ORLANDO — A couple of weeks ago on draft night, Jared Sullinger was at home in Columbus, Ohio watching on TV instead of hanging out with the other expected high picks at the big show in New Jersey.
There had been doctors exams, talk of a potential back problem and that’s how he slipped all the way to the No. 21 spot where he was scooped up by the Celtics.
On Monday afternoon Sullinger was right at home in the second half of Boston’s 73-65 win over the Thunder in the AirTran Orlando Pro Summer League.
The 6-foot-9 forward scored 14 of his game-high 20 points in the second half as he steadily grew more comfortable with the pace and the style of play.
“I didn’t want to come into the game thinking like its all about me, all about me playing the way I’ve played all my life, where everything goes through you. I didn’t want to play like that today, because I got some teammates that can really play.
“I was just trying to feel it out in the first half. Then in the second half I saw we were falling behind, so I tried to step and score the basketball.”
What the Celtics got from Sullinger in that second half was an assortment of nifty offensive moves, a 3-point bucket and most predictably a guy with a 270-pound frame that enjoys and even thrives on the contact inside.
“You know what? When you have two brothers like Julian Sullinger and J.J. Sullinger and you go through the air on concrete and they throw you to the ground and you’ve got scrapes all over your arms, you learn to concentrate on making the shot instead of the scrapes on your arms” he said. “Every time I cried they’d yell at me because I was always worried about the scab or something instead of making the shots. When you have two brothers like that, you got no choice but to make the shot. They trained me well, from the time I was about five. I owe them a lot.”
If Sullinger can prove that he’s physically able to meet the demands of the NBA, the Celtics could owe every a bit of thanks to every club that was scared off by the medical reports. Here was a two-time All-American that averaged 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots for an Ohio State team that was one of the best in the country last season and had been projected as high as a top-five pick before word began to circulate that there could be a problem with a disk in his back.
“This guy knows how to play,” said Celtics assistant Tyronn Lue, who got his first chance to call the shots on the sidelines on Monday. “You can tell from the way he puts the ball on the floor, the way he moves, spins and just looks comfortable. This is a guy who really knows how to play.”