Trio of New Celtics Make a Great Impression

WALTHAM, Mass. – It took four days, but the Celtics were finally able to play an actual basketball game during today’s practice.

Yes, the team had already held three days of practice prior to Monday afternoon, but there simply weren’t enough players available to hold a five-on-five scrimmage. That all changed today, because the cavalry has finally arrived.

When the shades lifted at the practice facility in Waltham, Mass., the media saw a court full of players rather than one that was sparse. Sixteen players were on the floor, with Jeff Green (physical) being the one player missing. He’s expected to join the team on the court in the next few days.

In the meantime, the Celtics’ 2011 draft picks and new acquisitions finally have the opportunity to participate on the floor and learn the team’s schemes. With that door finally open, several new Celtics have sprinted out of the corridor and immediately caught Doc Rivers’ attention.

The first name to roll off of Rivers’ tongue was Brandon Bass, who is finally a member of the team after hanging in limbo for a few days. Boston’s trade with Orlando, which sent Glen Davis and Von Wafer down to Florida, took several days to be completed, but now that it’s official Rivers can finally see Bass’ skill set in person. And the head coach definitely likes that skill set.

“I like that he can score, number one, before anything else,” Rivers said of Bass. “I just thought he was one of those guys there that can score. Great pick-and-pop player. Not bad in iso situations away from the basket. We need that coming off the bench. I like that he just plays hard; low maintenance, just plays hard every night.”

Bass told reporters that he was shocked when he first heard about the trade, but quickly realized that he is now in position to challenge for a championship alongside several future Hall of Famers within the most historic franchise in the sport.

As he put it, “Once it settled in I was happy, grateful that I’m on a great team with great pride.’

Although Bass was the player everyone wanted to hear about, Rivers couldn’t help himself from gushing about his two rookies, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore. Both of those players made a lasting impression despite participating in their very first NBA practice.

Johnson was Boston’s first-round pick and was a decorated player at Purdue. His list of accolades rivals any player who came out of college last year: consensus First-Team AP All-American, Big Ten Player of the Year, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, First-Team All-Big Ten, and Big Ten All-Defensive Team.

The 6-foot-10 big man averaged 20.6 PPG during his senior season, and it sounded as if he brought that scoring touch along with him to practice today.

“JaJuan shot the heck out of the ball today,” Rivers said with a smile.

Johnson also thinks that he’ll be able to make an impact within Boston’s defensive system sooner rather than later thanks to the defensive philosophy he learned at Purdue.

“The biggest thing is just the terms, everything else is actually kind of similar,” Johnson said of his defensive adjustments. “It’s kind of good to have a defensive background coming from college and four years of that experience of playing really hard defense.”

The initial feedback about Johnson was good news for Celtics fans, but even better news came through about his collegiate teammate, Moore. The Celtics grabbed Moore late in the second round, but he practiced today as if he was a seasoned veteran.

“E’Twaun was one of the best players in the gym today, forget being a rookie,” said Rivers. “You all didn’t see the two scrimmages, but the white (team) won both scrimmages and he carried the games. He made the game-winning shot in the second one and just really ran the show in the first one.”

Moore played overseas during the lockout and impressed the Celtics with his performance. He pulled off a move that not many Americans can, particularly if they’re just 22 years old.

Said Rivers, “What was surprising with E’Twaun overseas was it’s rare that an American player goes over there and steps in and takes over the starting job of a veteran European player, especially if that American is a rookie.”

Interestingly enough, Moore isn’t the only second-round pick that joined the team today. Bass was also chosen in the second round, 33rd overall, out of LSU by the New Orleans Hornets. He has since worked himself into a player the Celtics now view as a critical piece to their season, and he thinks Moore can eventually do the same if he puts in the time.

“I did things that I knew other players didn’t want to do and I knew I didn’t even really want to do,” Bass said, explaining how he turned himself into the player that he is now. “Just working extra hard, putting extra time in the gym, and making basketball your life.”

Each of these three freshly minted Celtics drew rave reviews today, but today’s performance won’t be remembered a couple of weeks from now. With players like Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce surrounding the trio every day, there’s no doubt that the necessary work will be put in to improve.

Despite the work that they’ll need to put in over the next four months, Day 1 will undoubtedly be memorable for Bass, Johnson and Moore, even if it was actually Day 4 for almost everybody else.