Friday, June 24, 2011

Boston Celtics

A kid who almost was cut from his middle school basketball team now can tell the world that he is a first-round draft choice in the NBA.
Flanked by his mother, Rhonda Curlin, and his agent, Kevin Bradbury, Purdue All-American JaJuan Johnson watched from a third-floor suite at the Westin Hotel as he was selected 27th Thursday night by the New Jersey Nets and then traded immediately to the Boston Celtics.
When the moment finally arrived, the 6-10 Johnson acknowledged there were tears.
"It wasn't too bad sitting, but the biggest thing was getting pretty emotional when my name got called," Johnson said. "All that hard work paid off for me. I knew that the Celtics were really interested in me, and now I'm just happy to have the opportunity to play for them.
"I'm definitely eager to get started. I'm so happy to have the opportunity to play some basketball again. I definitely understand that this is my opportunity of a lifetime. I'm so glad I'm going to be able to do this."
The Celtics later took Johnson's Purdue teammate, guard E'Twaun Moore, with the 55th overall pick.
Johnson, who averaged 20.5 points and 8.6 rebounds as a Purdue senior, always admired the tradition-rich Celtics, whose past stars include Bill Russell, Larry Bird and John Havlicek.
"I love that I'm going to Boston," Johnson said. "It's great to be able to learn from all their veteran guys (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen). You have so many NBA All-Stars on that team. Just to be able to play with a great point guard like (Rajon) Rondo and all those guys truly is a blessing.
"It's a huge lift off my shoulder. I hugged my mom right away. She was sitting right next to me. I'm so happy that I'm just at a loss for words right now."
"It was very nerve-racking," Curlin said. "I didn't know when he was going to be called, and where he was going to be called to. I knew he was going to get called, but we were just waiting."
Bradbury predicted that Boston might be the team to pick Johnson.
"Going into the draft, we had a pretty good feel that our range was maybe somewhere in the 20s," Bradbury said. "In talking before the draft, I knew Boston was real high on him. It was just a matter if everything fell together the right way for JaJuan.
"He not only can soak in the knowledge in Boston, he is the type of player they are looking for to come in and play right away. They have some guys that are getting older. Part of the reason Boston wanted him is that he can come in and contribute offensively and defensively right away."
Johnson is the first Boilermaker selected in the NBA draft's first round since 1994, when the Milwaukee Bucks used the first overall pick to take Glenn Robinson.
Johnson is the first Boilermaker drafted since Carl Landry was taken in the second round in 2007.