BOSTON With JaJuan Johnson seeing so little time this season for the Boston Celtics, head coach Doc Rivers told CSNNE.com that there have been conversations about sending him to the D-League and there will likely be more in the future.
But Rivers quickly added that it won't happen anytime soon.
Based on Johnson's play on Wednesday night, it's understandable why Rivers wants to keep him with the Big boys.
"I know I've said this before, and I'm going to say it again, this kid can play," Rivers said. "And he'll get his chance to play for us, sooner or later; I'd say probably sooner rather than later."
Rivers' confidence in Johnson was validated to some degree in Boston's 100-64 blowout win over Toronto.
Johnson entered the game well after its outcome had been decided, and managed to score 11 points (5-5) in just under 10 minutes of playing time.
Said C's guard Ray Allen: "If there's garbage minutes in the fourth quarter, I said, 'take them seriously. Don't come in thinking that, oh, this is just play-time and we're up by how ever many minute..' And I said, 'Go out there and really play as though the score is 0-0 and you guys make it better. You've got an opportunity to prove to coaches and get more minutes.' And JaJuan went out there and did that tonight."
While there's no way of knowing if Johnson could play that well if given more minutes when the game was undecided, it bodes well for both his confidence and the C's confidence that he can contribute if called upon.
"We're one injury away from JaJuan starting; really," Rivers said.
Johnson, a first-round pick of New Jersey who was traded to Boston on draft night last June, is eager to play more than mop-up duty.
But if there's anyone prepared to handle the highs of being a college American, to being a seldom-used NBA power forward near the end of the bench, it's Johnson.
The 6-foot-10 forward was not a basketball prodigy like so many of his NBA brethren.
He didn't begin playing organized basketball until the 7th grade, and back then he was on the 'B' team.
The mindset at that time was no different than it is now - learn as much as possible, and make the most of every opportunity.
"The thing that I got the best joy out of, just improving so much," Johnson told CSNNE.com. "That's the thing I enjoy the most, just improving and getting better. And just the progress really showing when I get to play."
Johnson said the only time he became frustrated with waiting, was when he was a high school sophomore
"I didn't play varsity until I was a junior," Johnson said. "That's when it really started to bother me. I felt I was better than some of the guys in front of me. I was pretty much waiting, the guys in front of me were older. Just dealing with that kind of stuff early, kind of prepared me in a way for things like this. I look at the big picture. Everything has its purpose."
After splitting time as a freshman at Purdue, Johnson was selected as a first-team All-Big Ten pick as a sophomore.
"So I know if I wait, good things will come if I just continue to work at getting better, and be patient," he said.
In the meantime, Johnson will continue to feed off of the knowledge being doled out by his older, more seasoned teammates.
"I might not be getting that much experience on the court, but being around the guys that we have, you learn valuable lessons about basketball; about life, too," Johnson said. "Everyday, I pretty much learn something."
But Johnson is quick to add - and moments later, add again - that he wants to play.
"Any competitor wants to play," he says. "It's tough, but I have to look at the bigger picture; not just this year, but my whole NBA career. Things I'm learning from these guys, is priceless."