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.

Cassidy, Pandolfo brought on board as Bruins assistant coaches

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Cassidy, Pandolfo brought on board as Bruins assistant coaches

The Bruins came to a decision on their coaching staff more than a month after opting to retain head coach Claude Julien, and there will be new faces for next season. Both Doug Houda and Doug Jarvis won’t be returning to the Black and Gold, and will be replaced by Providence Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy and former Bruins winger Jay Pandolfo.

Houda was largely in charge of the defensemen group, and was fired in the days following the end of the season after a rough season for an overmatched blue line group. Jarvis did not have his contract renewed after replacing Craig Ramsay prior to the 2010-11 season, and working largely with the center and the penalty kill units.

The affable Houda has since been hired by the Detroit Red Wings to be an assistant coach for Jeff Blashill. That leaves Joe Sacco and Bob Essensa as the only two members of Julien’s staff from last season that will return again next year.

Cassidy moves on to Boston after a solid run with the P-Bruins over the last five years as head coach and eight years altogether, and Pandolfo moves to the NHL coaching from his role as Director of Player Development. So what does this mean for Julien?

Clearly, Cassidy is being brought on board to work with some of the younger NHL players he successfully developed in Providence, and whose growth hasn’t been quite as expansive in Boston under Julien over the years.

Those players developed by Cassidy are mentioned prominently in the press release from the Bruins:  Noel Acciari, Tommy Cross, Brian Ferlin, Seth Griffith, Alexander Khokhlachev, Torey Krug, Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, David Pastrnak, Tyler Randell, Ryan Spooner, Malcolm Subban, Zach Trotman and Frank Vatrano.

The sense in hockey circles is that Cassidy is eventually looking for another shot as an NHL head coach after leading the Washington Capitals to a 39-29-8-6 record from 2002-2004, and that he would probably be the choice as “interim coach” in Boston if things don’t work out with Julien next season. Some of Cassidy’s coaching strengths counterbalance some of the weaker points in Julien’s coaching style, so perhaps it’s a group that can find chemistry behind the bench for the Black and Gold.

But this feels very much like moves are being made by the Bruins front office just in case things continue down the same frustrating path that they’ve ended in during each of the last two seasons.

Red Sox bullpen takes a blow: Smith to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Red Sox bullpen takes a blow: Smith to undergo Tommy John surgery

The Boston Red Sox' worst fears with Carson Smith have been realized: The reliever needs Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of the season.

The Sox announced this morning that Smith will undergo the procedure today in New York.

Smith injured his elbow during spring training and was able to pitch in only three regular-season games after being activated on May 3. His loss will probably step up the team's efforts to acquire more bullpen help, as Smith was expected to reduce the workload on Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara as set-ups for closer Craig Kimbrel. In the short term, Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree will probably help in that role.

Patriots may get help from Foster . . . but not the one you think

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Patriots may get help from Foster . . . but not the one you think

As Patriots fans across New England worked themselves into a fine lather at the sight of Arian Foster in Boston over the weekend, another running back of the same last name prepared himself for his first-ever week of OTAs. 

D.J. Foster may not have the resume that Arian Foster has racked up over the course of his seven-year career, but the undrafted rookie running back's skill set is intriguing nonetheless. And he's healthy, whereas the former Texans Pro Bowler is coming off of a season-ending Achilles ailment and hasn't played a full season since 2012. 

Foster could be considered one of the players on the Patriots roster who stands the most to gain from this phase of the team's offseason program. Not only will he be taught to put into practice that which he's learned during his brief time in Foxboro this far, but there could be valuable reps available to him as Dion Lewis works his way back from a season-ending ACL injury suffered last fall. 

Foster, who played receiver during his final collegiate season at Arizona State, may slot in behind veteran sub backs James White and Donald Brown, but he'll still have an opportunity to show what he can do this spring. This is considered a "teaching camp" by the Patriots, not a "competition camp," meaning the lines between first, second and third string are a bit more blurry than they might be during training camp. Everyone gets a shake. 

At 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds Foster may be considered slight to run between the tackles, but his quickness could help him make defenders miss in the hole. He ran a 6.75-second three-cone drill at this year's combine, which was fourth among wideouts. Had he been considered a back, he would've topped the list at that position for that drill. 

Foster worked primarily with running backs coach Ivan Fears when he first arrived at Gillette Stadium, making it sound as though he'll be in the mix as one of the team's pass-catching backs. But knowing the Patriots, they'll be open to splitting him out wide as well. 

Wherever he's used, Foster will have his work cut out for him as he learns the offense and tries to develop an on-the-field rapport with his quarterbacks. Slow going as his development may be, his ceiling is exciting. 

One thing's for certain: At this point, he's of more use to the club than a veteran back coming off of a major injury who isn't quite ready to pass a physical.