Johnson Stabilizes C's with Upbeat Personality

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

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NEW ORLEANS – You’ve watched Amir Johnson grab rebounds. You’ve seen him drain jump hooks in the paint. But you haven’t been able to get to know him as a person.

Johnson signed with the Celtics this summer on a multi-year deal. Boston was excited to acquire him, while Toronto was sad to lose him.

Those two very different feelings arose for the very same reasons: Johnson is a heck of a player, but he’s also a heck of a person.

“I think his biggest area of consistency is just his personality,” Brad Stevens said at Sunday afternoon’s practice in New Orleans. “He’s a really vibrant guy. He walks into the breakfast room smiling. He walks onto the plane smiling.

“He’s just an energy-raiser,” the coach continued. “Those guys are really important to have on your team.”

Guys like Johnson are never more important than the moments following a loss.

Players get down. Frustrations arise. It happens on a nightly basis throughout a long, 82-game schedule.

Johnson, in his 11th NBA season, has found that he is a natural stabilizing force during both good times and in bad.

“That’s something I did with that Toronto team: try to be that positive guy even when guys are down,” Johnson told reporters. “Just try to be that guy: uplifting, even if it’s just saying a joke or whatever it is.”

Following a loss, or even a win for that matter, Johnson can always be heard cracking jokes in the locker room, on the team plane or on the team bus. He makes a habit of punching up every team member, be it a teammate or a front office member, as he walks past them.

He does this not as a show. He does it out of instinct.

“I guess it’s just me as a person. That’s how I am – always positive,” he told Celtics.com. “I’ve been taught that from my parents and from my grandmother: always stay humble, always stay positive. That’s just my attitude.”

Johnson added that he carries such an attitude onto the floor each and every night. He plays hard and with constant energy, which had led him to a productive first season in green and white.

The 6-foot-9 forward is currently averaging 7.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as Boston’s starting power forward. He’s fresh off of his second double-double of the season and has become the team’s go-to defender down low against elite talents on the other side of the ball.

Saturday night, Johnson was tasked with defending LaMarcus Aldridge. Monday night, he’ll be matched up with Anthony Davis. Those are All-NBA caliber players, yet the C’s believe that Johnson, with his energy, length and athleticism, can slow them down.

“I think that’s why he’s so valuable,” said Stevens. “That’s why he’s such an important part of our team, is he gives us at least an ability to make those guys earn their points.”

Johnson did exactly that Saturday night in San Antonio, and he’s expected to do the same Monday night in New Orleans.

Rest assured that he’ll be doing it all with a smile, regardless of the score. That’s just who he is, and why the Celtics are so excited to have him on board.