Johnson is itching to find his niche
ORLANDO – JaJuan Johnson was soaring toward the basket for a dunk, looking for a thunderous finish as the Celtics rallied Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets in their second game of the Orlando Summer League.
A Brooklyn defender undercut Johnson and he landed hard on the floor after being knocked horizontally. After a few moments of concern, Johnson popped back up and attempted the free throws. He showed no aftereffects, and his campaign to claim more minutes in his second season continues.
Johnson was more aggressive against Brooklyn than in the opener vs. Oklahoma City. The former first-round pick finished with 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots in the 82-73 victory over the Nets.
The Celtics, just as they did in the regular season, battled offensive inconsistency, scoring 7 points in the second quarter and then exploding for 51 in the second half as they rallied from a 17-point deficit to win. Johnson is trying to secure more minutes following a lost rookie season in which he was inactive during the playoffs.
“It’s an opportunity to play,” he said of summer league. “It was hard last season and [I just want to] get better every game and keep improving. In the first game I think the adrenaline was flowing a lot. I was running like crazy and at halftime I was exhausted. Today I felt a lot better. I think tomorrow I’ll feel even better running up and down the floor.”
The Celtics want Johnson to play mostly power forward and occasionally small forward, but his lack of girth puts him at a disadvantage in the paint. While he is comfortable with his perimeter jumper, Johnson is still trying to find a niche, even with the summer league team. Jared Sullinger and E’Twaun Moore have seized the scoring responsibility and Johnson is left trying to find other ways to contribute.
“We know he can pick and pop and shoot the ball, we just want him to do other things besides scoring,” summer league coach Tyronn Lue said. “Doing the right coverage on defense, blocking shots, running the floor, getting rebounds, talking on defense. He can score the ball, but we want to see him do other things if he is not scoring the ball.”
The clock will begin ticking Wednesday on the Trail Blazers to match the offer sheet from the Timberwolves for Nicolas Batum. That reported $45 million offer could determine whether Minnesota makes a bid for center Greg Stiemsma, who is still waiting for an offer from a team other than the Celtics.
The Celtics have the right to match any offer to Stiemsma but may not have the salary cap space if he is offered more than $2 million per season. The Trail Blazers have until Saturday to match the offer, but Batum told NBA.com he wants to play with Minnesota.
The Heat will introduce Ray Allen to the media Wednesday afternoon at AmericanAirlines Arena, Allen’s first public comments since accepting a two-year deal with Miami. Allen also may have played a part in the recruitment of former Seattle Sonics teammate Rashard Lewis, who Tuesday committed to play in Miami and also will be introduced by the team Wednesday. Once Allen signs his mini-mid-level exception, there is no chance for a sign-and-trade between the Celtics and Heat that may have given Boston some return for losing Allen. Celtics coach Doc Rivers doubted the sides would agree on a deal that would likely have given Allen more money . . . Avery Bradley had successful surgery to stabilize his right shoulder on Tuesday at New England Baptist.