- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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JaJuan Johnson tries for a block against OKC's Cole Aldrich earlier this week at summer league.ORLANDO, Fla. -- Boston Celtics second-year forward JaJuan Johnson moved to a bench role for Wednesday's summer league tilt against the Indiana Pacers, a less-than-encouraging development for a player that hadn't yet put his best foot forward to open the summer slate.
But Johnson seems to be settling in despite the ups-and-downs on the court and, for the second straight day, finished stronger than he started. Johnson made a trio of fourth-quarter shots while chipping in 11 points, five rebounds, and two blocks in an 85-77 triumph over the Pacers at the Amway Center.
"Game by game, things seem to be getting better for me," said Johnson. "It's been a long time since I played up-and-down. It’s just one of those things, getting a feel for it -- just playing again, really. I’m not going to say it was a whole year, but in a way, it really was. I’m getting more comfortable with each game."
Johnson, Boston's top pick in the 2011 draft (27th overall), appeared in only 36 games last season, logging a mere 298 minutes of floor time. He spent much of the postseason inactive, stuck behind Sean Williams, the same player that took over his starting role on Wednesday.
The 23-year-old Johnson is still trying to carve out his role with the Celtics, still trying to find his position at the next level. His raw athleticism is tantalizingly obvious and there's no question he's got a nice face-up game. He showcased both attributes in the final six minutes of Wednesday's game, hitting a trio of shots (a dunk, a 16-foot turnaround, and a 17-foot fade-away), while mixing in a block and solid defensive play as Boston wrapped up its third win in as many days.
It had been a bit of a rough start to the summer for Johnson. He missed four of the five shots he put up in Monday's win over Oklahoma City and, after grabbing six rebounds in his first six-minute shift, hauled in just two more over the final 18 minutes (he finished with 3 points over 24:14). On Tuesday, he started to make some progress offensively, only to get up-ended going hard to the hoop in the final moments and crashed hard to the floor (he joked it was nothing a little ice couldn't fix).
Wednesday was his best game of the summer, but the Celtics still want to see more from him.
"I want him to do other things outside of scoring," said Celtics summer league coach Ty Lue. "Being in the right coverage on defense, blocking shots, running the floor, getting rebounds, talking on defense -- stuff like that. He can score the ball, but we want to see him do other things if he’s not scoring."
Johnson knows his athleticism is the key to getting -- and staying -- on the floor. This summer is key for showing the Celtics that he's progressed over the past year and that he's ready to push for a role on next year's team.
"It’s an opportunity to play," said Johnson. "It was hard last season, but this is a chance to just get better every game. Just improve each game, work on something, learn something from the last game, and just keep improving. And by the end of this, become an even better player."
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