Celtics

Johnson needs time to mature

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Johnson needs time to mature

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
BOSTON After the Boston Celtics drafted Purdue forward JaJuan Johnson Thursday night, the C's made it clear that they anticipated the 6-foot-10 forward to be in the mix for playing time this season.

But even with an All-American pedigree along with Big Ten Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors to his credit, expectations of Johnson heading into his rookie season have to be tempered.

Why?

It's simple, really.

When you look at where Johnson was drafted, rarely does a player 6-foot-10 or taller taken late in the first round, contribute in a meaningful way to a championship-caliber team immediately.

"Obviously we got some work to do," Johnson told Comcast SportsNet's Kyle Draper shortly after being drafted. "And I'm ready to put in the work."

Since the 2001 NBA draft, there have been a total of nine players 6-10 or taller drafted in the first round at or after the No. 25 pick. Of the nine, four were on a playoff team as a rookie.

David Harrison, drafted by Indiana with the No. 30 pick in 2004, was the best scorer among the bunch with a 6.1 points per game average as well as the leader in minutes played (17.7).

Only one player in that category has won an NBA title. That was former Boston center Kendrick Perkins who was selected by the C's with the No. 27 pick in the draft.

Johnson became a Celtic when the C's used their first round pick (No. 25) to select Providence's Marshon Brooks, and shipped Brooks to New Jersey for the Nets' No. 27 pick (Johnson) and a second round selection in the 2014 draft.

While his shortcomings are apparent, Johnson's versatility and experience give him a shot to do what rookies seldom do in Boston - play in games.

"He's a both-ends-of-the-floor player," Ainge said. "He can shoot. He can rebound, block shots. He's got some good energy, and good length. He fits a lot of parts that we need."

And it is that versatility which gives him a decent shot of being the exception to the big-men-at-the-end-of-the-first-round-suck theory.

When you look at the big men drafted late in the first round since 2002, the successful ones got it done because they were able to contribute in more ways than one.

San Antonio's Tiago Splitter was drafted in 2007, but did not play his first season with the Spurs until this past season. While his numbers this past season don't exactly wow you (4.6 points in 12.3 minutes per game), he was able to help San Antonio to one of the best records in the NBA. Arguably the best big man drafted near the end of the first round in the last 10 years was Florida's David Lee, a 6-9 forward who has established himself as one of league's better rebounders. As a rookie, he averaged 5.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Not only do late first-round big men need talent, but just as important is an opportunity to play.

Players selected near the end of the first round, usually wind up on teams that are used to making deep playoff runs.

That equates to limited court time.

Look at Perkins, the starting center for the Celtics when they brought home Banner 17 in 2008.

As a rookie in 2003, Perkins averaged 2.2 points in 3.5 minutes while playing a total of just 10 games.

One of the top free centers this summer is Samuel Dalembert, drafted by Philadelphia with the No. 26 overall pick in 2001.

As a rookie, Dalembert averaged 1.5 points in 5.2 minutes while appearing in just 34 games.

But having followed Johnson for months, the Celtics have seen enough of him to feel he has the talent to help them.

It's not so much a matter of if, but when, Johnson can be a meaningful contributor.

"You gotta put him on the floor," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I can't tell you if he'll help or not. I think he'll be an NBA player, and a good one. It may take him some time; it may not."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

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 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Boston’s Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said. “You have to love challenges.”

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Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics

Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics

CLEVELAND – For the third year in a row, a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics is unable to come to terms on a contract extension prior to the deadline.

That means Marcus Smart will become a restricted free agent this summer. Last year it was Kelly Olynyk (now with the Miami Heat) and in 2015 it was Jared Sullinger (now with Shenzhen Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association).

Both the Celtics and Smart's camp intensified their discussions in recent days as the October 16th 6 p.m. EST deadline drew near.

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While there was progress made, there wasn’t enough to get a deal done.

Smart has repeatedly indicated that he wants to re-sign a long-term deal to stay in Boston.

And the market for the 6-foot-4 guard became clearer based on the contracts that some of his fellow rookie class of 2014, were receiving.

Denver’s Gary Harris agreed to a four-year, $84 million contract after establishing himself as one of the better young two-way talents in the NBA last season. And at the other end of the financial spectrum, you would have to look at Phoenix’s T.J. Warren who signed a four-year, $50 million contract.

More than likely, Smart’s deal next summer will fall somewhere between the deals those two players received.

As much as Smart would have preferred to get a deal done heading into the season, it’s not something that he’s going to cause him to lose any sleep.

“Get it done now, or get it done in six months, I’m OK either way,” he told NBC Sports Boston. “I’m not worried about it.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE