C's Johnson looks for strong summer

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C's Johnson looks for strong summer

ORLANDO, Fla. As the Celtics arrived in Orlando Friday afternoon, JaJuan Johnson was among the players on the C's summer league team being asked to take picture after picture by fans near the baggage carousel awaiting their checked-in luggage.

As one flashing light followed another, Johnson gave them all exactly what they wanted -- something to remember.

Now with an NBA season under his belt, he's hoping to deliver in a similar capacity to the Celtics beginning what he hopes will be a strong showing for the Celtics' summer league team with play beginning on Monday.

"It'll be a little different," Johnson told CSNNE.com of his post-rookie life in the NBA. "But at the end of the day, it's playing basketball."

That's something he didn't really do much of as a rookie last season, appearing in just 36 games (out of a possible 66 due to the lockout) while averaging 3.2 points per game.

As a grade-point average, 3.2 is not too shabby.

Scoring average in the NBA?

Not so good.

But impact is directly related to opportunity. Something Johnson did not get much of last season.

Part of that had to do with Boston's frontcourt depth which was repeatedly put to the test courtesy of a slew of unfortunate injury-related circumstances.

A bigger factor was that Johnson, to be frank, wasn't ready to be the kind of difference-maker the Celtics needed in the frontcourt.

And part of that had to do with the lithe 6-foot-9 forward not really establishing himself as a viable option at the power forward position.

Celtics assistant coach Tyronn Lue is coaching Boston's summer league team.

He said Johnson will play primarily at power forward, but he'll also experiment with him some at small forward, too.

"Doc (Rivers, Boston's head coach) said, 'we might have a (Kevin) Durant and not even know it.'" quipped Lue.

While Johnson is in no way being compared to Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Johnson does have some small forward-like skills that the Celtics would be wise to at least explore this summer.

Johnson is open to playing small forward, power forward, any position that will get him on the floor.

"Everybody wants to play and help the team win," Johnson said. "I'm no different than anybody else. But I know you have to be patient. But yeah, I do think my time to contribute is now. I just have to do what I can to make sure I'm ready for the opportunity when it comes."

A big part of Johnson's preparation last season was listening to the sage words of wisdom that he found himself hearing from the lips of Kevin Garnett who will return to Boston armed with a three-year, 34 million contract.

The two have talked a couple times and exchanged text messages this summer, with those interactions primarily centering around their families.

As far as any message or words of advice from Garnett this summer, Johnson grinned and then said, "just go hard. That's pretty much what he said; that's pretty much the way he goes."

E'Twaun Moore, Johnson's teammate with the Celtics as well as in college at Purdue, said he has noticed a definite change in his good friend.

"His work ethic is definitely better," Moore told CSNNE.com. "He's working a lot harder. He has to work hard - we all have to work hard - to be successful."

For Johnson, that is essentially what it comes down to this season.

Finding ways to not only help the Celtics win, but also prove his worth to a team that spent both of its first-round picks adding frontcourt size with players that will be competing for minutes off the bench just like Johnson.

"Everyday you have to compete, but they are your teammates still," Johnson said. "You have to help your teammates out. They are your teammates still; we have to help each other out. I had help when I got here. It's my job to help the younger guys come along, too."

The best way he can do that is simply doing the things that made the Celtics so high him leading up to the 2011 draft when they sent the draft rights of Marshon Brooks to New Jersey in exchange for his rights and a future (2014) second-round pick.

When asked what he would like to see out of Johnson this summer, Lue said, "being athletic, explosive, scoring, rebounding, just playing free. I want him to go out and play free, have fun and just take away what he learned this year from KG and those guys and try to use it during the summer league."

And if he were to do that, Johnson would be giving the C's something similar to what he gave those ear-to-ear grinning fans at the airport -- something to remember.

Dennis Schroder doubles down on claims Isaiah Thomas took family trash talk too far

Dennis Schroder doubles down on claims Isaiah Thomas took family trash talk too far

Dennis Schroder isn't backing down.

The Atlanta Hawks point guard again was asked about Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, and the budding rivalry between the two players that's turned into a rivalry between the two teams. Thomas, of course, was accused by Schroder of taking his trash talking a bit too far during the teams' last meeting, a 103-101 Celtics victory last month in which Thomas hit the game-winning shot with just seconds remaining.

Thomas' comments allegedly were about Schroder's family, per Schroder himself. Thomas has since repeatedly denied the claims. So does Schroder still deny Thomas' side of the story?

“I mean, yeah. Everybody heard it, too," Schroder said. "My family sat courtside too. And (Hawks teammate) Thabo (Sefolosha) heard some things, you know, and he was involved in it. But it is what it is. Like I said, we just try to compete. And you know, it’s getting heated in the game. It is what it is."

Schroder didn't dive much deeper than denying Thomas' claims of innocence. But is there something about Thomas inparticular that gets under Schroder's skin or runs him the wrong way?

Nah, I mean he’s a great player, he’s showing it this year," Schroder said. "I mean, what he did in the playoffs last year was just not, you know, professional. And I think nobody wants to see that but it’s fine. We just try to compete and try to help our team win the basketball game."

Schroder was referring to the back-and-forth physical play between himself and Thomas that resulted in flagrant fouls for both during the first-round playoff matchup betweein the clubs, a series Atlanta eventually won four games to two. Thomas' status was in doubt for Game 4 of the series after a hit to Schroder's head in Game 3, but the now two-time All-Star ultimately was allowed to play.

"Everybody’s competitive. Everybody tries to get out, get after it," Schroder explained when asked if his feud with Thomas fuels his team any extra. "I think it’s a big game tonight and the team knows it. I’m pretty sure the Celtics know it too. It’s getting close to the playoffs and every game counts."

Boston and Atlanta tip off from TD Garden at 7:30 p.m.

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