Sullinger Could Be Key For Celtics


HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — If the Boston Celtics are going to compete with the Miami Heat at the top of the Eastern Conference this season, they’re going to need a lift from their bench.

Over the last couple of years, the Celtics’ starting lineup has been just fine. In fact, the lineup that Doc Rivers employed at the end of last season — Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett — outscored its opponents by an amazing 21.1 points per 100 possessions in 342 minutes (including postseason). That was easily the best mark of any lineup that played at least 200 minutes together.

But the Celtics struggled whenever Garnett rested. In the regular season, Boston was outscored by 2.6 points per 100 possessions when KG was on the bench, and in the playoffs that number rose to an amazing 27.6 points per 100 possessions. Overall, the Celtics actually fell off more offensively than defensively in Garnett’s absence.

So while Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Bradley (once he’s healthy) and Jeff Green help Boston stay afloat when their starters sit, the key to their season just might be rookie Jared Sullinger.

Sullinger, who has a polished post game and rebounding skills that typically translate well to the NBA, was once thought of as a top-five pick. But back and conditioning issues scared some teams off, and the Celtics landed him at No. 21.

If there’s one thing we can take from the first three days of preseason, it’s that Sullinger might have been a steal. In the Celtics’ two games abroad, Sullinger totaled 25 points and 15 rebounds in 44 minutes, shooting 10-for-18 from the field. He moved well without the ball, finished strong and attacked the glass.

Sullinger’s skills are exactly what the Celtics need on the frontline. They’re a jump-shooting team that doesn’t rebound well (last year’s Celtics were the worst offensive rebounding team of the last 35 years) or get to the free throw line. They desperately need a banger.

Of course, we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves, because Sullinger has yet to face another NBA frontline. That won’t happen until Saturday, when the Celtics face the Knicks in Hartford, CT. But it’s fair to assume that Sullinger is ahead of Chris Wilcox and Darko Milicic in the Celtics’ frontline rotation and will be given every opportunity to contribute as a rookie. Doc Rivers even started Sullinger next to Garnett in Sunday’s win in Milan.

Bass is probably still penciled in as Boston’s starter. Still, Rivers does want Sullinger to spend a lot of time on the floor with Garnett, believing that the rookie can be much more effective as the power forward than as the center, as Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald wrote Sunday

Jared Sullinger’s ability to burrow his way into the paint for 16 points and eight rebounds Friday night, including five offensive boards, highlighted the big rookie’s ability to carve out space with his considerable bulk.

But the Celtics [team stats] coaching staff is also looking for ways to get Sullinger the favorable matchups he will need. As a player with limited lift, some have predicted that Sullinger will have trouble scoring and rebounding against longer defenders.

So coach Doc Rivers is attempting to institute a protection plan. He wants to make sure that Sullinger is never the biggest Celtic on the floor. That way he won’t automatically draw an opposing center in the paint.

That makes a lot of sense, but playing Sullinger only at power forward might be easier said than done, because of Rivers’ unique substitution pattern (five minutes on, five minutes off) for Garnett. If KG is the first Boston starter off the floor in the first quarter, Rivers will have to send someone other than Sullinger into the game. That will likely be Wilcox or Milicic, unless Rivers is willing to play small more than he did last year. And Sullinger would basically have to form a power-forward platoon with Bass.

It will be interesting to see how Rivers’ frontcourt rotation plays out. No matter what, Sullinger could be a big key to the Celtics’ season.


  1. Johnpr says:

    hes like a David West.

  2. VINCeterriffic says:

    Malik Rose was not that tall but yet effective, Dennis Rodman too, I guess he’ll be what the DOC has ordered for the Celts, he is young and with KG, Paul, and Rajon around him, he will be the rookie steal.. Just sit and watch the season has not started yet..

  3. renz_garnett says:

    sullinger will improve with kevin garnett training him.. he can learn a lot from him..

  4. Pgulinp1 says:

    he needs to lose some weight but he is really smart player for a rookie he knows what he can do, and he do it well ,also he is good shooter,.

  5. big ticket says:

    sully will be a great addition to the C’s..KG will be able to teach him how to become tough and be effective on the floor especially with rondo..celtics will always be “ubuntu” i can’t be all i can be unless you’re all you can work comes first..

  6. thenxtstar says:

    Sully will be a major contributer to the CELTICS 2nd team, as he will be able to play the 4 or 5 if needed. and he can score, which means that the other teams bigs will need to be more moile. I welcome his potential to the Green team and know that it was a good pick for the Celtics, yes he needs to be polished a little more, but whpo doesnt when they make the transisiton to pro??

    So have faith the Celtics will be the #2 seed in the East.

