Celtics

Celtics

WALTHAM, Mass. – Brad Stevens is somewhat reluctant to heap too much praise on players this early in training camp.

But it only took a 10-minute scrimmage before he had seen enough to feel even better about the team’s prized offseason signing – Amir Johnson.

The Celtics signed the 6-foot-10 veteran to a two-year, $24 million deal with the second season being a team option.

“I thought he was terrific defensively in a system he hasn’t played in yet,” Stevens said on Sunday. “Largely because he played with a motor regardless if he made mistakes or not. And offensively, he’s just a real good team player.”

Johnson says that comes from having been in the league for 10 years and learning from all sorts of players with varying strengths and skills.

“It takes years of being in the NBA, knowing where to be in the right spot,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “It’s definitely something I can bring to the team, especially by talking. It takes years and effort but I do think I can bring that to the table.”

Although Johnson doesn’t fit the bill as a superstar player, he comes from a Toronto program that seemed to take off shortly after his arrival.

Having won just one Atlantic Division title prior to his arrival in 2009, the Raptors won back-to-back division titles in 2014 and 2015.

Several players have stood out, but Johnson was often seen as the unifying factor in the team’s success.

“He’s one of those glue guys that you hear about,” his former coach Dwayne Casey, told CSNNE.com earlier. “He’ll definitely be missed.”

That’s in part why he’s not overly concerned about leaving a Raptors squad that was among the top teams in the East, for a Boston Celtics team that’s still to some degree rebuilding.

“I look at this team as our Toronto team two years ago,” Johnson said. “We were in a rebuilding stage; finally made the playoffs, made some noise just like the Celtics … made the playoffs. It’s going to take some time. We have a lot of goals to reach.”

And chief among those goals will be to win more than they did last season when they finished with a 40-42 regular season record which was good enough to get them to the playoffs as the 7th seed.

“There’s little things that go into winning that you try to talk about but don’t get noticed or talked about enough,” Stevens said. “The biggest thing … when we looked at our bigs at that time and certainly now, Amir fits with all of them. And being able to fit next to somebody is a big part of this.”