fb-pixel Skip to main content

Amir Johnson’s return to Toronto is a meaningful one

<?EM-dummyText [Drophead goes here] ?>

Amir Johnson is looking forward to reconnecting with fans including his biggest one — two-year-old daughter Amelia.Michael Dwyer

TORONTO — At 10:53 p.m. on July 1, the same day he had signed a two-year, $24 million free agent contract with the Celtics, forward Amir Johnson posted a message on Twitter thanking Raptors fans and management as well as all of Canada.

He'd spent six productive seasons there, helping Toronto emerge as an Atlantic Division champion, and even though he had a new beginning in Boston to look forward to, he took a brief moment to look back. He concluded the thank-you message by saying: "Don't take this as a goodbye but more of a see you later."

Now, more than six months later, Johnson will see them all again, as the Celtics face the Raptors in Toronto on Wednesday night.


The return is clearly meaningful to him. He has been promoting an "I still roll with Amir" campaign in which he is giving away tickets to Wednesday's game to fans who continue to support him. He is hopeful that he will be greeted warmly, and given the way he embraced the city, he almost certainly will be.

In Toronto, Johnson wanted to be seen in the community. He wanted the people there to know he was just like them. In September of 2013, he went to several Toronto music stores and purchased every copy of a newly-released Drake album — the rapper is Toronto's favorite son — and handed them out to fans. A month later he took part in a zombie walk through the downtown streets.

"Great fan base," Johnson said. "I always said it's not just the city; we had the whole country behind us. It was pretty cool going on a couple runs and having the country cheering for us."

As much as Johnson is looking forward to reconnecting with Toronto fans, he is mostly eager to see his 2-year-old daughter, Amelia, who still lives in Toronto with her mother.


Johnson said his daughter understands he is a basketball player, but she does not grasp he is now a Boston Celtic and she does not understand why he is no longer in Toronto as often. But Johnson said she would stay with him at the team hotel on Tuesday night, and that he could not wait.

"I'm just so happy to be able to see her most of all," he said. "That's the biggest thing."

Johnson said that as last year progressed, he began to realize there was a good chance he would play elsewhere at season's end. It was difficult for him to leave Toronto, but the culture in Boston has made the transition easier.

He is averaging 8.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting a career-best 64 percent on 2-point field goals.

"I'm starting to come along, playing my game, getting used to our plays in the offense and finding my way around everything," Johnson said. "I'm just getting back to my normal self, which is roll, run the floor, pop, defend. I'm doing all the little stuff on the floor."

Final pitch

Voting for the All-Star Game starters closed on Monday night, and Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas was an extreme long shot to be one of the three guards selected; he ranked ninth in the most recent voting figures released by the NBA.

Thomas should have an excellent chance of being voted in as a reserve by the Eastern Conference coaches. He is averaging 21.8 points and 6.6 assists per game for the Celtics, who have positioned themselves as a playoff team. But until he hears the news, he will proceed cautiously. He said it is discouraging to see a player like Hornets guard Jeremy Lin, who is averaging 12.2 points and 3.0 assists this season, ahead of him in the voting.


"I think I should [be an All-Star], but I've been gypped all my life," Thomas said. "So I don't try to — I don't guarantee anything, because I've always been let down. But at the same time, hopefully they respect me enough to put me in there. And we'll go from there. If not, I'm going to keep pushing. I'm going to keep grinding and do my part."

Thomas said he believes his 5-foot-9-inch stature is what gives fans and coaches pause, much as it has throughout his career.

"If I was 6-foot, there wouldn't be no consideration about how I'd be in there," he said. "But I'm going to do my part. And then with this team, hopefully we can get a few wins before the All-Star break and even put me in a better position to be there."

Thomas said that Paul George, Derrick Rose, and George Hill are among those who have come up to him during games this season and said he deserves to be an All-Star. On Monday night, Celtics coach Brad Stevens vouched for Thomas, too, saying coaches should look at his statistics, but also consider how important he is to the success of the Celtics.


"The fans don't see that, I don't think," Thomas said. "But getting voted in by the coaches, I think maybe that helps me because they see how much I do for this team."

Subscribe to the Globe's On The Parquet Celtics podcast on iTunes.

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com.