  7. Kamote says:

    That’s the great thing about the C’s system, no one actually is expected to play like an All-star. Just be effective in doing your job and do well with the system, and you’ll be contending together. KG, Pierce and Allen (before) weren’t asked to carry the team on their own as they we’re doing in their previous careers. Even Rondo, getting the All-star nod, was only asked to run Doc’s plays. He has just done them so well that people think it’s his team now. In Boston, it’s always about team play.

    Now they have a deep team, Sully will just do his role when called. He doesn’t need to prove to anyone he’s an All-star or an NBA starter. He is just asked to help his team by playing his game. No need to be a star, just do your job well.

  8. Rookie98 says:

    That is why the Celtics have so many championship good management., I know they were good last year and from what I seen they have made good moves over the summer. Yes they are going to be a thorn in the side of the Heat. The Heat are going to find out the first championship is a lot easier than the second. I really believe that the Heat are going to be a third seat in the East behind Boston and Brooklyn yes Brooklyn and I hope I spelled that right. It is not outside to the realm of possibilities than a Laker _ Celtic final is not that far off of a prediction, The Green against the Gold is always a good thing. There a life time between then an now to much to even think about. But both teams are really good and the Heat are if not know should be looking over their shoulder

  9. Karlo Garcia says:

    If every1 is healthy the Celtics r no pushover.

  10. bu says:

    It’s interesting to see someone actually read into the Turkey pre-season game like this!! If you can tell me what Doc was doing for every single sub & play, I rest my case!!! Those of you who play ball will know it’s not about individuals & also not about full throttle every time you step on the court. Look what the Celtics did in the last 3 years in the regular season: they practically “paced” themselves to try & finish the season healthy, in sync, sets well practised, to go after the playoffs.

    The Celtics were not arrogant bunch though I did recall Doc & another player said something like they are not too concerned on winning games on the other home team’s floor without home court ad. You can see easily from the way they played & the system they had, they’re professionals with strong mental focus.

    So stop wasting time to read too much into the results in 6 months time by reading some players individually now!

    As for the comments on Sullinger, I watched the summer league & preseason games. I kinda agree with Steppx’s comments in a way that his game & phyisque makes it an uphill battle for him to be a star NBA. He did show his strength & aggressiveness & a reasonable mid range jumper. So he’s a raw talent that has potential as a good post player. You don’t need to be a leaper to be a good post player (eg. Zach Randolph, McHale). Remember Glen Davis first came into the league & we all wrote him off. So it’s good that Sullinger is playing with a bunch of superstars who are willing to teach, great coach, great Off & Def system, & great leaders in a terrific organization.

    Time will tell, & his mental toughest & will probably will determine how good he can be, since he already has all of the above in place for him, damned lucky compare to someone who’s gone to a lottery team who’s expected to lead & get results immediately, WITHOUT tutorledge.

  11. KOBE BRYANT says:

    i am a LAKERS fan but i really love jared sullinger, i can see him as a starter for the c’

  12. VG7dabaler says:

    I have been looking at Sullinger for some time now and he’s got a ways to go…. ATHLETICALLY! Otherwise, when you take a look at Sullinger, he can sometimes put the ball on the floor, rebound, defend the post up players at HIS size.( Paul Millsap, Elton Brand, Anthony Davis) He runs the floor, sets sloid screens, is okay on help defense, and has a high IQ of this game. Rondo could use another big to play P & R with.
    Take a look at Anthony Davis. He went number one by blocking shots and rebounding. Your telling me he has a bright future but Sullinger won’t be as good? Take another look my friend. Thomas Robinson is the same way but doesn’t post up as well. Davis can’t post up at all. Maybe in two or three years the 4’s of the 2012 NBA Draft will be evaluated again, and if Sullinger can stay healthy, he may come out on top as a starter for this team or another.

  13. tim says:

    He doesn’t have to be freakishly athletic to succeed in the nba. He’s a baller, solid fundamentals, high basketball IQ, Terrific post game. He’s gonna be a solid 17ppg 9rpg in his career.. He reminds me of Z-bo or Elton brand.. He seems mature so he wont end up like big baby.

  14. krespino says:

    I may easily say I am a die-hard fan of the Celtics, I was at the game they played and lost to the Turkish team in Istanbul, and have to say I cannot expect them to truly compete with the Miami Heat this coming season, at least in 7 games post-seasons.
    I know it was a friendly game, the Celtics players were tired etc, but still Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Sullinger, Courtney Lee and some others did not impress me.
    There is not a real big man in the team, the Turkish team’s 7-footer center has given Garnett a difficult time, actually has stopped him. Darko Milicic was not a real help.
    At one point they strived not to lose the game but couldn’t turn it around.
    That game doesn’t mean anything of course and I am sure they will improve from that first day form, but Garnett and Pierce did look one year older, that surely wouldn’t be an advangate when I think of teams with younger starters.

