Tar Heels in NBA: Little gets extension, but Johnson can’t strike deal; Jackson officially on Celtics roster

By R.L. Bynum

Nassir Little and Cameron Johnson start their fourth NBA seasons Wednesday night and sought extensions of their rookie contracts, but only Little was able to strike a deal.

Little agreed to a four-year $28-million contract extension with Portland on Monday. Given that Little hasn’t had many chances to show what he could do, he could have declined and hoped for a bigger deal if he had a breakout season. He opted for financial security.

He averaged a career-best 9.8 points and 5.6 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game last season and was playing well in January when he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

“I mean, $28 million is the advantage,” Little told The Athletic. “The security, the peace of mind, just to have that kind of locked in and having them show their belief in me means the world.”

The most games he’s played in his three previous seasons was 48 because of injuries.

“I’m not going to lie, I think my talent level is worth more than that,” said Little, in comments typical of what reporters often heard at UNC, showing confidence in his ability. “But with me having injury history and stuff like that, them still taking a chance on me, wanting me here? I want to be here. I know that I will probably perform at a level that is worth more than that.”

Portland opens the season at 10 p.m. Wednesday in Sacramento against Harrison Barnes and the Kings.

Johnson couldn’t reach an extension deal with the Phoenix Suns, meaning the forward will be a restricted free agent next summer.

The Suns reportedly offered him a four-year, $72-million deal, but, according to that report, he wanted a contract in the $85 million range. That would have earned him $21.2 million a season, which is around what Sacramento pays Harrison Barnes, who is in his 11th NBA season.

The Sixth Man of the Year finalist last season averaged 12.5 points, and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 46% from the floor, 42.5% from 3-point range and 86% from the free-throw line.

Johnson told Kellan Olson of arizonasports.com that he loves Phoenix, he’s setting aside the business aspect and is ready for the season. He called the negotiations “extremely interesting.”

Phoenix opens the season at 10 p.m. Wednesday at home against Reggie Bullock, Theo Pinson and the Dallas Mavericks (ESPN).

The reports late last week that Justin Jackson earned a roster spot with the Boston Celtics were accurate.

Boston Globe reporter Adam Himmelsbach, who broke that story last week, reported this week that General Manager Brad Stevens keeping Jackson and forward Noah Vonleh shows his preference for filling the end of the roster with veterans who may not have reached their potential over undrafted free agents.

Jackson is in his sixth pro season and Boston is his sixth team.

Boston opened the season Tuesday night at home with a 126–117 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Jackson was one of five reserves who didn’t play in the game.


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