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Former Drifter Johnson invited to Celtics' camp
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BY ADAM HIMMELSBACH
Former Colonial Beach star Chris Johnson has been invited to the Boston Celtics' training camp.
Although the Celtics' official practices began yesterday, Johnson, who played professionally in Turkey and Poland last year, did not participate.
The Celtics are awaiting a letter of clearance from FIBA Europe that will allow Johnson to play, Johnson's agent, Eric Fleisher said. Fleisher said this is common practice involving players who join the NBA after playing overseas.
"The request has been made by the Celtics," Fleisher said. "It has to go through appropriate channels with FIBA, with the Polish Federation and with the team he last played on."
Johnson, a 6-foot-11, 215-pound forward, attended the Celtics' workout yesterday but did not practice with the team. He could not be reached for comment.
Fleisher said it typically takes about seven days to receive the letter, and the request was put in about a week ago.
Johnson's former AAU coach, Tony Squire, said Johnson took part in unofficial workouts with the Celtics last week.
"He said Shaquille O'Neal was guarding him the other day," Squire said, "and the day after that he had to go against Kevin Garnett. How many people get a chance to say that?"
Johnson had a nomadic high school career, transferring from Washington & Lee to Notre Dame Academy to Colonial Beach before attending a post-graduate program at Laurinburg (N.C.) Institute.
Johnson graduated from Louisiana State in 2009 after averaging 7.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks as a senior.
He went undrafted and played for the combined summer league team of the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers, but he did not make an NBA roster.
Johnson started last season playing professionally in Turkey and finished it playing in Poland for Turow, where he averaged 4.2 points and 3.7 rebounds a game.
"I think every coach that ever came upon Chris was impressed with his agility and his shot for a guy his size," former Colonial Beach coach Steve Swope said. "The only holdback of his whole career has been the strength factor."
It will be difficult for Johnson to earn a spot on Boston's final roster, as 14 of the Celtics' 15 slots are already filled by players who have guaranteed contracts.
But this is an opportunity that could breed new ones, as other NBA teams could be impressed by Johnson's play in training camp.
Also, a rule change this season allows an NBA team to assign as many as three of its released players to its affiliate in the NBA Developmental League. The Celtics are affiliated with the Maine Red Claws.
Fleisher said that European teams traditionally wait to fill their rosters until NBA teams have made their cuts, so a more lucrative opportunity could await overseas.
"Spending training camp with a team like the Celtics can only help him," Fleisher said.
Adam Himmelsbach: 540/374-5442