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Chris Mannix on M&M: JaJuan Johnson ‘could become a legitimate starter in this league’

06.24.11 at 12:17 pm ET
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SI.com’s Chris Mannix spoke with Mut & Merloni Friday morning about Thursday’s draft and the collective bargaining agreement negotiations. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Mannix said that although he needs development, Celtics first-round draft pick JaJuan Johnson “in a few years could become a legitimate starter in this league.”

“He is a big guy, a legitimate 6-foot-10 with that I think 7-foot-2 wingspan,” Mannix said. “He’s a very good low-post player. … I think with NBA coaching he can become an even more polished offensive player.”

Mannix also said that Johnson should develop well under the veteran leadership the Celtics have.

“I think JaJuan Johnson is going to benefit enormously from playing behind Kevin Garnett for a year, and practicing against him for a year, two years,” Mannix said. “I think having Garnett and having Ray Allen on the roster are invaluable assets, because guys are going to be able to learn from these two guys.”

Mannix wasn’t concerned with Johnson’s perceived lack of bulk, which is Johnson’s main issue heading into the NBA.

“That’s what they have nine strength coaches for on every NBA team,” he said. “These things are the kind of things you can sort of work out with the right kind of training.”

Mannix said he was excited Thursday about the Celtics selecting Marshon Brooks before learning of the trade that sent him to the Nets.

“Last year, I thought the Celtics majorly whiffed on not taking James Anderson, taking Avery Bradley instead of him,” Mannix said. “James Anderson was one of those complete college players. … I think he’s going to be a legitimate 2-guard in this league. Well, I still don’t know what Avery Bradley is going to be. I thought Marshon Brooks is kind of a similar type of player: an accomplished college scorer who over a couple of years working under the tutelage of a guy like Ray Allen could become a really complete player.”

Mannix was not as excited about E’Twaun Moore, seeing him mostly as a D-league or practice squad player.

“He’s just so unathletic,” Mannix said, adding: “He just doesn’t have that natural athleticism. … At his age, and at his point in his career, he needs to have better explosiveness, better hops than what he has now. The guy can shoot, he can make jump shots, stand-alone jump shots, but I’m just not convinced right now that with the pressure of NBA defenses and the way the athletes are in the NBA today that he’s going to have much of a measurable impact.”

Having followed the collective bargaining agreement negotiations very closely, Mannix was very pessimistic.

“It’s going to get worse [in the next week],” Mannix said. “There’s no chance this thing gets better. They can make all the nice talk they want, they can talk about the small issues that they’re getting somewhat settled. But the main issues — the hard cap, the guaranteed contract, the basketball related income — they are still miles apart.”

Mannix said that the hard cap was a particular sticking point in the negotiations, with the players strongly against it and several owners strongly in favor of it, to the point that the owners “are going to push for a long lockout until they can break the NBA players union.”

Should a lockout happen, Mannix said it would cost the NBA at least half the season, similar to what happened in 1999.

Mannix said that a shortened season might result in travel-heavy schedules, with as many as five games in seven nights. Such a schedule would badly hurt the Celtics due to their age.

“You’re going to have to give them days off,” Mannix said. “You’re not going to be able to play Kevin Garnett three straight games.  You’re not going to play Ray or Paul [Pierce] three straight games probably either. I think the majority of a shortened season, I would guess that most of the games would be played with at least one member of that Big Three sitting on the bench.

Added Mannix, “I think Boston would not be able to develop any kind of continuity over the course of that season.”

Read More: Chris Mannix, E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, James Anderson Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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