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Celtics’ Johnson working out, and running around

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / December 5, 2011
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WALTHAM - JaJuan Johnson told himself after the Celtics took him in the first round of the draft last June that he wouldn’t go and live back home in Indiana.

“Then when the lockout hit, I was back home,’’ he said.

His mother, Rhonda Curlin, isn’t the type to have a problem with it. They were so close that Johnson would call and text almost daily while he was at Purdue.

But as the NBA lockout dragged on - ultimately to 149 days - they both were ready for the ball to start bouncing again.

Who was more ready?

“Definitely me,’’ Johnson said. “But my mom, I think she was ready for me to get out of there, too. She said the house gets more messy and everything. So it was a mutual thing. It was nice being back home, but I was definitely ready to leave.’’

With players permitted to use their teams’ practice facilities Thursday, Johnson trickled in over the weekend to start his rookie season.

He tied up some loose ends back home, the biggest the ceremony at Purdue Tuesday during which the Boilermakers retired his jersey.

Things went from 0 to 60 in a blink once the forward got word that the lockout was over.

“Everything was going in slow motion, it seemed like, prior to that, then once the lockout ended everything sped up,’’ he said. “You’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to get to Boston. Do I leave my car here?’ Packing, where to live. All that stuff. It’s just all so fast once the lockout’s over.’’

An early riser since his college days, Johnson was working out at the Celtics’ practice facility at 8:30 Saturday morning.

“I’m definitely anxious to get it started,’’ he said. “It was a long time coming. I knew the lockout would probably happen, but this much downtime, I’m not used to. I didn’t have anything really to do other than just work on your game.’’

Over the summer, he talked to Jermaine O’Neal, who has a home in Indiana, and worked out with Rajon Rondo for a week in Kentucky, getting a feel for the point guard’s game.

“We had some good runs, pickup ball,’’ Johnson said. “But the biggest thing I learned is what [Rondo] does on the pick and roll, kind of got a feel for that, or at least got introduced to it, because really, I’m behind obviously just from the lockout standpoint.

“But hopefully when we actually can get everybody together I can try to get some of that stuff pretty fast.’’

No summer league and a crash-course training camp will force Johnson to learn quickly.

“There’s going to be times where I’m going to have to put in even more time than the other players, watch film, and just do whatever I can to get caught up,’’ he said.

It’s still hitting him, wearing team apparel for the first time, getting shots up under the real banners. It’ll start to truly sink in, he said, when the Ray Allens, Paul Pierces, and Kevin Garnetts start coming through the doors.

“I grew up especially watching Kevin Garnett,’’ he said. “He was my favorite player growing up, so it’s kind of weird seeing somebody that you admire so much and you’re actually playing alongside him.’’

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

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