Friday, October 30, 2015

Amir Johnson - Ready to take on Raptors

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Celtics forward Amir Johnson had quite the debut in Wednesday night's 112-95 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. In 20 minutes off the bench the veteran finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds (3 offensive) and 2 blocks at the TD Garden. It's fair to say that the C's first free agent signee this past July is warming up to his new home in Boston.

Now comes the tough part for Johnson as he prepares to face his former team on Friday night, the Toronto Raptors. His friends sort of speak are in Boston for an early season Atlantic Division showdown, and despite playing six-years up north, this is still another game the big man wants to win with his new Celtic teammates.

"I see those guys over the summer all the time. We're not just [former] teammates, we're friends at the same time. It's not going to be strange," Johnson said. "We've had a lot of battles together. One thing I really want to do is go out and get this win." [ESPN Boston]

Johnson, who says the Raptors did contact him over the summer but in the end decided to go in another direction, will never forget what he helped accomplish during his time in Toronto. Despite the early first round playoff exits the last two seasons (Nets, and Wizards), the Raptors did win two back-to-back division titles but could never get over the hump or Paul Pierce for that matter (sorry, couldn't resists) in the postseason.

"Every team goes through their ups and downs," Johnson said. "I just think the organization wanted to make some changes, switch it up and see what they can do different. But we accomplished a lot together, winning our [division] two years -- especially since our franchise player, Chris Bosh, left [after the 2009-10 season]. We kind of grew as a team." [ESPN Boston]

This time around Johnson might be one of the missing pieces needed for this growing playoff team here in Boston. If there's any indications of what's to come after a stellar performance in Wednesday's season opener (+16 plus/minus for the C's), where the pick in role with Isaiah Thomas worked like an well-oiled machine, then the Celtics faithful are in for a great ride for he next 81-games.

"[Johnson is] an active screener. He’s not just a big body. He runs and seeks out screens. He rolls to the rim quick, and you saw that he has a variety of finishes at the rim," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "He’s a good athlete at the rim. I’m not surprised [at his chemistry with Thomas]. Guys like that, there’s a reason he impacts winning. It’s not always easy to tell. But there’s a reason he does. And I thought he was really good [Wednesday] night. I thought he did a ton for us, protecting the rim, finishing, rolling, making a big shot when we were only up five. He had a good night." [ESPN Boston]

For Johnson's new coaches and teammates sake, they hope this continues especially each time they face the Raptors beginning tonight. His focus on defense and of course his familiarity with Toronto's offense are key assets as both teams will be battling for that division crown all season.

"My main thing is defense first, so anything I can do to protect the basket or get myself going, I usually start it on defense," Johnson said. "That's my goal." [ESPN Boston]

Celtics tip-off against the Raptors at 7:30 PM EST on Comcast Sports Net New England

Joel Pavón
Follow us on Twitter:@CausewayStreet 

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