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Jared Sullinger: ‘I think I’ll come back better’

02.13.13 at 8:20 pm ET
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Most of Jared Sullinger‘s days since undergoing season-ending back surgery on Feb. 1 have been spent sitting at an angle that resembles a reclining chair, so the 20-year-old Celtics rookie has plenty of time on his hands.

“I haven’t been doing anything but Twitter, playing video games and catching up on movies,” Sullinger said during a press conference prior to the C’s hosting the Bulls before their NBA All-Star break begins. “That’s about it.”

The back problems that have plagued Sullinger since Nov. 29, 2011, when the Ohio State product scored 21 points in a blowout win over Duke, flared up for the first time this season four minutes into a game against the Kings exactly two weeks ago. The next day, he couldn’t walk. And the next, he underwent surgery to repair a disc that was bulging into his central nervous system.

“I didn’t think it was going to come this fast; maybe two or three years later down the line,” said Sullinger. “That’s what an NBA season does to you. It’s a long season. You’re going to have a couple knick-knack injuries. My knick-knack injury turned into surgery. I’d rather have it now than later.”

Ever since he tweaked it in college months ago, and especially after he fell all the way to the Celtics at No. 21 in this past June’s NBA draft, Sullinger has had to face questions about his back.

“It was a sigh of relief to get it over with, get everybody out of my face about my back,” he said, “so I’m pretty happy about it.”

In the game prior to suffering what he dubbed a far less serious injury than the ACL tears of teammates Rajon Rondo and Leandro Barbosa, Sullinger assumed a starting role in the Celtics backcourt, replacing Brandon Bass. His 6.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 20 minutes a night over his first 45 games had many questioning why he didn’t make the rookie roster in this year’s Rising Stars Challenge. Then the back beckoned.

The good news? “No longterm limitations. I should be good for the rest of my life.”

Sullinger added: “In the longterm, I think I’ll come back better, just because with the back problems I had limitations. The doctor told me the two discs being herniated were only making my legs weaker. Hopefully, that’s a sign I might be able to get off the ground more than two inches.”

While Sullinger hasn’t been given the green light on cardio activity, you’ll be glad to know he can drive a car and sleep comfortably. (“Sleep is the least of my worries,” he said. “I’m sleeping like a baby.”) He plans to hire a chef and nutritionist in order to help him count calories and avoid adding weight during downtime. And, more importantly, he expects to be ready for training camp.

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