Championship first, legacy second for Johnson

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Championship first, legacy second for Johnson

ATLANTA Joe Johnson's game has always spoke louder than the man, prompting some to wonder if he has the chops to lead a team deep into the playoffs.

The former Celtic understands that his play will go far in dictating whether the Atlanta Hawks can move past the Boston Celtics and into the next round of the playoffs.

For Johnson, every playoff win brings him closer to the reality that at some point, all the pull-up jumpers, the cross-over dribbles, the 3-pointers, it'll all be nothing but a memory.

He'll be 31 in June, making him old enough to at least contemplate his basketball legacy while still young enough to add to it.

Johnson said he hasn't given any thought to how he'll be viewed once his career is over.

"My main goal and the main thing I want to do now, is try and help bring a championship to Atlanta," he said.

For most basketball purists, the idea sounds just plain crazy.

This is Atlanta after all, a place where the road teams often feel at home with a crowd that on many nights, spends more time cheering for them than the home team.

Johnson's goal, while extremely difficult to fathom, isn't as off the mark as it might seem.

If the Hawks manage to get past Boston, they'll most likely face a Chicago Bulls team that will be without reigning league MVP Derrick Rose who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the closing moments of the Bulls' Game 1 win over Philadelphia.

For Atlanta to have such thoughts would be looking past the C's, something they have gone out of their way to avoid all weekend.

"You have to respect that team for who they are, and all that they've done," Atlanta's Josh Smith told CSNNE.com. "They've been where we want to get to, and that's win a championship."

The Hawks (then in St. Louis) haven't brought home a title since 1958 which they defeated the Celtics after Boston beat them for the C's first NBA title in 1957.

Since moving to Atlanta in 1968, the Hawks have never even been to the NBA Finals let alone winning it all.

"This city is well overdue," Johnson said.

The Hawks took a step towards that goal with an 83-74 Game 1 win over Boston on Sunday, a game in which Johnson only scored 11 points on 3-for-15 shooting which included him missing all nine of his 3-point attempts.

While it wasn't his best effort, Johnson's presence often creates scoring opportunities for his teammates which in essence, is what great players are supposed to do.

"He's one of the better one-on-one players in the league," Pierce said of Johnson. "He's right up there with (Oklahoma City's) Kevin Durant and Carmelo (Anthony of the New York Knicks)."

Like those players, Johnson is also seeking that first elusive championship - a pipe dream in the eyes of many when talking about the Atlanta Hawks.

Johnson doesn't mind.

All he knows is that the Hawks have the deepest bench they've had since he's been here, a much-improved point guard in Jeff Teague, and a maturing running mate for him in Smith who had 22 points and 18 rebounds in Sunday's win.

Slowly but surely, he's starting to see an Atlanta franchise putting together the kind of pieces that can do more than just get to the playoffs and win a series or two.

And if they were to do the seemingly impossible and break the 64-year title drought, it would indeed provide a sizable brick towards building a case for him as one of the NBA's better players once he's done playing.

"A championship would solidify a lot," Johnson said. "Would I be satisfied? No. But it would be a goal of mine."

NBA's a global game, and the Celtics are all in

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NBA's a global game, and the Celtics are all in

BOSTON – The NBA has become more of an international game as teams scour the globe in search of the next big basketball talent.

While some franchises such as the San Antonio Spurs have been poaching talented international players for years, other franchises have been more locked into adding American-born ballers.

The Boston Celtics have paid close attention to the best international players for several years.

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But more often than not, additions to their roster through the draft have come from the college ranks with an occasional international player added via free agency.

This season's team will definitely have a certain international flavor to it with overseas additions coming by way of players they drafted and signed as free agents to bolster what should be one of the deeper teams in the East.

Boston has six rookies with guaranteed contracts for this upcoming season, four of which were born outside of the United States.

And of those four rookies, three of them – Guerschon Yabusele (16th overall pick); Ante Zizic (23rd overall pick) and Abdel Nader; 58th overall pick) – were selected in the 2016 draft but didn't join the team immediately. 

Yabusele who is originally from France, spent most of last season in China and came to the States and played briefly with the Celtic’s Gatorade League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. He will be among the bevy of young players competing for minutes off the Celtics bench. 

Zizic, born in Croatia, spent last season playing in his native country as well as in Turkey. The 7-foot center will come into training camp competing for playing time, possibly as Boston’s starting center.

And then there’s Nader, a G-League all-star as well as the G-League’s rookie of the year last season. The Egyptian-American wing player showed promise in each of the last two summer leagues which is in part why the Celtics signed him to a four-year, $6 million deal with only the first year fully guaranteed. 

They each have different strengths that only add value to a Boston squad that’s being built to play just about every style of play imaginable.

But the Celtics didn’t limit their pursuit of international talent to just the draft.

Boston has also signed German Forward Daniel Theis. 

Unlike the international players drafted by Boston, Theis is a bit of a mystery to most Celtics fans.

Last season he averaged 10.7 points and 4.6 rebounds for Brose Bamberg of Germany, while shooting 41.0 percent from 3-point range and 59.8 percent from the field.

And that season ended with a German championship, just like the previous two seasons for the 6-9, 243-pound forward who is expected to come in and compete for playing time off the bench for a Celtics team that’s looking for