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August 6, 2012

'A new stage'

Didn't take long for JaJuan Johnson to learn the NBA is all about business.

He'd tried to grasp that early on. But it's one thing to say and another to experience: A life change coming from someone else's decision.

It's reality now for Johnson, the former Purdue All-American, after being traded from Boston in June after his rookie season to Houston. Though Johnson didn't play much in his first year with the Celtics, he insists it was an enriching year, learning from future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett and getting introduced to the fast-paced life of a professional.

Now, he'll just have to learn the ropes again in a new city with new teammates and new bosses.

Apparently, the powers-that-be in Houston wanted Johnson enough to get him in a trade for Courtney Lee.

"It wasn't a bad feeling," Johnson said of learning of the trade. "Obviously, it's a new stage in my life. The biggest thing I'll miss about Boston is my teammates, the locker room. I don't think it can get too much better than that. Other than that, I'm happy about my new opportunity."

Many assume that opportunity will come in Houston, where Johnson jetted off to the day after the trade to tour the facilities and get a physical.

But when asked about the internet rumor that claimed Johnson would request his own trade before actually playing in Houston, he said: "My plan is to attend the Rockets (camp). Obviously a lot of things can happen within a month and a half. But I'm happy about playing with the Rockets. If it's somewhere else, then it's somewhere else. But right now it's the Rockets, and I'm happy to have an opportunity to play with them."

Houston's roster appears loaded with young big men, including Kentucky's duo of Patrick Patterson and Terrence Jones and Florida's Chandler Parsons. Still, Johnson said he thinks that provides more opportunity for playing time than what he left in Boston.

With the Celtics, Johnson played sparingly, seeing action in 36 of the team's 66 games and not dressing for most of the playoffs. He averaged 3.2 points and 1.6 rebounds.

"Going through it, it's definitely harder just because it's actually happening to you," he said of sitting on the bench. "But it's one of those things where with our team, all those guys' age and experience, a lot of time experience is going to come out on top."

With more playing time in the NBA Summer Leagues in Orlando and Las Vegas, he averaged 8.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in seven games with the Celtics before being traded.

He's eager to prove that he can be a player worthy of minutes, regardless of the franchise.

For now, though, his plan is to work out in Santa Barbara for the next six weeks until the start of camp.

"I'm definitely excited about the opportunity I have in front of me," he said.




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