Johnson reflects on short rookie stint with Celtics

Johnson reflects on short rookie stint with Celtics
April 11, 2013, 12:30 am
Share This Post

BOSTON -- It has been 11 years since the Boston Celtics traded Joe Johnson, but the images haven't faded from his mind.

Each time he returns to the TD Garden he can clearly picture himself walking through the building as a rookie, taking in every moment from his first NBA season.

"It was brief, but every time I walk in this arena I've got a vivid imagination about how I used to walk through this tunnel and the locker room was right over there," he told "It's nothing like going back to Phoenix or Atlanta, but don't get me wrong, me playing my short time here in Boston was a great one."

The Celtics selected Johnson with the 10th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. Forty-eight games into the regular season, they traded him to the Phoenix Suns in February 2002. He didn't understand the move at the time. Johnson had started in 33 games and thought he had earned a place on the team. Looking back now as a six-time All-Star on the Brooklyn Nets, he says everything worked out in the bigger picture and appreciates the brief period he spent with the Celtics.

"I was able to get thrown into the starting lineup during the season and I was playing great," he said following the Nets 101-93 win over the Celtics on Wednesday. "I didn't see it coming. I was a bit confused because I was playing pretty good. I didn't know what to expect and I had to go to a whole new city, meet all these people all over again, but it all worked out."

Johnson didn't leave the Celtics empty-handed, though. In the months he donned green and white, he accumulated a vault of memories that he still opens up years later.

"My favorite memory was, I'll never forget, we played the (Washington) Wizards my rookie year. This was the first year Michael Jordan came back," he said. "Coach (Jim) O'Brien was like, 'Joe, you've got to guard Michael Jordan tonight.' That's still the highlight of my career, getting a chance to play against him. It was unbelievable. I've still got a tape to this day. I did pretty good. I held my own, I did alright."

The time he spent with his own teammates was memorable, too. Johnson still keeps in touch with Kedrick Brown and laughs thinking about the time he spent with him and Joe Forte. He also appreciates learning from Paul Pierce, whom he has matched up with countless times over his career.

"It was fun (playing with Pierce)," he said. "We competed in practice. He probably got the most of me a lot of the times, but it was a learning curve for me. I enjoyed playing against him, and once I was put in the starting lineup, we played together a lot. He was phenomenal, him and 'Toine (Antoine Walker). They both were averaging 25, 27 points a game. My job was easy, nobody really guarded me so I was shooting wide open shots."

In the past 11 years Johnson has transformed himself from a wide-eyed rookie to the recipient of a max contract. He doesn't get overly hyped up when he plays the Celtics anymore -- those emotions are reserved for teams like the Suns and Hawks where he spent multiple years. Instead he values the short time he spent in Boston.

"It definitely jumpstarted my career," he said. "They gave me a chance and I tried to take full advantage of it."