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 CSNNE.com. 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.