    • guest says:

      Mate, before talking about KG, firstly it is a PRE-SEASON game. The minutes played don’t reflect what happens in the real season. Secondly, if you look at KG’s stats for amount of time he was on the floor, they far exceed the opposing centre who played almost double KG’s minutes. He has more turnovers but logged a block shot. Field goal percentage is much higher. I don’t think he was even close to giving KG a hard time

    • fan says:

      Boston has better match-up with Miami than last year. Miami has no big man to begin so Boston does not a true big man. The key for Boston is for Jeff Green to play well. With Green in the line-up, they could easily match with Miami once they played small. I think this why Ainge traded Green for Perk. As proven in Finals, Perk is ineffective against Miami.

    • dattebayo says:

      Rondo impressed me with his shooting and that is the only key thing you should take out of that preseason game in Istanbul. Fenerbace played well and McCalebb looked like D-Rose on a couple of plays while it was the Celtics first preseason game and they played horrible on D.
      If Rondo finally has a consistent midrange game this season and doesn’t shy away from taking shots, the Celtics will be more than ok this season. I liked Green, he made a lot of plays and he is a matchup problem for almost every team. Lee seems to be a good defender and he is a very good 3 point shooter. Sullinger played well with the team and he got rebounds, that’s the only thing Doc needs from him. Terry looks quick as usual and KG and Pierce looked healthy.
      If I had to put money on it, I’d say the Celtics will be the 1st seed in the East beating Miami by two games and winning around 60 games.

  15. stop player hating says:

    sully will impress people this season he might even make it in to the starting line up and he look like he will play well off of rondo’s vision of the floor and he can shoot pretty well

    • stop player hating says:

      he is jus a rookie so he have a lot to develop but he is in the best team for his development as a professional basketball player it good for him to be in a team of such a high caliber and depth.

  16. steppx says:

    Sully’s game ISNT carved out for the NBA……thats the problem and why he dropped so far draft day. He cant get his shot off against bigger opponents. He might do find in a reserve role if he doesnt have to play against big fours. Meyers leonard destroyed him last year………and while he wont have to face guys THAT big all that often, he isnt going to score much at the NBA level.

    • Daivd says:

      you dunno wht ur talking about look at the stats before u talk, people said the same thing for big baby n with Garnett he thrived. The same will happen to sully and not only that he is gonna be more effective than glen himself. Hes a smart all around big player and can score because of RONDO, he has someone to target him in the paint.

    • r3conklin says:

      I don’t agree with you steppx, but only if Sullinger plays power forward. He actually isn’t undersized at the four. He’s about the same size and length, and has comprable athleticism to- Kevin Love, Paul Millsap, Elton Brand, Zach Randolph, Carlos Boozer, etc. They are all able to put up big points and/or rebounds in the NBA. (While I don’t expect him to be Kevin Love the similarities between the two as college players/ NBA prospects, especially after their freshman years, are almost spooky) Those guys are all past or present all-star players. On a team full of jump shooters, and by the way Sullinger also can shoot, big shot blocking 5s will be pulled away from the rim. The love affair with athleticism has led a lot of GMs to select players that turn out to be busts while guys like Sullinger end up being solid players, and some times even stars. I think Sullinger will have a great season on a very good team where he doesn’t have to be “the man” (see double teams) all the time. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Rondo, Bradley, Pierce, Sullinger, Garnett starting line-up by the end of the year.

    • Aaron says:

      He’s more of a Glen Davis type player. He’s not extremely athletic, but he knows how to put the ball in the basket. He’ll develop into a good player after awhile.

  17. steppx says:

    actually, sully’s game ISNT cut out for the NBA….thats why he dropped, far more than injury issues……though those are real too. He cant jump…..has a hard time against taller oppenents. He did in college………meyers leonard destroyed him. Now……he might not have to play against 7ft centers much, and he might be an adequate back up four………but he’s not likely to ever score much.

    • Mark says:

      Try learning the game before posting such idiotic comments. Lol. This is so absurd it’s hilarious. Don’t post your opinions for a living or you’ll be sleeping under a bridge Lol. He dropped because of the FEAR OF REOCCURING BACK INJURY THAT HE SUPPOSEDLY HAD, not because he game isn’t NBA ready. Allowing just ANYONE to post is like giving your teenager a key to the wine cellar while the parents go away for the weekend. Just say NO!.