Boston Celtics

Johnson has experience to make impact

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Johnson has experience to make impact

WALTHAM No one is expecting Boston Celtics rookie JaJuan Johnson to come in and average 20 points and 10 rebounds right away, if at all. But unlike most of Boston's rookies in recent years, Johnson comes in with a realistic chance of seeing some playing time from Day One.

An All-American who was Big Ten Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year at Purdue, Johnson comes in with the kind of pedigree that bodes well for an NBA newcomer.

Johnson became the fourth player to return to the Celtics' practice facility since the tentative agreement between the players and owners was reached which allowed for players to resume working out at practice facilities.

While he declined to speak with the media following his Saturday morning workout, he discussed in an earlier interview the transition he'll have to make from college to the pros.

"Everyone is bigger, stronger," he said. "I know it's not like college, anymore. But I'm coming in to help this team anyway I can."

Even though he's yet to have his first practice with the Celtics, it's a given that he'll be one of the Celtics' best big men at running the floor and finishing in transition. He can also score facing the basket and at times from the perimeter.

Defensively, he doesn't have the strength yet to hold his own in the paint with the NBA's elite big men, but his knack for blocking shots as a weak-side defender should fit in nicely with the defensive-minded Celtics.

However, with the lockout wiping out all of summer league and leaving the NBA with a shortened preseason, it's unlikely that there will be many rookies making much of an impact. Johnson's experience may give him an edge in terms of picking up the Celtics' way of doing things, quickly.

"He's a four-year college guy and he's very mature," said his agent, Bill Duffy, who also represents Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. "That will serve him very well in the transition."

Ditto for Boston's other pick in last June's NBA draft, fellow Boilermaker E'Twaun Moore.

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, believes the experience factor will help both players adapt to the NBA sooner than some younger, less experienced players.

"It helps a lot," Ainge said of the experience. "These guys have improved a lot over the course of their college careers. They've played in a lot of big games, a lot of hostile environments. They've been ranked very high at times in their college career, been ones expected to win. They've been through a lot. That can only help as they get ready for the NBA."

Most players selected in the late-teens or early 20s, usually begin their careers fighting just to crack the regular rotation behind an established standout who logs 30-plus minutes a night.

Kevin Garnett, a player that Johnson has acknowledged that he greatly admired even before he became a Celtic, isn't going to have too many 30-minute or more nights.

As has been the case in recent years, Garnett's minutes will be monitored closely and aren't likely to tip much, if at all, past the 30-minute mark.

That means if Johnson comes in and establishes himself, he can be there as a backup to Garnett.

But that was just part of the reason why Duffy likes having Johnson a member of the Boston Celtics.

"It's one of the signature franchises in basketball," Duffy said. "As an agent, you always want to have a player in this market. You know they want to win, you know there's a lot of visibility. And we're really excited for JaJuan to be here. We think the next several years, he has a chance to have a very prominent role as the Big 3 they're older players now, so they do need to look for new blood, if you will. And the fact that having Rajon here who is such a great leader, we feel this is a great fit for JaJuan to develop more expediently than he might elsewhere."

Hayward opens up about disappointment of losing Isaiah Thomas

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Hayward opens up about disappointment of losing Isaiah Thomas

Gordon Hayward wanted to go to Boston to play with Isaiah Thomas.

Of course, that's not going to happen. The Celtics traded Thomas to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a package for Kyrie Irving. Hayward explained what it was like for him to learn he and Thomas would not get the chance to hit the court together in Celtics' green.

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"My first reaction was to text I.T., and wish him the best," Hayward wrote in a blog post which he published Thursday. "That was a really strange moment because I’d really been looking forward to playing with him. He didn’t just help recruit me to Boston—he was a big piece of that recruitment. He had talked a lot about city and how it was different to be a Celtic. He talked about the intensity of playing in the Eastern Conference Finals, playing at the Garden in the playoffs, and how much fun it was, and how much fun he had playing in Boston.

"All of that ultimately helped win me over. And by the time of the trade, I had already started to build a little bit of a relationship with him.

"But that is just how the business works. I have spent enough years in the NBA to realize that things can change like that, in an instant. Still, even though we didn’t necessarily get to be teammates, I’m definitely going to be watching him as a fan. In this league, I think we are all rooting for each other in some way or another—just to try to stay healthy, to try to be the best we can be."

Hayward may be genuine about rooting for Thomas -- except perhaps when he faces off against the Cavaliers in the season-opener on Oct. 17 at Quicken Loans Arena. Thomas is uncertain to play due to a hip injury. But the two teams are expected to see each other in the Eastern Conference Finals again after the 2017-18 season. This preview will be an opportunity for Thomas and Irving to get their first shot at revenge against their previous team.

The trade wasn't all bad for Hayward, he explained. He was pleased at the prospect of playing with Irving. Hayward cited Irving's abilities in 1-on-1 situations and clutch moments. He appreciated Irving's scoring ability, because Hayward knows the point guard will open up space for Hayward to knock down open shots. Above all, Hayward seemed to value Irving's unique experience.

"And then getting a chance to play with LeBron James, and going to the Finals three straight years—those are experiences that are invaluable and that you really can’t teach," Hayward wrote. "Having that experience of playing in those big moments, dealing with the circus of the media, dealing with expectations, those are all things that I think he can help us with. Because most of us, myself especially, have never been through that."

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