So, originally, the plan was for Matt Janning to play with the Celtics this afternoon, then hop on an 8 p.m. flight to Las Vegas where he’d join the Phoenix Suns.
But after 25 minutes, 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a block that didn’t show up in the box score, Janning’s plan changed.
Janning led the Celtics to their first win this week, pounding the Bobcats 92-71. He knocked down 8 of his 15 shots, looking more than comfortable with the ball in his hands, running the point, finding shots for himself and others just as he did in his four years at Northeastern.
Celtics president Danny Ainge met him as he walked off the floor, knowing full well that Janning had to be in Las Vegas tonight.
He said, “You’ve got a good situation out here that you’re looking at.”
“So, I’ve got to talk to my agent to figure some things out,” Janning said. “Maybe finish the week here and then get down there. I’ve got a few hours to figure it out. It’s not bad, definitely.”
After playing 11 minutes against Oklahoma City, Janning didn’t see the floor last night against the Sixers. But today Celtics summer coach Austin Ainge put the ball in his hands and let him play.
“You’ve just got to kind of go with it,” Janning said. “They throw me in the game, they tell me to play the one. I’m comfortable going in there playing on the ball, spraying the ball around and finding guys. It’s another good position to be in too. Just getting minutes. That’s the only thing that matters out here.”
He impressed both Ainges.
“Honestly, Matt played unbelievable,” Austin Ainge said. “He was doing everything, he even got a blocked shot. They didn’t give it to him, but he got it.”
Janning, No. 4 on Northeastern’s all-time scoring list, has always been unsuspecting on the floor. But he can handle the ball as well as he can shoot it, and if you let him, he will throw it down, the way he did in the third quarter off a Jaycee Carroll feed.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize I’m athletic like I am and can handle the ball,” Janning said. “It’s a little deceptive. But it’s all a part of the game. Once they see me out there, it’s kind of like, “Wow.” You’ve just to go out there and keep playing. People don’t expect me to be able to come out there and dunk. It’s a little deceptive.
Danny Ainge’s take as the Celtics were practicing before the start of the league, was that Janning did several things at a decent level, both a positive and a negative when you’re fighting to make an impression.
When you’re a player that does everything equally well, Ainge said, “the shooting has to be better or the defense has to be better or you have to have something to hang your hat on. So I think that he’s a young kid and if he plays like he did today he’s got a bright future.”
As for the conversation he had with Janning on the way off the floor, Danny Ainge said, “I’ll leave that up to him and his agent. You’ve got to do what’s best for the kid.”
Janning said it came out of nowhere. Now he has a decision to make.
“I wasn’t expecting him to ask me to stay and stuff like that,” he said. “But it’s just a testament to how I played today. It’s a whirlwind. You never know what’s going to happen when you come out here. You could play your best game and nothing might happen, but that’s why you come out here to play. Hopefully, something might happen, you get a few calls and you just go from there.”
HARANGODY STICHED UP
Fighting for an offensive rebound, Luke Harangody caught an elbow to the face from Alexis Ajinca and hit the floor near the Celtics’ free throw line. He left the game immediately after, needing three stitches in his left cheek. He returned and finished with 12 points in 20 minutes, saying after the game that he was fine.
While he was out, though, former Michigan standout DeShawn Sims was able to make an impression didn’t hesitate to capitalize on the opportunity to play, scoring 18 points in 20 minutes.
“Luke had to go get stitches, and DeShawn’s a great player, we’ve known,” Austin Ainge said. “Luke’s our draft pick. We’ve got to get him some minutes. But Deshawns a good player, and he just needed an opportunity.”
Sims was nothing if he wasn’t efficient, making good on 8 of 11 shots.
“DeShawn, he’s a natural scorer,” Danny Ainge said. “He has a great knack for scoring the basketball. He’s a terrific shooter for scoring the ball. He had a terrific game the second half today. He had an opportunity and he stepped in, did what he did and made shots.”
He spent the previous two games, trying to make an impression by showing that he could defend bigger players and also simply maintaining a high energy level. But in this environment, Sims had to take advantage of the opportunity however it came.
“It’s hard,” Sims said. “It’s a bunch of us competing for a job. You always want to show what you can do and how great you can do it. It’s a grey area between showing that and doing too much. With time comes rhythm and with Luke going out, it gave me an opportunity to step up.”