Celtics

C's Johnson looks for strong summer

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C's Johnson looks for strong summer

ORLANDO, Fla. As the Celtics arrived in Orlando Friday afternoon, JaJuan Johnson was among the players on the C's summer league team being asked to take picture after picture by fans near the baggage carousel awaiting their checked-in luggage.

As one flashing light followed another, Johnson gave them all exactly what they wanted -- something to remember.

Now with an NBA season under his belt, he's hoping to deliver in a similar capacity to the Celtics beginning what he hopes will be a strong showing for the Celtics' summer league team with play beginning on Monday.

"It'll be a little different," Johnson told CSNNE.com of his post-rookie life in the NBA. "But at the end of the day, it's playing basketball."

That's something he didn't really do much of as a rookie last season, appearing in just 36 games (out of a possible 66 due to the lockout) while averaging 3.2 points per game.

As a grade-point average, 3.2 is not too shabby.

Scoring average in the NBA?

Not so good.

But impact is directly related to opportunity. Something Johnson did not get much of last season.

Part of that had to do with Boston's frontcourt depth which was repeatedly put to the test courtesy of a slew of unfortunate injury-related circumstances.

A bigger factor was that Johnson, to be frank, wasn't ready to be the kind of difference-maker the Celtics needed in the frontcourt.

And part of that had to do with the lithe 6-foot-9 forward not really establishing himself as a viable option at the power forward position.

Celtics assistant coach Tyronn Lue is coaching Boston's summer league team.

He said Johnson will play primarily at power forward, but he'll also experiment with him some at small forward, too.

"Doc (Rivers, Boston's head coach) said, 'we might have a (Kevin) Durant and not even know it.'" quipped Lue.

While Johnson is in no way being compared to Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Johnson does have some small forward-like skills that the Celtics would be wise to at least explore this summer.

Johnson is open to playing small forward, power forward, any position that will get him on the floor.

"Everybody wants to play and help the team win," Johnson said. "I'm no different than anybody else. But I know you have to be patient. But yeah, I do think my time to contribute is now. I just have to do what I can to make sure I'm ready for the opportunity when it comes."

A big part of Johnson's preparation last season was listening to the sage words of wisdom that he found himself hearing from the lips of Kevin Garnett who will return to Boston armed with a three-year, 34 million contract.

The two have talked a couple times and exchanged text messages this summer, with those interactions primarily centering around their families.

As far as any message or words of advice from Garnett this summer, Johnson grinned and then said, "just go hard. That's pretty much what he said; that's pretty much the way he goes."

E'Twaun Moore, Johnson's teammate with the Celtics as well as in college at Purdue, said he has noticed a definite change in his good friend.

"His work ethic is definitely better," Moore told CSNNE.com. "He's working a lot harder. He has to work hard - we all have to work hard - to be successful."

For Johnson, that is essentially what it comes down to this season.

Finding ways to not only help the Celtics win, but also prove his worth to a team that spent both of its first-round picks adding frontcourt size with players that will be competing for minutes off the bench just like Johnson.

"Everyday you have to compete, but they are your teammates still," Johnson said. "You have to help your teammates out. They are your teammates still; we have to help each other out. I had help when I got here. It's my job to help the younger guys come along, too."

The best way he can do that is simply doing the things that made the Celtics so high him leading up to the 2011 draft when they sent the draft rights of Marshon Brooks to New Jersey in exchange for his rights and a future (2014) second-round pick.

When asked what he would like to see out of Johnson this summer, Lue said, "being athletic, explosive, scoring, rebounding, just playing free. I want him to go out and play free, have fun and just take away what he learned this year from KG and those guys and try to use it during the summer league."

And if he were to do that, Johnson would be giving the C's something similar to what he gave those ear-to-ear grinning fans at the airport -- something to remember.

Marcus Morris targeting Oct. 30 game vs. Spurs as date for Celtics debut

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Marcus Morris targeting Oct. 30 game vs. Spurs as date for Celtics debut

WALTHAM -- It appears Marcus Morris’ debut for the Celtics will be when they host the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 30.
 
The 6-foot-9 forward confirmed to reporters on Monday that, for now, that’s the target date.
 
Morris spent time after practice playing some one-one-one against rookie Jayson Tatum.
 
“I’m trying to push on it a little more,” he said. “Felt pretty good beating the rook’s ass one-on-one.”
 
The addition of Morris to the lineup can’t come soon enough for the Celtics (1-2).  They have already lost Gordon Hayward (ankle) for the season, and Marcus Smart (ankle) missed Friday’s win over Philadelphia. Smart said he would probably be in uniform for Tuesday’s game against the New York Knicks. 
 
Those injuries have forced the Celtics to dig deeper into their roster, resulting in several first-year players seeing action. 
 
Having a veteran like Morris on the floor would bode well for the Celts in their quest to remain among the better teams in the East this season. 
 
Morris, who went through the non-contact portion of practice on Monday, joined the Celtics on Oct. 5, shortly after he and his brother Markieff (who plays for Washington) were acquitted of assault charges involving an incident in Phoenix in January of 2015. He appeared in one preseason game, scoring seven points on 3-for-6 shooting from the field.

Coach Brad Stevens said Morris was having some knee discomfort when he showed up for training camp. That, combined with showing up late to training camp because of his court case in Phoenix, resulted in him not having the level of conditioning he’s used to at the start of training camp. 
 
“It’s not that I’m in bad shape,” he told NBC Sports Boston earlier. “It’s just that I’m not where I expect myself to be conditioning-wise, right now.”
 
Morris echoed similar sentiments on Monday. 
 
“I’m in great condition,” he said. “I just want to be a little better. My conditioning has never been the problem. It’s the soreness in my [left] knee. It’s gotten a lot better over the past 10 days, so I feel I can play now. But be cautious because it’s a long season.”
 
Morris was acquired in the summer by Boston from Detroit, in exchange for Avery Bradley. The move was done to not only ensure there was enough salary cap space to sign then-free agent Gordon Hayward, but also for the Celtics to add a versatile player who can play both forward positions.