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Lee, Johnson Aim To Bring Energy To Celtics' Frontcourt

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Boston Celtics were busy on Monday, finalizing a quintet of transactions before introducing five players at an afternoon press conference.

Included in that handful of players were Amir Johnson and David Lee, who were holding up their new Celtics jerseys for the first time. The two may make up a new revamped frontcourt for Boston when they take the floor for the first time in the 2015-16 season, bringing 10 years of NBA experience and nearly 10,000 rebounds between the two of them to Boston.

They're both excited to bring their skills to the TD Garden floor, and hope they can help the Celtics take the next step in their rebuild towards once again becoming a title contender.

"They're on the rise to be better, and I got that impression from them last year. In addition to adding us and a few veterans, we can take it to the next level," said Johnson, who spent the last six seasons as an Atlantic Division rival in Toronto. "We're a hungry team and I'm happy to be a part of it."

"I will tell you this, from playing against this team in the second half, we barely held on, twice," Lee said of his two bouts against Boston as a member of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors last season. "They're a team that competes and a team that plays well with one another. The system coach Stevens has put in is very effective, and now it's just a matter of taking another step.

"I think we're going to be a better team than Boston was last year, and it's an exciting time," added Lee.

When the free agency period began earlier in the month, Johnson was the first player the Celtics reached out to. First it was president Danny Ainge, followed soon after by head coach Brad Stevens.

"He said he was watching my game since High School," Johnson said of his conversation with Stevens. "The respect level brought me to Boston. I don't know too much about the city but I'm excited."

Ainge did the same thing with Lee when he became a free agent back in 2010. The Celtics were loaded with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen already in place, and Ainge knew it was a longshot to sign Lee, who was seeking a big-money deal (Boston had just a midlevel exception to offer). But Ainge wanted to let the player know the organization was a fan of his game, and it was a phone call Lee wouldn't forget.

Five years later, after a successful run with the Warriors, Lee is now being brought to Boston to provide veteran leadership, on top of his knack of pulling down a loose ball in the paint.

"They're building here with character guys and guys that fit into the system they want to run. That's the way to do it," he said. "The days of having a bunch of jerks on the same team and thinking you're going to win championship is pretty tough. I love how they're doing things here and we have a chance to do some special things."

Lee said he's already talked to Ainge and Stevens about his leadership role in the locker room, and he he's expecting a lot of pick-and-roll play on the floor in Stevens' system. His main focus remains rebounding though, a sentiment that isn't shared with many of his counterparts in the NBA.

"I enjoy doing it. I think a lot of guys are focused on scoring, but having that blue-collar attitude to be a rebounder, a lot of it is a mindset," he said. "I have the tools to be a rebounder but I think it's a mentality, and it's something I enjoy more than scoring."

Both of the new frontcourt players are anxious to see the speed and versatility the Celtics will possess down low in the upcoming season. With their addition, Boston also appears to have a much better rebounding squad on paper, which plagued them for long stretches during last season.

With Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger also in the mix, it's unclear if the two newcomers will be playing together. It all will depend on who earns the minutes in training camp and throughout the campaign. But if they do get to pair up down low for Boston, Johnson is excited about what they can bring to the floor.

"I think we'll do great and be a good combo if we're in there together. I feel like I can play with anybody just based on my energy level. We can be a good one-two punch," said Johnson. "The league is changing now, going a little smaller – you saw what Golden State did. We have a lot of versatile bigs, so I think we'll be a solid group and a lot quicker."

Johnson and Lee are not the fireworks Celtics fans have been hoping for the last two offseasons, but the two are solid rebounders who will help repair last season's deficiencies in the paint, and strong veteran voices to the locker room.


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