Celtics forward Chris Johnson was content in the Rio Grande Valley. Located at the southernmost tip of Texas, the temperature will hover around 80 degrees today. There are plenty of fruit stands and palm trees. And the living is relatively inexpensive down there, too.
In other words, there are worse places to call home while playing in the NBA’s D-League (South Dakota, anyone?).
But make no mistake, while Johnson may have enjoyed the area and his successful D-League team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, he had no grand plans of sticking around. Having tasted the NBA life for a short time last season with the Grizzlies, Johnson knew he wanted back in. That meant focusing on his job and keeping the right mindset – whether it be in Des Moines, Iowa, Tulsa, OKla., or Erie, Pa.
So just how easy is it to stay positive?
“It all depends on who you are and how you approach it,” Johnson told Metro Boston. “I think this year it was easy for me. I knew it was going to be a tough journey as far as traveling and stuff – which wasn’t bad – but I just always stayed to myself, had the music playing, just saying, ‘OK, just [have the] mindset that it’s going to be hard but you have to get through the adversity and hopefully good things come for you.'”
Good things did come for Johnson this season – a call from the Celtics – 2,200 miles northeast of the Rio Grande Valley.
Johnson signed a 10-day contract with the C’s and made such an impact that they signed him to another 10-day contract, of which he’s serving now. In six games for Boston, Johnson is averaging 9.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.2 steals, and 25.0 minutes per game. Those averages are double – and in some cases triple – from his first NBA season. He’s also significantly raised his 3-point field goal percentage from 33 percent to 41 percent.
If this keeps up, Johnson may need to consider purchasing snow tires.
“I feel like anytime you’re on the court you have something to prove, not just who’s got a contract or who doesn’t,” Johnson said. “I think every time you’re on the court you should give your best effort and give 100-percent.”
Not surprisingly, some of his teammates are calling for a season-long contract.
“Obviously it’s a good group of guys and good coaching staff,” Johnson said. “For me to get positive feedback from them says a lot, and hopefully it comes true.”
Assistant coach Walter McCarty told Metro Boston that when Johnson is on the court, his play rubs off on the team.
“I think it definitely does,” McCarty said. “When he’s in the game, I think we’re definitely more aggressive defensively. He hits the floor; he gets his hands on a lot of loose balls. He does a lot of things that really spark us.”
So has he played well enough to earn that contract for the rest of the season?
“Only he can answer that with his play,” McCarty said. “So we’ll see. Hopefully he can.”