C's Johnson may get first career start on Wednesday

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C's Johnson may get first career start on Wednesday

WALTHAM Just a couple weeks ago, Celtics coach Doc Rivers told CSNNE.com that JaJuan Johnson was "just an injury away from starting."

He wasn't kidding, apparently.

Kevin Garnett's hip flexor injury puts his status in question for tonight.

If Garnett is unable to play, the C's may very well call upon Johnson to get the starting nod. The Celtics may also consider Chris Wilcox, but Johnson appears to be a more likely starter if Garnett doesn't play.

Johnson told CSNNE.com that starting for the Celtics, this year, has not been something he has given a lot of thought to.

That makes sense.

Johnson's a four-year guy at Purdue. He's smart enough to figure out that multiple injuries, more than anything else, would thrust him into the starting lineup.

Still, that doesn't take away from the fact that lately, Johnson has played well enough to garner more minutes than his 7.4 minutes per game average. More playing time not only benefits Johnson, but also creates a stronger bond between the rookie and his seasoned teammates.

Against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, Johnson played a career-high 33 minutes and finished with 12 points, also a career high.

Johnson has done well with end-of-the-game, mop-up-duty minutes. But to play the way he did against a Chicago team that has been atop the Eastern Conference standings most of this season, was impressive.

"There's nothing like getting that game-day experience, and he's getting that," said Paul Pierce. "It's good to get him in there for some big games, like Chicago to where he's knocking down shots and playing well. When you do that, it creates confidence in the ball club. It also creates trust for the coaches, also."

That, much like Johnson's game, is very much a work in progress.

Johnson was one of the players that drew the ire of Doc Rivers in Boston's loss at Toronto last week. In the first quarter, Rivers called a time-out. Moments after the players returned to the floor, Rivers had to call another one because at least one player - Johnson was one of them - was not where he was supposed to be on the floor.

Rivers ripped into him and his teammates in a manner seldom seen publicly.

The 6-foot-9 forward seemed unaffected by Rivers' tongue-lashing, chalking it up to Rivers trying to bring out the best in him.

It worked.

In the Bulls game, Johnson saw his role expand due to Brandon Bass being out with a left knee injury.

Johnson had a couple of rough moments in the first half defensively, but seemed to find his way in the second before finishing with a career-high 12 points.

It was a good game, and Johnson was appreciative of the opportunity to play major minutes. But it's in the past now. Johnson understands what he did in the past, won't do much for him on Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons.

"I just have to continue to play my game, help the team in whatever they need, and just be more consistent," Johnson said.

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

NEW YORK - Joakim Noah of the New York Knicks has been suspended 20 games without pay for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.

The NBA announced the suspension Saturday, saying Noah tested positive for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator LGD-4033 – something that can be found in over-the-counter supplements.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports first reported the suspension.

Noah has not played since Feb. 4 and was likely to miss the Knicks’ final 10 games this season because of a knee injury. The NBA said Noah’s suspension will begin with the ”first NBA regular season or playoff game for which he is eligible and physically able to play.”

Noah is in the first year of a four-year, $72 million contract. He and the Knicks (27-45) have been a disappointment this season. He averaged 5.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in 46 games this season, and has been limited to 75 games over the past two seasons.

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

BRIGHTON, Mass – Let’s start with the straight fact that it’s asinine, apologist drivel to let the Bruins off the hook, and perpetuate an off-the-mark myth there isn’t enough talent on the B's roster to be a playoff hockey team.

They are middle-of-the-road in the talent department to be sure, and the roster depth clearly isn’t what it was in their elite years, as the Bruins balance an aging core group with an influx of youthful talent from the next generation. But this is also a proud, talented group with one of the best all-around centers in the NHL in Patrice Bergeron, a former Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Fame defenseman in Zdeno Chara, a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate and in-his-prime All-Star left winger in Brad Marchand, an emerging 20-year-old offensive superstar in David Pastrnak and a former Vezina Trophy winning goaltender still in his prime in Tuukka Rask.

That doesn’t even mention high-end players David Krejci, David Backes and Torey Krug that are game-changing talents in their own right.

Combine that with the other players on the Bruins roster and this is a team interspersed with proud Stanley Cup winning players and enough talent to still take care of business in the final eight games and punch their playoff ticket. Winning a Cup in 2011 can never be taken away from Chara, Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Rask and Adam McQuaid, and neither can the seven straight seasons in the playoffs under Claude Julien.

But there’s a danger now of some late-in-the-game tarnish on Black and Gold legacies for some of those distinguished, proud players if they once again collapse down the stretch this season and miss the playoffs for the third year in a row with a late-season nosedive. Four consecutive regulation losses have cast doubt into everything for the Bruins and roused all the same old uncomfortable questions from the past three years.

Bergeron and Marchand need to find their best games and dominate the way elite players do in big-game situations like Saturday night vs. the Isles. Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano need to show they're ready for the playoffs.Rask needs to finally show he's ready to shine as a No. 1 goalie and lead his team to victory in a big game rather than buckle under weighty pressure. 

“This is their legacy, those guys. They are Stanley Cup champions and they missed last year. Each year we talk about writing our own story, and I believe that because guys come and go,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “But generally there is a core group of guys and it’s their legacy. I’m sure they want to reach the playoffs and get back to being a Stanley Cup contender every year.

“That’s what they want and to a man I’m sure they would tell you that. I do believe that they believe it’s different [this season]. Until you change the course of your results, those questions are going to come. We have to change the results to make then go away. One week of not getting results that we want doesn’t mean we’re panicking, but we do understand what’s at stake. We want to be playing in April and May.”

If the Bruins can’t pull out a win on Saturday night against the Islanders, who just pushed even with them at 82 points on the season, then their playoff lives will no longer be under their own control anymore. It will become another late-season choke job by a team that will have its character and courage questioned. The highs of six years ago will be matched by the bitter lows of the past three seasons.

People won’t talk about a scrappy, little underdog Bruins team that just couldn’t get over the hump once again. Instead, they’ll lament a formerly proud, tough-minded group of hockey players that somehow turned into NHL tomato cans all too willing to play the victim once the going got tough late in the regular season.

That’s no way to go out if you’ve ever had your name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup, and the Bruins that know better should be taking that to heart right now.