BOSTON -- On Friday night JaJuan Johnson walked off the court and was greeted by an unhappy Doc Rivers during an ugly loss to the Toronto Raptors. The rookie took all of it in and remembered it for the next game, a Sunday afternoon match up against the Chicago Bulls.
Im not really the type to get down on myself if the coach yells at you or anything like that, he told CSNNE.com prior to the Celtics 95-91 win. Youve just got to take it and learn from it, and the next time youve just got to do better. Hopefully thats the case.
It was indeed the case on Sunday. With Brandon Bass (knee) and Jermaine ONeal (shoulder) out of the lineup, Rivers turned to Johnson for major minutes. He delivered.
Johnson scored 12 points off of 6-for-13 shooting in 33 minutes, a career high in scoring, field goals made, and playing time. He also added four rebounds, two steals, a block, and an assist. The long, athletic forward was part of the Celtics fast break game too, in which they outscored the Bulls 33-7.
Rivers liked what he saw from the rookie and wants to see it on a more frequent basis. Johnson entered the afternoon averaging 3.1 points and 1.0 rebounds in 5.4 minutes per game.
Hes got to keep doing it, said Rivers. One game doesnt make a star. One season doesnt make a star. So youve just got to keep doing it and hes got to do it consistently. He will, like I keep saying. Hes a great kid and he wants to do it. Hes young and hes still learning focus and all that. But hes a good player.
Being ready on a moments notice is part of Johnsons transition to the NBA. His place in the rotation can change on any given night due to injuries and late scratches.
Over the previous three games, he played less than eight minutes in Fridays loss to the Raptors (2 points, 1 rebound), did not play in Thursdays loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, and was on the court for less than two minutes on Tuesday in a win over the Charlotte Bobcats.
He has to stay prepared all while still learning the Celtics system. Johnson keeps a consistent routine -- something he picked up from his veteran teammates -- and studies up on the playbook when hes not in the gym.
I definitely dont have the playbook down like I need to, so I try to study it quite a bit. Did a little bit today. I need to keep at it to know it like the back of my hand, he said. Its a job so at the end of the day, youve got to do whatever youve got to do to be fully prepared to go out there. Thats what I have to continue to work on.
With each game, Johnson feels more comfortable on the court. He is finding the balance between playing with his instincts and playing within the Celtics system.
I would say its about half and half, he said. Its a lot of mental stuff -- defensive assignments, knowing all the offensive plays -- but at the same time you have to let your instincts take control and just be ready to play. In a split second youve got to make a play on the ball and or block a shot.
Sundays nationally-televised performance was a confidence booster for Johnson.When he checked out of the game, he was met with a standing ovation from a handful of fans. It was a different reception than Friday night, one that he took with him into the game.
I thought about it a lot, he said of the loss to the Raptors. I think it was just one of those things where I was like, When I do get the opportunity, I have to be ready. Today I was like, Man, Ive got to play well if I do get the opportunity. I just tried to focus on the things I was good at.