OFFSEASON

Different paths to Boston for Johnson and Moore

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Different paths to Boston for Johnson and Moore

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA
The 12-year-old could play. So well, in fact, that the coaches from East Chicago High School in Indiana had been watching him since he was in the sixth grade, eagerly awaiting the day until he could suit up for their basketball team. There was no doubt ETwaun Moore was talented.

Two hundred miles south in Franklin, coaches there werent as sure about another 12-year-old. JaJuan Johnson was lanky and reserved, but his length was intriguing. Seeing potential in his height, they kept him on the team, a decision that would pay off ten years later.

Johnson and Moores early basketball careers started out differently, but after playing four years together on the Purdue University mens basketball team, they are embarking on the same journey after joining the Boston Celtics in the 2011 NBA Draft.

The fact he was tall saved him.

The text message came across Mark James phone: Im going to be a Celtic.

Looking back on the first time they met, the former Franklin Central High School basketball coach had no idea he would one day read those words from JaJuan Johnson.

I saw a kid that was 12, very shy. We saw an upside because of his length and he could run and catch, but man, we had no clue, James recalled to CSNNE.com in a telephone interview. He came to camp, was a real skinny boy, and they almost cut him in the seventh grade. The fact he was tall saved him.

James watched Johnson progress during basketball camps throughout middle school, become a starter on the ninth-grade team, and go on to start for the junior varsity team as a sophomore. Johnson played under James on the varsity team during his final two years in high school.

We saw him grow up as a basketball player, said James, now the head coach at Ben Davis High School (IN). He never played AAU basketball and he didnt have many bad habits, just a lot of innate ability to play the game when he came into middle school.

James recognized Johnsons potential and wanted to help him become the best player he could be. There was no hand-holding, no gushing over each basket for the player who would grow into a 6-foot-10, 221-pound power forward.

James pushed Johnson to succeed, and in turn, Johnson pushed himself. His self-motivation would eventually bolster his game and catch the attention of the Celtics, who acquired his draft rights at the 27th pick through a trade with the New Jersey Nets in exchange for 25th overall pick Marshon Brooks and the Nets' 2014 second-round pick.

With JaJuan, it was never, Youre a good basketball player or a great basketball player, James said. It was always, You need to work hard, be competitive, do the best you can, have a positive attitude, control the things you can.

With kids now talking about how good they are, I think they hear that now from everyone else, so my thing always with him was, he had to work hard, be humble, and just compete and not compare himself to anyone. I think he learned those lessons very well.

When the gyms opened at 6:30 a.m. before the school day began, Johnson was there, ready to work. And when James had advice to offer, Johnson was there ready to listen.

James considers Johnson a real joy to be around and says players like that dont come around every day.

Hes a very coachable young man, James said. He always liked to learn, very likeable and teachable kid. A lot of kids, when you try to teach them things they take it as criticism and dont respond well to it. Hes just the opposite. He wants to do better with everything he does. When you talk to him about things, hell listen, hell take time to do it the way you want it done. Hes a pleaser kid and those kids are hard to come by for coaches. I think the Celtics will like him a lot because of that.

Over the course of his high school career, Johnson became stronger, improved his ability to run, capitalized on his athleticism, and worked on his mid-range jumper.

Always grounded, Johnson focused on making improvements. As a senior, he was named to the Indiana All-Star Team and averaged 20.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 4.3 blocks per game in his final year.

Toward the end of his sophomore year going into his junior year, it became evident he was going to become a big-time college player, he said. Then I think at the end of his senior year in high school, he was starting to understand just how good maybe he could be.

Johnson went on to play at Purdue University, where he earned several accolades, including Big Ten Player of the Year, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Consensus First-Team All-American, and Pete Newell National Big Man of the Year, following a 20.5 point, 8.6 rebound, 2.3 block per game senior campaign.

The tall, lanky kid who was almost cut from his seventh grade team had established himself as a talented big man ready to contribute in the NBA.

Its sort of been like the ugly duckling story, James said with a laugh. I bet if youd ask him, hed still say youd have to pinch him. This has been something he focused in on a lot in college. . . . Hes a product of hard work, great attitude, and great effort on his part.

I could tell he was going to go places back then.

Growing up there was no way for ETwaun Moore to know that on June 23, 2011, he would be drafted 55th overall by the Celtics. Abe Brown, though, had a feeling the day would come when Moore would hear NBA commissioner David Stern call his name.

