BOSTON (CBS) – With Brandon Bass out the next two weeks with a knee injury, the Boston Celtics have some big shoes to fill off the bench.
Bass has been an integral part to the Celtics second unit, and the starters, earning his way onto the floor at the end of games. His contributions as a new-comer have been big off an unreliable Celtics bench, averaging 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in 29 minutes.
But now it will fall on two players to fill the void: Chris Wilcox and rookie JaJuan Johnson.
Both shined in Boston’s 95-91 win over the Bulls on Sunday, with Johnson showing in his 33 minutes he can make some noise if given the chance.
“I’m just happy to be able to contribute to the team. I think any rookie would just be happy to be out there, to say they were a part of a team win,” Johnson said after the victory, in which he racked up a career high 12 points and four rebounds.
The 33 minutes were a new career high for the rookie, who was taken 27th overall by New Jersey, then shipped to Boston for guard Marshon Brooks in a pre-arranged draft night deal. He shot five-for-13, and looked much more confident than in previous trips up and down the floor.
Head coach Doc Rivers knows that one performance doesn’t mean the first-rounder is destined to be a future All-Star, but he certainly likes what he saw from the 23-year-old.
“One game doesn’t make a star. One season doesn’t make a star. You just have to keep doing it and he has to keep doing it consistently,” Rivers said of Johnson running the court. “He’s a great kid. He’s young and he’s still learning, focused and all that. He’s a good player.”
Wilcox also played well in his first start of the season, in place of the injured Jermaine O’Neal, with 11 points and nine rebounds in 26 minutes.
“We are all here grinding together. We’re going to have guys that are going to be down and all we just have to do is pick up our energy and fill their shoes,” Wilcox said after the game.
Pushing the pace is key for the Boston, with point guard Rajon Rondo having one of his best games with 32 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds. Both Johnson and Wilcox were on the receiving end of alley-oop dunks in the fourth quarter from Rondo because of their hustle down the court.
“(Johnson) kind of caught on and got into it,” Rivers said of the fast pace. “After that, I thought his speed and Chris’ athleticism, both of them had a major impact.”
“You can get some easy buckets just by running,” said the rookie Johnson.
“It’s even better getting a reward, getting a dunk or something like that,” said Wilcox. “But when you get someone else open and they hit a three; that’s fun basketball.”
The Celtics need more of the same for the next two weeks until Bass returns, and it would certainly help if it continued after as well.