Chris Johnson, who started the year in the D-League and has signed two straight 10 day contracts with the Celtics has been a bit of a revelation.
In just 7 games, he has more points (61) than we got out of Keith Bogans (12) and MarShon Brooks (31) combined. He has no fear when taking the three point shot and he's just been a solid all around pick up. The coaching staff loves him, the fans love him, his teammates want to see him stick around.
So why is there even any talk about letting this kid go? Follow the money (and the trade deadline) to find out.
Note: His 2nd 10 day deal expires tomorrow night at midnight so that is the de-facto deadline for signing him for the rest of the season before he becomes a free agent.
NBA rules do not allow a player to sign more than two 10-day deals with the same team in a given season, so the Celts must either ink him to a guaranteed contract for the remainder of this season or set him free in the open waters of the NBA market — where, after his strong showing here, there are an increased number of sharks.
"We have not talked about it in finality, the final details," Stevens said after practice Tuesday at the Celtics facility in Waltham. "But I do know that it comes down to, it will be a decision of, can we afford to do it from a management, cap management and all that stuff standpoint that I don’t really understand the exact details of. If we decide not to re-sign him, it won’t be because of anything that would be basketball related from the standpoint of his performance. I think every one of us would love to have him in the program for all that he’s meant at this point in time. Just in the last (18) days, he’s been fantastic."
I don't think the salary is so much of a problem as the roster spot is. I'm pretty sure they have room under the cap to sign him to a minimum contract. Perhaps even one of those multi-year, non-guaranteed contracts like they gave to Shavlik Randolph a year ago.
What they don't want to do is lock themselves into something that will prevent or hinder a deal they'd like to do at the trade deadline. For example, if there's a deal that only works if the Celtics take back more players than we are sending out (for salary matching purposes), then roster spots become very important - even if you were intending to waive one or two of the players as soon as the trade is made official.
The Celtics could, in theory, lay out the groundwork for a deal with Chris Johnson that they'd be ready to put into place on Feb. 21st (the day after the trade deadline) provided they have a roster spot available. However, there would be nothing binding and Johnson would be free to sign with whomever he wanted - and chances are very good that someone would want him based on his solid play the last few weeks.
So will he stay or will he go? That is up to the Celtics management. It will be interesting to see how willing they are to keep a guy that helps them on the court. If they don't, that might be an early indication that the Celtics are serious about making moves at the deadline.
Either way, it is nice to see a guy get a shot and make the most of that opportunity. If he doesn't get a deal to stay here, I'll be happy for him when he gets a contract with someone else.