Mr. Reliable: Numbers don't illustrate Amir Johnson's value to Celtics

Mr. Reliable: Numbers don't illustrate Amir Johnson's value to Celtics

BOSTON – After most Celtics games, Amir Johnson can easily navigate his way around the Boston Celtics’ locker room with very little fanfare from the media.

And when you least expect it, he’ll surprise you by blurting something out you didn’t expect, like in the middle of Isaiah Thomas’ post-game interview on Sunday night he yelled, ‘give a shout-out; you know what time it is!’

In many ways, Johnson’s ability to be below-the-radar but present inside the Celtics locker room, isn’t all that different than what he does between the lines every night for Boston.

His play in Sunday’s 112-108 win over Miami was about as flawless a performance as we’ve seen from the 6-foot-9 veteran this season.

Johnson finished with 14 points coming on 6-for-6 shooting from the field. Along with his scoring, Johnson also added seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.

But more than anything else, it was Johnson doing the one thing most didn’t anticipate he could for the Celtics – stay healthy.

When the Celtics signed him to a two-year, $24 million contract in 2015, his durability was a bit of a concern despite him missing very few games with the Toronto Raptors whom he spent six seasons with.

While he didn’t miss many games with the Raptors, he did play in pain at times when he probably should not have.

A similar trend may be taking shape with Boston with Johnson being a near-Iron Man this season with 70 starts in 73 games, both tops among all Celtics players.

And while his minutes are less than other starters, it’s clear in watching him play closely that Boston has a tremendous amount of respect and value for what Johnson brings to the table at both ends of the floor.

We saw in the win over a scrappy Miami Heat team, the way Johnson made an impact at both ends of the floor.

In addition to his scoring, Johnson did his part to help others get going offensively by registering five screen assists which was second on the team (Al Horford, six) against the Heat.

Johnson was also tied for second on the team with four deflections against Miami while recovering a team-best three loose balls. But what really seemed to be almost contagious with the Celtics in the second half more so than the first against Miami was their increased effort to contest as many Heat shots as possible.

And yes it was Johnson leading the way with 12 contested two-point shots which was tops among all Celtics players against the Heat.

Contesting shots and grabbing loose balls is not going to get you on the even news highlight reel, or a lot of love from fans, either.

But it does get the attention of the coaching staff and the respect of teammates who have repeatedly talked about how important Johnson’s presence is to what they are trying to accomplish this season.

“Just recognizing every win counts as we get closer to postseason,” Johnson said. “I feel like I play hard every time I get out on the floor. Just getting an opportunity … just playing hard.”

And he does this on a nightly basis, even if his numbers don’t just jump out at you.

But that’s OK.

In his 12th NBA season, Johnson knows chapter and verse on what it takes to last so long in the NBA and not necessarily have your role being that of a superstar.

Johnson figured out early on his career that he wasn’t going to be that kind of player, but that wouldn’t prevent him from being someone who can impact the game in a positive way in a multitude of roles if needed.

“He’s been very reliable all season,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He just continues to get better as the season has progressed.”

Against Magic, C's do what they're supposed to

Against Magic, C's do what they're supposed to

Beating one of the few teams already eliminated from the playoff race is in itself not that big a deal.

It’s called doing what you’re supposed to do.

But for these Celtics, their 92-83 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night was more than just another victory.

It was the latest installment in a season filled with teachable moments and lessons that can bolster in some fashion their chances at a deep playoff run.

While there’s no way they’re going to go far without their core guys Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, getting guys to fill in for them and still manage to win, is important in this team’s overall development in both the present and future.

No one on the Celtics’ roster can score like Irving, the league’s 11th-ranked scorer at 24.4 points per game.

Still, getting his fill-ins Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin to go for 17 and 10 points certainly helps.

And Jaylen Brown’s ability to play both ends of the floor at a high level is huge, but rookie Abdel Nader has shown he too has some potential to be a solid two-way talent.

Smart’s defense sets him apart from others, but the Celtics collectively were able to make up for that with an impressive defensive rating of 83.1 against the Orlando.

And their collective efforts serve as yet another teachable moment for the Celtics.

Here are five takeaways from a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might lead one to believe: 

There may not be another Celtic whose stock has risen more than Terry Rozier’s this season. He has become a reliable two-way talent off the bench whose capable of giving you starter-like production when needed. He had 17 points against the Magic along with seven rebounds and five assists.

With Marcus Smart (right thumb) out for the rest of the regular season, Terry Rozier in the starting lineup along with Marcus Morris, those are three really big chunks of Boston’s second unit no longer coming off the bench. The second unit players might have been different, but that didn’t affect the Celtics’ bench from impacting the game in a significant way. Against the Magic, they outscored Orlando’s backups, 39-28. 

He signed with the Boston Celtics at a time when a role for him was far from defined. His patience and Boston’s faith in him has paid for both as Larkin continues to be that utility player that Brad Stevens has leaned on at times. Larkin was solid off the bench, scoring 10 points.

This may be one of the closest Coach of the Year votes we have ever had in the NBA. Regardless how short the list may be, you can bet Brad Stevens will be on it. The way he has been positioning the Celtics to be among the last teams standing despite all the injuries they have endured this season, speaks to his ability to not just draw up X's and O’s but also his ability to develop players who when called upon to play, are more than ready for the challenge.

It’s fair to expect the Celtics are going to be short-handed for the rest of the season, which means those still around have to step their game up – Horford included.

For Horford, stepping up involves being more assertive as a scorer and not rely as much on his skills as a play-maker. We saw that from Horford on Friday, as he tallied a near double-double of 15 points and nine rebounds but more important, he took a game-high 18 shot attempts.


'Big Baby' busted with 126 grams of pot, $92K in cash

AP Photo

'Big Baby' busted with 126 grams of pot, $92K in cash

Former Celtics forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis was arrested last month in a hotel room in Aberdeen, Maryland, with more than 126 grams of marijuana and more than $92,000 in cash.

Davis, 32, who played on the Celtics 2008 championship team was last in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2015, was arrested Feb. 7 after the hotel owner at the Aberdeen Hampton Inn smelled marijuana coming from Davis' room, WMAR-TV in Baltimore reported.

“They recovered 126 grams of marijuana,” Aberdeen Police Lt. William Reiber told WMAR. “In addition to that, there was a briefcase that contained 92,164 dollars of U.S. currency along with a ledger that contained language which is consistent with someone involved in the sale and distribution of narcotics.”

Davis is charged with seven counts of drug possession and distribution.

Police said the strains of marijuana were from a Los Angeles wholesaler that court records show Davis told police he was in business with.

He told officers he was visiting family in Maryland. Davis' attorney told WMAR the former Celtic (2007-11) adamantly maintains his innocence and looks forward to his day in court next month to clear his name.