Like most seventh- or eighth-graders, he had his eyes wide open, just wondering what was next for him. I dont think at that time he realized where he would be on that day," Brown, head coach of the East Chicago High School basketball team, told CSNNE.com in a telephone interview. I dont know about the Celtics, but I would have said he would be drafted. I could tell he was going to go places back then.

Brown was the high schools junior varsity coach when he met Moore as a seventh-grader. Then-varsity head coach Bobby Miles had begun watching him play the previous year, and Brown could see why.

Moore demonstrated a high basketball IQ and maturity at a young age with a skill set to match. He played against older students in the summertime, holding his own on the court. Moore, now a 6-4, 192-lb shooting guard, showed early promise.

He just went out and played hard, Brown recalled. His basketball IQ has always been high and at that point for a seventh grader, he probably had the basketball IQ of a tenth or eleventh grader with some of the things he was able to do out on the basketball court. It just was like when he went out and played, everything came naturally. There were things he needed coaching for, but there were a lot of things he was just able to go out and do on his own, I guess from his days of going out to the playground playing with the older kids.

Brown added, Not only is his basketball IQ high, his IQ overall in life I think is very high.

By the time Moore entered high school, he made the varsity team in his freshman season. In spite of the early promotion, Moore stayed grounded and focused on helping his teammates win. Brown, who also assisted on the squads varsity staff, says a strong family support system helped to instill a team-first mentality.

So when it came time to take the court, he didnt put on the ETwaun Moore Show, but he still got the job done. Moore averaged 21.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in his senior season and was named to the 2007 Indiana State All-Star Team.

Hes got a real calm demeanor, Brown said. Hes not going to be very flashy. Hes going to score on your opponent and you wont even realize because hes not the kind of guy to pump his chest, throw his hands in the air to the crowd. Hes a silent assassin, I would call him. Hes going to go out and do everything you need him to do and beyond.

Moore gave the Cardinals all he had and then some when he scored 28 points to lead his team to the 2007 4A State Championship, defeating North Central High School and future Los Angeles Clipper Eric Gordon. He earned the Arthur L. Trester Award for Mental Attitude in the win.

That day, Brown says, he saw something special in Moore.

The day of the state championship game, we were in the hotel and he got all the guys together right before the coaches addressed them, Brown said, He was like, Guys, weve just got to go out there and take care of business. This is what weve worked all our lives for. That was one of the first times I saw a real fire in his eyes and he spoke up to the team, like weve got to go out there and take care of things. He went out there and helped win our school our first state championship.

Following winning the high school title, Moore played four years of college basketball at Purdue University. He averaged 18.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in his senior year. Among his accolades, he won the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award and became the second player from Purdue to be named All-Big Ten four times.

He has always been a leader, a stand-up kid, always on time, never had any problems out of him. Brown said. He always came in and played his hardest, did everything he was supposed to do and then some. He is deserving of what he got, going to the NBA.

It was only fitting that Moore carried himself with the same composure on draft night that he has on the court his whole life. Brown was with Moore and his family and friends as they watched more than 50 players get selected. Moore, though, didnt show any nerves as the picks began to run out.

He was just sitting in front of the TV, Brown recalled. Some people that were there were getting down when it was getting close to the end and he hadnt got drafted, but he sat there calm cool and collected like he wasnt worried, like he was going to overcome it and something good was going to happen. Then when he finally got the call before they announced it, he actually didnt say anything but people could tell he was about to get drafted. He kind of whispered to his sister, Im going to Boston, and she jumped up and hollered and everybody knew he was going to get drafted from that.

After watching Moore give consistent dedication, hard work, and selflessness over the last 10 years, Brown believes Moore will bring the same qualities to the Celtics organization and community and represent them well.

Brown always had a feeling this day would come for Moore, and he is proud to see it is happening with such a historic team.

Its just amazing when you think of Boston and you know ETwaun will have that green and white on, Brown said. Its going to be something special to see.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.com!JCamerato

OFFSEASON

Boston Celtics announce 2016 preseason schedule

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Boston Celtics announce 2016 preseason schedule

New England fans will get their first glimpse at the 2016-2017 Boston Celtics when they kick off their preseason schedule on October 4 against the Philadelphia 76ers at UMass-Amherst’s Mullins Center.

That game will feature two of the top three picks in last month’s draft as Ben Simmons, the top overall pick, will face Jaylen Brown, who was drafted by the Celtics with the third overall pick.

Boston’s 7-game schedule features no back-to-back games, but they do face the Charlotte Hornets in their second and third preseason games on Oct. 6 (in Greensboro, N.C.) and Oct. 8 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Here’s a look at Boston’s full preseason schedule:

DATE               OPPONENT                  LOCATION                                                        TIME
Oct. 4               Philadelphia 76ers         UMass-Amherst Mullins Center (Amherst, MA)     7:00 p.m. ET
Oct. 6               Charlotte Hornets          Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro, NC)             7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 8               Charlotte Hornets          Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville, CT)                  3:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 13             Brooklyn Nets               Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY)                          7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 15             New York Knicks           Madison Square Garden (New York, NY)             7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 17             Brooklyn Nets               TD Garden (Boston, MA)                                   7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 19             New York Knicks           TD Garden (Boston, MA)                                   7:30 p.m. ET

OFFSEASON

Rivers dismisses Griffin-to-Boston rumors, wants Pierce to retire with Celtics

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Rivers dismisses Griffin-to-Boston rumors, wants Pierce to retire with Celtics

Doc Rivers appeared on The Vertical Podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski and dismissed the Blake Griffin trade rumors, claiming that “bloggers” who “have nothing to do with the sport” were the cause of the Blake-to-Boston gossip.

“We are hoping that Blake ends his career playing for the Clippers,” Rivers told Woj. “No team is calling because teams know we don’t have any interest. It just tells you the different times. Things have changed. Everyone believes that they’re media now. There are so many good, credible guys, but then there’s some of the guys who are bloggers and have nothing to do with the sport.”

Rivers went on to explain that his youngest son, Spencer, even took the time out to trace the source of this "groundless" rumor.

“Danny [Ainge] and I have talked twice this summer. One was about the British Open, and the other was about another golf tournament. That’s about it,” Rivers explained. “But my son traced [where this rumor started] it to I think a Boston radio talk show and the guy didn’t say that we had been talking, but that Blake would be one of the guys the Celtics should go after. That started the next step, and then the next thing you know, it blew it up.”

Glenn Rivers sounds more like a politician than a doctor. Everyone knows politicians lie.

So Doc says he’s spoken to Danny only twice this summer -- both times about golf and “that’s about it.” But it's good to know they did apparently find the time to lay the groundwork for Paul Pierce to retire with the Celtics, if he does choose to call it a career.

“If Paul does decide to retire, we’re gonna make sure that Boston picks him up for one day and he retires a Celtic because that’s what he should retire as,” Rivers said. “We have all that in place. We just don’t know what he’s gonna do.”

Allowing Pierce to retire as a Celtic would be the right thing to do, for sure. He spent 15 seasons with the Celtics, won a title, and someday No. 34 will be hanging in the rafters. Ainge has also made it clear before that he'd love for Pierce to take on some type of front office role with the team after he retires from his playing career.

But Blake is the guy Celtics fans want now, so it’s understandable Doc would dispel the rumors regarding his four-time All-Star.

It doesn’t mean those conversations didn’t take place because trade talks happen every single day in the NBA. But considering Doc spent the opening minutes of the podcast discussing Blake, it certainly makes it seem like a deal is dead. At least for now.

OFFSEASON

A closer look at the five signings by the Boston Celtics

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A closer look at the five signings by the Boston Celtics

BOSTON – It’s official.

The Boston Celtics announced the signings of what should be the last moves made of significance between now and training camp.

All five players bring different strengths to the table, as well as areas of concern.

But more than anything else, they provide depth for a team that has made depth a calling card of sorts.

Here we’ll break down each of the newest Celtics, what they bring to the table this season, as well as do a little crystal-ball watching as to what their role should be for this upcoming season.

Gerald Green

Career stats: A nine-year veteran, Green has appeared in 497 games while averaging 10.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists while shooting 36.1 percent on 3s.

Last season (in Miami): Green averaged 8.9 points in 22.4 minutes per game while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and 32.3 percent on 3s.

