Boston Celtics

Knowledge is power for Celtics' attentive Johnson


Knowledge is power for Celtics' attentive Johnson

During the long plane rides, JaJuan Johnson turned to his teammate sitting across the aisle, asked a question, then intently listened to the response as the Boston Celtics traveled to their next destination.

As long as Kevin Garnett was willing to share his wisdom and experience during those trips, the rookie was eager to take it all in.

I sat across from him on the plane, so wed talk every flight, Johnson told He's all about listening. If you listen to him, he's going to share anything with you, so it's pretty cool.

Johnson didnt have much opportunity for playing time on a veteran squad in his first year. But perhaps just as valuable was the time he had with his teammates, including Garnett and Rajon Rondo, who he developed strong relationships with over the season.

It makes it easy just because I feel comfortable enough where I can ask about anything and they're going to give me an honest answer, Johnson, 23, said. You've got to really appreciate that because even though this is my first year, I feel like a lot of the other rookies didn't have a chance to do what myself and ETwaun (Moore) and Greg (Stiemsma) did.

The Celtics acquired Johnson on Draft Night last summer after he was selected by the New Jersey Nets with the 27th pick out of Purdue University. At 6-10, he was a long athletic power forward with a jumpshot and shot-blocking skills.

He was also patient. After averaging 35.4 minutes per game his senior year of college, he appeared in just 36 games for the Celtics as a rookie, averaging 8.3 minutes per game. He did not play in the C's postseason run which reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

I think our guys really kind of help us and talk to us and encourage us, Johnson said. Even if we're not playing, they make us feel like we're part of the team. I think with this veteran group of guys, it really helps. They're willing to show you stuff. All you've got to do is ask these guys and they'll do whatever they can to help you.

In addition to learning about the Celtics approach on the court, he has also picked up on their habits of studying up for game days. He became accustomed to pouring over scouting reports and analyzing his opponents tendencies on both ends of the floor.

If I took one thing from this year, it's really studying offensively and defensively what the other team likes to do, he sad. I was pretty amazed by how much these guys really do outside of just what we do here as far as watching film. That's the big thing that I really learned.

Johnson looks to put those words of advice to use during Summer League action next month. As one of just four players under contract with the Celtics next season, he believes he can fit into their system in his second year.

He also continues to work on adding on muscle. Johnson faced skepticism upon entering the league because of his stature. He estimates he has gained 10 pounds since being drafted and currently weighs around 225 pounds. Johnson would like to reach 230 pounds while maintaining his running and jumping explosiveness.

I'm athletic, I can run, jump, block shots, knock down shots, and bring some athleticism to our team and energy, he said. Obviously this summer I'm going to really try to work on getting stronger and things like that, but I definitely feel like next year, I'll be able to contribute more to the team.

If he has questions along the way, he knows he has met a group of veterans he can always call upon.

NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety


NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

NEW YORK - NBA referees will be able to call flagrant or technical fouls on defenders who dangerously close on jump shooters without allowing them space to land, as Zaza Pachulia did on the play that injured Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in last season's playoffs.

Officials will also make sure jump shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a perimeter foul is worthy of free throws, which could cut down on James Harden's attempts after he swings his arms into contact.

The new rules interpretations are being unofficially called the "Harden Rule" and the "Zaza Rule". The Washington Wizards accused the Celtics' Al Horford of a dangerous closeout on Markieff Morris that injured Morris and knocked him out of Game 1 of their playoff series two weeks before the Pachulia-Leonard play.

Leonard sprained his ankle when Pachulia slid his foot under Leonard's in Game 1 of Golden State's victory in the Western Conference finals. After calling a foul, officials will now be able to look at a replay to determine if the defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way, which could trigger an upgrade to a flagrant, or a technical if there was no contact but an apparent attempt to injure.

"It's 100 percent for the safety of the players," NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia said Thursday.

The NBA had made the freedom to land a point of emphasis for officials a few years ago, because of the risk of injuries. 

Officials can still rule the play a common foul if they did not see a dangerous or unnatural attempt by the defender upon review. Borgia said Pachulia's foul would have been deemed a flagrant.

With the fouls on the perimeter shots - often coming when the offensive player has come off a screen and quickly attempts to launch a shot as his defender tries to catch up - officials will focus on the sequencing of the play. The player with the ball must already be in his shooting motion when contact is made, rather than gathering the ball to shoot such as on a drive to the basket.

"We saw it as a major trend in the NBA so we had to almost back up and say, `Well, wait a minute, this is going to be a trend, so let's catch up to it,"' NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said.