In the second big blow to hit the Boston Celtics in less than a week, it has been reported that rookie Power Forward Jared Sullinger has undergone season ending back surgery today.
The surgery, reported to be a lumbar Disc procedure, was performed at New England Baptist Hospital.
The loss of Sullinger will deny the Celtics a talent that had just evolved into the starting lineup and was poised to break onto the scene, as it were, and now joins All Star point guard Rajon Rondo in the infirmary for the year.
The Celtics took Sullinger 21st overall in the 2012 NBA Draft after a distinguished career at Ohio State where he earned a draft grade in the top five, but questions about his back – including being red-flagged by several team’s doctors – caused the talented forward to slip all the way out of the top 20 before being snatched up by the Celtics…
…whose trainers had given Celtics’ coach Doc Rivers earlier reports that Sullinger’s back had been bothering him, to which he continued, “I think this is what he’ll have. He’ll have these episodes. We gotta get him through it. Hopefully he doesn’t miss games with them. But if he does, he does. He’s going to get right and come back.”
Rivers tried to downplay the potential severity of the injury on Thursday.
“No, I’m not that concerned,” said Rivers. “Could he miss games? Like I said yesterday, here and there he may. But it’s not anything career-threatening or anything like that.”
“It’s just what it is — spasms and day-to-day, I don’t think it’s anything bad. Just spasms, which are bad.”
Rivers then recanted his own battle with back issues in college and the NBA “I don’t think about it much. Again, probably because I lived it. It’s just backs are temperamental, they do what they want.”
Brandon Bass likely will take Sullinger’s place in the starting lineup Boston also recalled its other first-round pick from last June’s draft, Fab Melo, from the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League on Tuesday to receive treatment on his right quad.
With Sullinger now gone for the season, it could mean a permanent promotion to the club for Melo, who has shined in the Developmental League, but has proven to be fragile at the same time.
Given how this latest episode of spasms came on so quickly, and the way that the team responded to the adversity by posting two wins – one against the reigning NBA Champions Miami Heat – it appears that Rivers and the Celtics have borrowed from New England Patriots’ attitude and subsequent mantra of “Next man up”…
…an attitude that they will have to carry for the remainder of the season. At 22-23, they are still very much in the conversation of playoff bound teams, and there is plenty of veteran leadership to help the team traverse the rough patches – and enough youthful exuberance to keep the old timers fresh – to get this team into the tournament, and from there anything is possible.