D-League possibly in Johnson's future, but not now

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D-League possibly in Johnson's future, but not now

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."

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

BOSTON – With his new head coach Brad Stevens and Boston Celtics ownership and front office officials surrounding him, Jayson Tatum’s mind seemed to be somewhere else briefly.

He looked ahead, way, way ahead to the other end of the Celtics’ practice court where there were banners, lots of banners, raised high above all else in the gym.

This wasn’t just a passing glance, either.

TATUM SPEAKS

It was clear that the newest Celtic was in deep thought as he stared at the 17 banners and the one left blank, a steady reminder of what this franchise is about, past and present.

Yes, it’s a lot to soak in for anyone let alone a 19-year-old kid whose career with the Celtics can be timed on a stopwatch.

But the soft-spoken 6-foot-9 forward has been here long enough to understand that success around here is about more than playing well; it’s playing to win a championship.

And that in many ways separates Tatum from his teenage brethren who made up the majority of Thursday night’s NBA draft which included an NBA-record 17 players taken in the first round who like Tatum, were just one year removed from high school.

All come into the NBA with lots to learn, as well as goals and aspirations for this upcoming NBA season.

During an interview with CSN on Friday, I asked Tatum about what in his mind would make for a successful season.

And his answer initially was to ask me a question, “Individual or team?”

So I replied, either one.

“To get back to where they were last year and get over that hump,” he said. “Championships, chasing that number 18, that would be the ultimate success for me.”

That served as a reminder as to why despite having a handful of players under consideration at No. 3, the Celtics did the right thing in selecting Tatum.

His words may seem like the politically correct response, but take a look at the kid’s basketball resume and you’ll quickly see he is indeed about winning and doing so in whatever way possible.

After missing his first eight games at Duke with a foot injury, Tatum gradually improved as the season progressed and wound up on the all-rookie team as well as being named to the All-ACC third team.

Once the Blue Devils got to the ACC Tournament, Tatum became a different, better, more dominant player.

Indeed, Tatum led the Blue Devils to their first ACC championship since 2011 and did so in historic fashion as the Blue Devils became the first ACC school to win the conference tournament with four wins in four days.

Late in the title game against Notre Dame, Tatum put together a sequence of plays that speaks to why the Celtics were seriously considering taking him with the number one overall pick had they not been able to trade it for the No. 3 and a future first-round pick.

With the scored tied at 65, Tatum made a free throw that put Duke ahead.

Moments later, he blocked a shot and finished off the play with a lay-up that gave Duke a three-point lead.

After a Notre Dame basket, Tatum connected with a teammate for a 3-pointer that pushed Duke’s lead to four points with around a minute to play.

And then there was the 3-point play Tatum converted after getting fouled on a dunk which secured a 76-69 Duke win over the Fighting Irish.

Free throws. Blocks. Getting out in transition. Passing.

When his team needed him most, he gave whatever was required at that moment which is one of the intangibles that makes Boston feel good about his future.

“He does whatever he has to do to help you win,” said an NBA scout who said he has seen Tatum play “at least a dozen times.”

He added, “Like all of these kids coming into the league now, he has some things he has to get better at, get more consistent with. But he makes winning plays, whether it’s for himself or others. He’s a lot more unselfish a player than he’s given credit for being.”

And he’s 19 years old, which is both a blessing and a burden when you’re an NBA team executive charged with committing at least two years and millions of dollars into a young man.

Part of the process when making a draft choice, especially when it’s one of the top picks, is character evaluation.

Of the players at or near the top of the draft board, multiple league executives contacted by CSNNE.com in the past couple of weeks said this was an area where Tatum stood out in comparison to all of the top prospects.

“He’s the kind of young man you’d love whether he was a basketball player or not,” one Western Conference executive told CSNNE.com. “If you’re ranking guys on character alone in this draft, he’s your number one pick.”

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, acknowledged the challenge of differentiating between miscues made by a teenager as being problems of concern going forward, or whether that’s a teenager making the kind of bad/questionable decisions most teens make.

“It’s dangerous to play too much into a 19-year-old kid’s behavior,” Ainge told CSN’s A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper on Friday. “But I think that, with all the things we do, from physical, emotional, mental, character, work ethic and their skills … it’s just really hard at 19. You hate to just be labeled what you are at 18.”

But in regards to Tatum specifically, Ainge added, “Jayson is a high character guy. We know he will get better because of his character and his work ethic.”

Said Tatum: “It’s a great feeling. Being part of a great organization like the Celtics; think of all the great players of the past and you can follow in their footsteps.”

And in doing so, blaze a trail of his own in the pursuit of Banner 18.

David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

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David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

BOSTON — David Price and Rick Porcello showed improvement on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday, important signs for the Red Sox after a difficult month for both pitchers prior to this homestand.

Price on Saturday night went six innings and allowed three runs, two earned, in a 6-3 loss to the Angels. He fanned five and his velocity has been consistently better this year than last year.

But the most important number was his walk total: one. He walked three batters in his previous start, and four in both of his starts prior.

“Two outings ago, the first start here in Fenway,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “There was better timing in his delivery and overall better separation over the rubber. And he carried that through I thought, even though there's a higher pitch count in Houston, and has been able to maintain it here. I can't say there was one specific thing. It's been more the timing over the rubber. And you're seeing him pitch out of the stretch exclusively. Just less moving parts in a better position to repeat it.”

After Price’s final inning, the telecast captured Price calling pitching coach Carl Willis into the tunnel. Neither Farrell nor Price detailed the conversation. 

“Yeah, everything was fine,” Farrell said of the conversation. “Everything is OK there.”

Price made it sound like he’s dealing with some sort of physical ailment, but was vague.

“There's a lot of stuff going on right now,” the pitcher said when asked about the desire to stay out there. “You don't want it to linger into the next start, or two or three weeks from now, and that's why we did what we did.”

Asked to elaborate, Price reinforced that the decision was to save his body for another day.

“You never want to come out of a game. But you have to look forward at the time,” Price said. “You don’t want today to cost you your next start or you know, the start after that. So that’s what happened.

“It has nothing to do with my elbow or anything like that. This is — you get past one thing and there’s another So that’s what it is.”

Price in New York in early June felt a blister develop on his ring finger. He missed an in-between start bullpen because of it.

Asked about the blister Saturday, Price said, “That one’s gone.”

Farrell indicated the blister was diminished, if not entirely gone.

“He's been dealing with that,” Farrell said. “I think while it's still present and maybe not as severe as it was when it first happened, I'm sure he's going to check on it occasionally."