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Johnson hoping that full season will elevate game

JaJuan Johnson rises up for the jumper against the Bulls Summer League team in Las Vegas. (credit: Alexander Young)
JaJuan Johnson rises up for the jumper against the Bulls Summer League team in Las Vegas. (credit: Alexander Young)

A while back, Doc Rivers called it a "lost season" for his rookies due to the nature of the NBA lockout and what it did in terms of the team practices and allowing the rookies to grow.

You won't find anybody arguing that -- including JaJuan Johnson himself.

"It was tough," Johnson admitted earlier this week. "You had to do a lot on your own. A lot of one-on-one's, ... Two-on-two. A lot of conditioning on your own. It was a lot of stuff you had to do on your own. A lot of preparation by yourself. Watching film and all that."

Johnson averaged just 8.3 minutes in only 36 games for Boston last season. He was nothing more than an afterthought for most of it, and never dressed for any of the C's postseason games.

He didn't sign with any teams overseas during the last offseason's lockout unlike his fellow rookie and Boilermaker E'Twaun Moore. There was no summer league last season either. For those reasons, Johnson simply never got any good burn on the court.

He is now, and the hope is that it's the kickstart his pro career needs. There's no complicated explanation for why summer league games help.

"Just playing," Johnson said. "Simple as that. Some more playing experience. I think it will definitely help me for the season, and ultimately that's what I'm trying to get better for."

The numbers (6.5 points, 8.5 rebounds) through two games in Las Vegas won't blow you away, but putting up gaudy numbers isn't part of the plan, and as C's summer league coach Ty Lue points out, summer league style of play isn't necessarily ideal for Johnson.

"JaJuan Johnson is a pick and pop player," Lue said earlier this week. "He can post. But in the summer league it's hard. If he's playing with [Rajon] Rondo, or KG, or Paul [Pierce], he's going to get open shots, pick and pops, he's going to get easy little duck ins ... in summer league it's kind of hard to look for him to score because he's not going to really do that during the regular season.

"Just want him to work on his defense, showing, getting back, second effort, stuff like that. Just got to get him better at that because that's what it's going to take for him to play this year coming up."

Johnson did grab 12 rebounds in the second game of Las Vegas Summer League. He also scored 17 points in a game against the Detroit Pistons during Orlando's summer league. This season, he'll get more of a chance to show his skills, whether it's now, in training camp, or during practices.

"I think the regular season will really just help my game, just playing against all the guys we have this year," Johnson said. "We have a lot of good bigs. It'll just be a good challenge and I'm looking forward to it."

Johnson and the rest of the Celtics summer league play the third game of their Vegas trip at 6:30 on Thursday against the Sacramento Kings. The game will be aired on CSN New England.

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