Celtics' Johnson stays patient, waits for opportunity

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Celtics' Johnson stays patient, waits for opportunity

INDIANAPOLIS JaJuan Johnson received plenty of advice from folks in preparation for his first NBA season.

None of the conversations centered around the need for patience, something Johnson is learning he'll need plenty of this season.

"People say my time will come," Johnson, who is from Indianapolis and played at nearby Purdue, told CSNNE.com. "I know it will. When it happens, I'll be ready."

Johnson's time to shine may be tonight as the Boston Celtics try to snap a three-game losing skid against the Indiana Pacers.

Boston's Kevin Garnett had a noticeable limp following Friday's loss to Chicago. It is unclear if Garnett will play tonight. Even if he does, his minutes may be even more limited than they already are currently.

The C's will surely be looking for some kind of spark off the bench. For Johnson, it would be a fitting time and place for that to happen.

With hundreds of family and friends in the stands, Johnson would love nothing more than to get an opportunity to play decent minutes in front of so many of the people who supported him at Purdue.

Most of Johnson's days are spent on the scout team, well aware that his chances of playing most nights aren't very good.

"Obviously, I'd like to play more," he said. "But it's definitely valuable stuff I probably couldn't get on another team, just from playing behind KG (Kevin Garnett) and learning from a point guard like (Rajon) Rondo. Those are the kind of things, you really can't get from a lot of teams. I'm fortunate enough to have the opportunity to learn from those guys and other veterans."

And while patience may not have been a topic of discussion prior to entering the NBA, Johnson says this isn't the first time he has started a season buried on the depth chart.

"It reminds me a lot of my freshman year of college," Johnson said.

There were a couple players ahead of him on the depth chart, so he didn't play a lot of minutes at first.

The following year? - First team, All-Big 10.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been impressed with Johnson's work ethic, which is essential for a young player who isn't playing much early in their career. As long as Johnson continues to work at becoming a better player, the Celtics coaching staff will continue pushing him to reach his full potential as a player.

"We're patient with young guys, as long as young guys want to be taught," Rivers said. "It took me about a year of coaching to realize potential with character turns out to be good player. Potential with no character turns out to be the guy that keeps being traded. You get impatient with that, where you try to get a guy to be a better player, and they can't get out of themselves; they're so much into themselves, they're unteachable."

That doesn't appear to be an issue with Johnson, who has been taken under the wing of Kevin Garnett.

"Not playing does nothing but motivate me," Johnson said. "I just want to get better and learn as much as I can. I'm not satisfied by many means in not playing. I just work even harder. That's my mentality. That's how it's always been."

Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

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Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

NEW YORK - Russell Westbrook was voted NBA MVP on Monday night after setting a record with 42 triple-doubles last season.

Westbrook's victory ended the first NBA Awards show, which included two wins apiece for the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.

Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for the season, and he broke Robertson's single-season record set when he had 41 triple-doubles in 1961-62.

The point guard beat out Houston's James Harden and San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard to succeed Stephen Curry, who had won the past two MVP awards.

Earlier, Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon became the first player not picked in the first round to win NBA Rookie of the Year in the common draft era.

Brogdon was the No. 36 overall selection out of Virginia. The common draft era began in 1966.

"I think it's an example for guys that are told they are too short, they are not athletic enough, they are not real point guards, they are not real shooting guards," Brogdon said. "I just think it's an important message for people to see, and it can be done. It just takes a lot."

Teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo won the Most Improved Player award.

Houston coach Mike D'Antoni won his second Coach of the Year award, and the Rockets' Eric Gordon was Sixth Man of the Year after setting a record for most 3-pointers off the bench in his first season as a reserve.

The NBA formerly gave out its individual awards at various points throughout the postseason before switching to the awards show this season and presenting them all at once in front of the league's top players and stars from the entertainment world.

Two of the best moments came during segments that didn't include the NBA's six individual awards.

Bill Russell was presented the first Lifetime Achievement award, welcomed on stage by fellow Hall of Fame centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. The 11-time champion as a player and the league's first black coach first pointed at them and joked that he would have kicked their butts, then told them: "You have no idea how much respect I have for you guys."

Former Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams was given the SagerStrong Award for the strength he showed after his wife was killed in a car crash in Oklahoma City. He was given a colorful jacket like the ones worn by Craig Sager, the longtime Turner Sports reporter who died of cancer this past season.

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

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Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.