PHILADELPHIA — The Celtics have until Thursday to make a decision on the future of swingman Chris Johnson, who has sparkled since signing the first of two 10-day contracts with the club three weeks ago.
His second 10-day contract expires Thursday and the Celtics’ lone option if they want to retain Johnson is sign him for the remainder of the season. An NBA source said the team is still debating whether to keep Johnson. There is a question because the Celtics are precariously close to the luxury tax and don’t want to limit themselves salary-wise during the trade deadline with another guaranteed contract.
Johnson has etched a spot in the rotation, averaging 8.7 points and 3.1 rebounds in about 24 minutes per game entering Wednesday night’s 114-108 win over the 76ers. He had also converted 41.4 percent of his 3-point attempts.
“I’m a huge, huge fan,” coach Brad Stevens said of Johnson, who played 3 minutes and didn’t score against the Sixers. “The decision on Chris, that ultimately won’t be made by me but certainly I’ll know all about it, [and] now to me, I think very much we all would say it’s outside of basketball. Can you afford from the cap management standpoint to do that right now?
“He certainly has earned everyone’s respect. I just told him that. I said, ‘This is hard because you don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but you can control what you can control and everybody in this building believes in you.’ There’s something to be said for that for a guy who’s only been here 20 days.”
The Celtics are less than $1 million from the 71.3 million threshold and are trying to prevent being a repeat luxury tax offender, which would result in increased taxes thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement.
Ankle bothering Bradley
Avery Bradley admitted following the game that the same sprained right ankle that cost him five games has been causing discomfort.
He returned Sunday and appeared healthy but he said the ankle has been ailing the past few days. He left the game in the third quarter to get the area stretched and returned briefly. He played just 1:21 of the fourth quarter before Stevens removed him in favor of Jerryd Bayless.
“I think he was a little bit sore and I put him back in; he told me he was OK with four or five minutes to go and he didn’t look like he had the same bounce as Jerryd,” Stevens said. “I didn’t want to put him in a tough spot.”
Faverani hurts his knee
The Celtics have utilized the NBADL to get Vitor Faverani some much-needed playing time since he has fallen out of Stevens’s rotation. But during Maine’s 128-116 loss to Delaware on Tuesday night, Faverani sustained a left knee injury that will require an MRI.
Faverani was with the Celtics Wednesday night but was unavailable to play and said the knee is painful when he extends the leg.
“When I put my weight on my leg it’s hard to move,” he said. “I don’t know [what will happen]. When I try to bend or stretch my knee, it’s really bad.”
Faverani has played in four games with the Red Claws, averaging 12.8 points and nine rebounds. The Celtics want the rookie to get more minutes and experience to foster his development. He began the season as a starter but was replaced by the more productive Jared Sullinger at center.
“Obviously not what you want out of those types of stints,” Stevens said. “Hopefully that’s a short term, day-to-day thing. We’ll re-evaluate that in the morning.
“He’s getting a lot of minutes, putting a lot of points and things on the board, and hopefully that breeds some confidence as well.”
Program for Rondo
Stevens said it is unlikely Rajon Rondo will play Monday against the Milwaukee Bucks, the team’s final back-to-back set before the All-Star break. Stevens said Rondo is progressing smoothly conditioning-wise from his torn right anterior cruciate ligament but he does not want to play the point guard more than 35 minutes per game.
“He’s doing pretty well,” Stevens said. “If he wouldn’t have gotten into foul trouble the other day [against Orlando] he would have played more minutes than he did and I haven’t seen him gasping for air like I did maybe the first few games. Towards the end of those five- or six-minute spurts, he was pretty beat and he’s been better the last couple. [Thirty minutes] is kind of a target number. It’s not like, ‘Hey, if you go 31:20 [I’m upset].’ It’s not a big deal.
“The thing I don’t want to do is go 38, 40, or above 35. We need to manage that still to the best of our ability. Luckily we get stat sheets at every break or I’m not sure I’d be the best time manager. But it’s good to be able to play him in that 30 range because it gives him a better spurt and you can get your rhythm going better in those five-minute stints.”
With the All-Star break approaching and Rondo still working himself into premium condition, Stevens said he trusts the guard will use the time off wisely.