The Celtics very big sophomore Jared Sullinger fell to Boston with the 21st pick in the 2012 NBA draft because he had been red flagged with back issues. A dominant star player in college, Sullinger was telling everyone his back was good during the pre-draft workouts, however, the Celtics expected a setback at some point and after 45 games last year, the big man was sidelined by back surgery to repair a lumber disk. Those days are way back in the rearview mirror now as Sullinger has become both comfortable and confident during a breakout season.
“I think it is just being comfortable,” Sullinger said. “I learned a lot from these guys that are in the locker room and a lot from past guys that were in the locker room, just understanding that confidence is everything in this world.”
Sullinger has enjoyed some huge performances this season including 20 double-doubles, 16 games scoring 19 or more points, a 25 point 20 rebound game against Toronto and a 31 point 16 rebound game against Sacramento. On the season he is averaging better than 13 points and 8 rebounds in just over 27 minutes.
“He has had good games,” said Head Coach Brad Stevens. “For a really good player, he has had a typical second year, so he has had some real ups and some games that aren’t so good. We need him to play well for us to have a chance to win because he is probably our best low post scorer on most nights.”
“Coming into the season, I knew my role would change,” Sullinger said. “I knew I would have to score the basketball and play more minutes. The role just changed, but confidence is everything. My teammates gave me confidence, my coaches gave me confidence and of course, I have confidence in myself.”
The big man was measured at 6’7.75 without shoes at the NBA pre-draft camp and even though he played center at Ohio State, he is definitely undersized for the position in the NBA. However, the current makeup of the Celtics roster means he can’t always play power forward this season.
“I think he has to play the power forward,” Stevens said. “He is only about 6’7 or 6’8 and he can play the center in the appropriate matchup and to be very effective at the center spot against the best in the league, he needs to be able to stretch the floor consistently, but his main position and the position where we would like to play him most often is the power forward, but the 4 guys we got rotating at the big spots are all power forwards.”
“At this point in my career, I am comfortable in either spot,” Sullinger said. “I can guard either or, but right now I have to sacrifice playing center.”
Sullinger is trying to develop the floor stretching aspect of his game this season and has taken 190 three-point attempts, sometimes with great effect, but more often with less success. It is a skill that he should be able to develop, it’s just not quite there yet, but Sullinger has confidence in his ability.
“I always had it, but I just knew my role last year,” Sullinger said. “We had KG (Kevin Garnett), Paul (Pierce), Rondo, so you kind of play your role. My role wasn’t really to take shots like that – I’d take the open ones, but that was about it.”
The other side of this coin is now Sullinger is expected to cover the stretch four on the other team and that is an adventure for most big men.
“You just know that you have to haul ass and get to the three-point line that’s about it,” Sullinger explained. “It happens like that and you just have to keep playing. I am comfortable with that. You just have to do what you have to do.”
A lot of the rational for the Celtics moves last summer were to get opportunities for their young players so they could develop. Allow potential young stars like Sullinger to get comfortable in a role and gain the confidence necessary to become successful.
“That is exactly what it is, just being comfortable, comfortable and confidence, the two Cs,” Sullinger said.
A more comfortable Sullinger is proving that he is a really good player.
Sullinger 25 And 20 As Celtics Defeat Raptors 88-83
It was a brick-fest in Boston between 2 teams that didn’t deserve to win, but Jared Sullinger had 25 points and a career best 20 rebounds as the Celtics defeated the Raptors 88-83. Sullinger was the first Celtic since Kevin Garnett in 2007 to record a 20-20 game.
Celtics Rookie Kelly Olynyk Is Having Fun
“Of course I am having fun,” Olynyk said. “Every time I get to play the game of basketball it is a blessing, especially at this level. It is something I love to do. It is my passion, my joy. To go there and play every day is pretty special.”