WALTHAM, Mass. -- Chris Johnson can finally unpack.
The Boston Celtics informed Johnson Thursday, hours before his second 10-day contract is set to expire, that they plan to retain him for the remainder of the season.
Johnson, a 23-year-old swingman, averaged 7.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1 steal in 21.5 minutes per game in eight appearances over his two 10-day contracts with the team. Despite a need to maintain salary-cap and roster flexibility in advance of the Feb. 20 trade deadline, Boston is committing to Johnson, and that's a sign of just how much they like him.
Johnson's prorated deal will cost the Celtics roughly $320,000 (he made about $92,800 on his two 10-day pacts) and is likely to include at least one nonguaranteed future season that will allow Boston to proceed with a goal of developing him, but also making him a useful trade asset if roster space fills up over the summer.
Boston will still have one open roster spot and, by our rough calculations, a little less than $1 million in wiggle room to navigate the trade deadline (which could help the team take on salary or bodies in order to help facilitate a deal).
For his part, Johnson offered thanks to the entire Celtics organization for keeping him around.
"I just have to give thanks to Danny Ainge for bringing me in and giving me the opportunity," said Johnson. "Brad Stevens for giving me the opportunity to play when guys were injured. And my teammates for just giving me confidence."
With his final 10-day contract winding down, Johnson got votes of confidence from teammates, including captain Rajon Rondo. Now that Johnson has the security of a job for the rest of the season, he is eager to prove again that he belongs at this level.
Johnson spent eight games with the Memphis Grizzlies on two 10-day contracts last season, but he was not retained for the remainder of the season. He camped with the Brooklyn Nets, gushing about what he learned from veterans like Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson.
Now Johnson has his first honest-to-goodness, long-term NBA security, and coach Brad Stevens hopes he maximizes it as he did when on temporary deals.
"To me, the greatest stories in sports start with a chip on your shoulder," said Stevens. "[Johnson has] got an automatic chip. Now the key is, as you get extended opportunities, is to keep the chip. To keep hungry. That’s another human-nature test. That’s the next one coming for guys like that. I think it’s a great story, but it’s not like it’s some miracle. It’s the result of hard work, doing the right things, not being scared of the moment, taking advantage of opportunities, those type of things."
Johnson's first call after getting news that he'd be sticking around?
"I called my mom," said Johnson. "I gave her a call, just to let her know about the news, and she was pretty excited, too."