The former Celtics draft pick returns to where his NBA dream began, albeit in a much different role. When he arrived as the 18th pick in the 2005 draft, Green was an athletic, above-the-rim freak of nature. Not too soon after that, he won the league’s Slam Dunk competition. From there, Green’s game showed little growth, which led to a two-plus seasons (2009-2012) in which he played overseas and in the D-League. The time away didn’t do much for him financially, but it did result in his game becoming more complete. His time in the NBA over the past five seasons has shown him to be more than just a human highlight waiting to happen. The 6-7 forward has become a more consistent 3-point shooter as he now boosts a career average of 36.1 percent. And he returns in a more humble state than when he arrived. His role is yet to be defined, but the need to add him became a necessity with James Young still not displaying the kind of growth that makes Boston feel comfortable with putting him on the floor to play meaningful minutes. Green won’t play huge minutes, but he’s the kind of X-factor that could help Boston win four or five games this season. And that could be the difference between a tough first-round playoff matchup that begins on the road, or a postseason that starts off at the TD Garden.

TYLER ZELLER

Career stats: Zeller has appeared in 289 games, averaging 7.6 points, 4.7 rebounds while shooting 50.1 percent from the field.

Last season (in Boston): Saw his role diminish significantly from the previous season, averaging 6.1 points and a career-low 3.0 rebounds per game in 11.8 minutes – also a career-low mark.

Throughout the year, Zeller’s patience was rewarded with an unexpected rush of minutes and more often than not, he came through. Having a player who does more than just buy into the concept of always staying ready but proves it time and time again, has tremendous value on this team. The 26-year-old center has shown flashes of being a reliable rotation player for Boston. Even with the changes, Zeller remains arguably their best finisher at the basket among the team’s centers. He will come into camp and just as it has been in the past, will compete for playing time. But most likely he’ll find himself in a similar situation where his minutes will be infrequent. But having said that, Zeller knows his chance to play will come and the Celtics know there will be games where Zeller’s activity, rebounding and scoring at the basket will be needed. And when that time comes, they know he’ll be ready.

Jaylen Brown

Career stats (at Cal): In his lone season at Cal, Brown averaged 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 27.4 percent on 3s.

Taken by Boston with the third overall pick in last month’s NBA draft, expectations for a player selected so high are usually well, really high. Brown won’t have the pressure that most high lottery (top-14) picks have when they come into the NBA. As it was laid out to CSNNE.com by Brown’s mental skills coach Graham Betchart, Brown’s focus is on controlling what he can control and not getting overly caught up in results. You never want to put too much stock in what happens during summer league, but Brown showed certain strengths during summer league that typically translate well against better competition which he will face during the regular season. He averaged 10.2 free throw attempts per game, which is impressive, summer league or no summer league. He won’t live at the line nearly as much this season, but the aggressive nature of his play was a positive. And like signing Green, Brown also provides a high level of athleticism that has been in short supply on this team in recent years. As for his role this season, look for Brown to be used at both small forward and power forward for Boston as Jae Crowder’s backup.

Demetrius Jackson

Career stats (at Notre Dame): 11.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 38.1 percent on 3s.

Last season (at Notre Dame): 15.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 33.1 percent on 3s.

After talking with scouts shortly after last month’s draft, many were stunned that Jackson fell as far as he did (No. 45 overall, 15th pick in second round) on draft night. There’s no consensus as to why that happened, either. Winding up in Boston while may not necessarily be the best fit for Jackson in terms of getting on the court immediately, but it should do wonders for his growth and longevity in the NBA. He will see first-hand the work ethic of Avery Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defender as well as Bradley’s backcourt mate, All-Star Isaiah Thomas. The growth in Terry Rozier’s game provides Jackson with tangible proof of what can happen by watching and absorbing the teachings of more seasoned players at your position. But don’t think for a minute that he’s just going to stand idly by, folks. Jackson is a good player who will not back down from any of his more accomplished backcourt mates. He will eventually develop into a decent scorer in this league who has the kind of lateral quickness and instincts (he averaged better than one steal per game in three seasons at Notre Dame) that should serve him well in the NBA. But barring a Celtics trade, Boston’s backcourt depth will likely result in him spending most of his rookie season with the team’s Development league affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

Ben Bentil

Career stats (at Providence College): 13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game.

Last season (at Providence College): 21.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

Another player who was projected to go higher than he did (51st overall, No. 21 pick in the second round) on draft night, Bentil is an intriguing prospect. The 6-foot-8 forward led the Big East in scoring last season, doing so with Kris Dunn – arguably the nation’s top point guard and the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft – getting him the ball a lot. Bentil has the kind of build and inside-outside game that more and more teams are looking to add to their roster. He showed flashes of that during summer league, but not enough to where you feel he can come in and contribute immediately. Barring trades or injuries to the frontcourt, Bentil will spend a large chunk of this season with the Red Claws.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN