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Janning’s round trip brings him to Celtics

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / July 6, 2010

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ORLANDO, Fla. — The best way to describe Matt Janning’s past few weeks would be “fluid.’’

He left Northeastern as one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the program and immediately entered the NBA rat race, a face in the crowd of players trying to squeeze their way into the league whatever way they can.

All Janning could do was run with it. Over the course of two weeks leading up to the draft, the guard worked out for six teams — Boston, New York, Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Dallas, and Memphis.

“I’d fly out, then I’d come back to Boston for a couple days and then the next day my agent would say, ‘You’ve got to hop on a flight tomorrow morning,’ ’’ he said. “It was kind of crazy.’’

“It’s a lot of travel. It kind of gets old, but it’s something you’ve got to do if you want to play at this level. It’s been really exciting, working out for all these different teams and going to all these different cities and just seeing what everyone’s got to offer. It’s really fun so far.’’

He went undrafted, and from that point he went wherever the process took him. He spent four days in Oklahoma City’s minicamp under the assumption he’d be on the Thunder’s summer league roster. But even that was up in the air.

“I was going to go to summer league with them,’’ he said. “They ended up having a lot of guys. They bring a lot of NBA guys down that are in their rotation. Eric Maynor. James Harden. Guys like that.’’

Janning landed in Boston. Celtics summer league coach Austin Ainge, who put the team together along with Ryan McDonough and Leo Papile, had seen Janning on tape last season and then in the predraft workout.

“The best thing Matt has is his IQ,’’ Ainge said. “He’s a great passer. He really knows how to find the open guy and make the right decision every time. He’s more athletic than people give him credit for. He’s used to having the ball in his hands. They ran a lot of plays for him last year in the games I watched. He’s pretty good.’’

He views ending up in Boston’s summer camp as more of a break than a last-second audible. Trying to catch on in the league, the most important thing is simply being seen.

“Coming here gives me an opportunity to play probably a few more minutes than I would have with [the Thunder],’’ Janning said. “Summer league’s just about an opportunity to play. The Celtics are giving me that opportunity.’’

Coincidentally, the Celtics yesterday opened up their summer league schedule against the Thunder. Being in their camp for four days gave Janning reason to feel confident. He’s also held his own among the Celtics rookie free agents.

“I know what they’re coming with a little bit, so there’s a comfort level there,’’ Janning said. “As far as playing with these guys, we’re all jelling pretty well together. The chemistry seems pretty good. I think we’ll be fine.’’

But the next few weeks will be as unpredictable as the past few weeks. He’ll go game-to-game with the Celtics for the rest of this week, then jet to the Las Vegas summer league next week to play with the Suns, jumping whatever hurdles he needs to in order to chase the dream.

“That’s really all you can do at this point,’’ Janning said. “There’s no guarantees. There’s nothing like that. You’ve just got to come down here and play. Whoever asks you to step on the floor and play for them, you’ve got to do it.’’

Whether there will be a payoff is still uncertain, but Ainge said he wouldn’t be surprised if Janning landed in someone’s training camp this fall.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Matt had some options,’’ Ainge said. “He’s playing in the Vegas summer league after this and if he shows what he’s capable of, I wouldn’t be surprised if some teams let him come and fight for it in training camp.’’

After Vegas, Janning will fly back to Boston to work out with the trainers at Northeastern.

“I’ll just see what happens,’’ Janning said. “Hopefully, I’ll get a few invites. You really don’t know what to expect coming in. You really don’t know what to expect coming out. You’ve just got to come out and play hard every chance you get.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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