Expect to see Amir Johnson changing things up this season.
When the Celtics went out and signed Al Horford, the laundry list of things he brought to the table were apparent, but one thing that flew under the radar was how he can help other players. And just over two weeks into camp, he’s already found a way to make fellow starter and big man Amir Johnson better.
“Chemistry is great, you know, it’s just me working around Al, Al working around me and we’re just putting it together,” the 29-year-old Johnson said.
The now-12-year pro noted that one dimension of his game that he is looking to improve is his 3-point shot. Last season, Johnson pulled from deep 43 times, executing on just 10 occasions for a 23.3 percent 3-point percentage, well below his career average of 31.5 percent from deep.
But with the addition of Horford, who can already do it all, it provides Johnson the flexibility to test his shot.
“Guys are starting to step out to that 3-pointer, and guys are definitely guarding outside the 3-point line, so it definitely changes in that aspect there,” Johnson said. “Every big man wants to step out and shoot the 3 and handle the ball, but now guys are working on it.”
With a player like Johnson implementing a 3-point shot more into his game, it can also have a less clear benefit. Regardless of if the shot gets knocked down, if Johnson is able to lure an equally-tall defender out to the perimeter, it gives a natural rim-protector like Horford a chance to isolate and grab the offensive board.
But whether Johnson is shooting or not, Horford’s versatility makes his life a lot easier.
“Al’s definitely one of those versatile bigs, able to pass the ball, step out and shoot the shot. For me it just kind of makes it easier just to work around him because you know he can the pass, you know he can make the shot,” Johnson said.
The synergy between the two is helping Johnson on the other end of the court as well.
For a 6-foot-9 forward, Johnson has tremendous pace and has oftentimes presented himself as a threat in transition. The problem last season, however, was he was called upon to be the primary rim protector, which in terms limited his opportunity to run the floor.
“It’s just good to know you have someone behind you that can definitely block the shot or grab the board, I’m able to run in transition while he’s able to take care of the glass,” Johnson said of Horford.
There’s also a level of comfort surrounding Johnson now that he’s spent a full season in Boston — and it shows. He’s been more vocal on the court and according to multiple players, in the locker room as well.
“I just think that comes with being more comfortable with the system, being around for a year,” said head coach Brad Stevens. “You kind of hear that and see that, a lot of people talk about the adjustment period. Usually when people come for the first time, they’re quiet because they’re trying to take it all in.”
Other Practice Notes
— Kelly Olynyk’s shoulder is going to be reevaluated later this week while the team is in New York by the doctor who performed the surgery.