The Celtics go to Jared.
No, not to the jewelery store chain – you know the one with the corny commercials – rather, when they need a physical presence off the bench, they go to Power Forward Jared Sullinger…increasingly.
The 21st pick in this season’s NBA draft, Sullinger is fulfilling the promise he had coming out of Ohio State after his sophomore season, a potential that an alleged back problem had many teams thinking that he could never realize…
…an alleged back issue that 20 other NBA teams were not willing to either do their homework and due diligence on or just didn’t want to deal with. So when it became clear that Sullinger would be available with the 21st pick, the Boston Celtics jumped at the two time All American.
and now the Karl Malone-esque Sullinger is asserting himself…Dude, wait…what?
At 6′ 9″ tall and 260 pounds, his frame is an exact replica of the Mailman, the mannerisms, the power to the rim, sans-the goofy, time-sucking free throw routine – less muscular than Malone in his prime, though more dexterous and a much better ball handler – and along with bench-mate Jeff Green provides an athletic and physical spark just when the Celtics need it most.
And not just stemming the tide or to maintain a level of intensity, but to attack on both ends of the floor and to build upon what the 1st unit has built, to hand the game back to them in better shape than they found it.
“I feel like with our second unit, we can start on any team in this league,” said Green “and the way we’ve been playing, it’s hurting the second units of opposing teams. So we’ve just got to continue to do that.”
In the past five games, Sullinger and Green have seen their floor time increase – by 7 minutes per game in Sullinger’s case, topping his season averages in points and rebounds by almost a commensurate total – and their presence and intensity along with Courtney Lee and veteran Jason Terry has allowed the old war horses Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to rest for extended periods and come back to the floor fresh and ready to close things down and out.
On Wednesday night when the New Orleans Hornets bring their 11-26, dead last in the Western Conference record to TD Garden, they do so on a hot streak, winning 4 of their last 5 against quality opposition in the Texas Trio and Timberwolves.
Their loss to the Knicks on Sunday snapped their four game winning streak, and they also play the first game of two night, two city tour in Philadelphia this evening – and regardless of the outcome of that game, the Celtics are well aware that an overall poor performance last night against the Charlotte Bobcats won’t fly against a hot team like New Orleans, regardless of the record.
And Sullinger? He’ll just keep plugging along, working on technique and rounding out his game behind two future Hall of Fame warhorses – getting stronger and wiser, earning his keep as the rookie Power Forward in waiting and building upon the growing sentiment that he may be the steal of the draft…
…and maybe if he has the patience and the free time, he could learn that Malone ball-spinning, aerobic exercise routine at the free throw line that used to send his opponents’ blood pressure through the roof…maybe even learn the Mailman’s patented “Diva” Slam.
Or maybe he should just do his own thing – it’s been working pretty well for him so far…