthy season. And had the old system been in place, he would be an all-star and thus take up a roster spot of another player who frankly, is more deserving.

And if you take a glance out West, they too would have had a starter who has not had an All-Star caliber season.

Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia finished second in the voting among Western Conference forwards, fueled in large part to his home country, Georgia, voting early and often for him. Because of the media and player voting, Pachulia wound up sixth among Western Conference big men which is still too high when you consider some of the players behind him – Memphis’ Marc Gasol, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan – who are all having better seasons.

While no one would say this new system is perfect, considering how this year’s voting would have panned out under the old rules, this change by the league is a good one that should stick around.

NOTE: I was among the media panelists selected by the NBA to vote for this year’s All-Star starters. My selections in the East were Cleveland’s LeBron James, Kevin Love and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo in the frontcourt with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Boston’s Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt. My Western Conference selections were Kevin Durant of Golden State, Anthony Davis of New Orleans and Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio in the frontcourt, with Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in the backcourt.