WALTHAM — After impressing the Celtics throughout a pair of consecutive 10-day contracts, Chris Johnson will remain with the team through the end of the season.
Team officials informed the 23-year-old swingman of their decision to retain him hours before his second 10-day contract expired Thursday night. It’s likely his deal will extend beyond this season, perhaps with a nonguaranteed deal for next season.
Johnson is averaging 7.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1 steal over 21.6 minutes per game in eight appearances.
“I just have to give thanks to Danny Ainge for bringing me in and giving me the opportunity, Brad Stevens for giving me the opportunity to play when guys were injured, and my teammates for just giving me confidence,” Johnson said Thursday.
Johnson was last playing with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Development League before being called up by the Celtics in January to help shore up a backcourt affected by injuries. He has played on a pair of 10-day contracts with Memphis, and he attended training camp with the Brooklyn Nets.
“To me, the greatest stories in sports start with a chip on your shoulder,” Stevens said. “[Johnson has] got an automatic chip. Now the key is, as you get extended opportunities, is to keep the chip. To keep hungry. That’s another human-nature test. That’s the next one coming for guys like that.
“I think it’s a great story, but it’s not like it’s some miracle. It’s the result of hard work, doing the right things, not being scared of the moment, taking advantage of opportunities, those type of things.”
Johnson also received plenty of support from his teammates, many of whom campaigned for the Celtics to sign him through the rest of the year versus letting him go.
“That says a lot,” Johnson said. “That shows the confidence they have in me. I really appreciate that coming from those guys. Being here for the rest of the season, I’m trying to help the guys win.”
While Johnson has impressed his teammates and coaches during his stint with the team, it still wasn’t a given he’d stay with the Celtics, who are slightly less than $1 million below the $71.75 million luxury tax line and are not looking to be a tax-paying team this season.
Signing Johnson won’t put the Celtics over that tax line. Yet the Celtics desire both roster space — they now have one open roster spot — and financial flexibility heading into the Feb. 20 trade deadline, and adding a player does limit them in both areas.
Avery Bradley (ankle), Rajon Rondo (soreness), and Vitor Faverani (knee) all missed practice. Stevens said the three were day to day. When asked if they would play Friday against Sacramento, Stevens said, “I expect that it’s going to be day to day with all those guys. I wish I could say otherwise. That’s what [team trainer] Ed [Lacerte] just said.”
Said Stevens, “In Rondo’s case, it’s nothing structural. He’s just sore from the continued extended minutes and also the burst that he played with [Wednesday] night [against Philadelphia]. He really played with a great burst. Avery is day to day. From everything I’ve heard, it’s nothing structural, just a little bit aggravated [Wednesday] night. Sore from last night. And then Vitor is day to day with the knee.”
Faverani injured his left knee while playing with the Maine Red Claws Tuesday during his latest assignment with the NBA Development League team. He said he had an MRI and he was scheduled to have additional tests Friday. He did say his knee felt fine.
Youth is served
Celtics forwards Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger were picked to play on the same team for the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge game, which will be played Feb. 14 during NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans.
Sullinger and Olynyk, who are among 18 first- and second-year players to be in the Rising Stars Challenge, will play on Team Webber, named after TNT NBA analyst Chris Webber.
They will face Team Hill — named after TNT NBA analyst Grant Hill — at 9 p.m.