WALTHAM — Jared Sullinger got the message loud and clear at the end of the season from Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens . If the big man from Ohio State was going to take that next step in what many – including Celtics ‘ brass – see as a successful NBA future, he needs to be in better shape.
Sullinger and Chris Johnson  were the only players with two years of NBA experience in attendance Wednesday at the Celtics  training facility, as the team continued its two-a-day workouts in advance of this Saturday’s summer league opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder  in Orlando.
“I think conditioning was a big factor,” said Sullinger, listed by the Celtics  at 260 pounds. “Late in the game, I’d get tired and stop doing the things that I normally do in the first quarter. I think conditioning will kind of help that out.
“[Joining the summer practice is] another opportunity to play against other guys and kind of push myself to another limit, work on things that I don’t normally work on by myself and then I’ve got bodies out here. Going against bodies, pushing myself through contact. So everything is kind of helping me with conditioning.”
But to the 6-foot-9 Sullinger, being in good basketball condition has not so much to do with his weight as his endurance.
“It’s more shape,” Sullinger said. “How long I can run, how fast I can run. Pretty much how long I can stay on the court without passing out. I’m working on that every day.”
Sullinger, still just 22, averaged 13.3 points and 8.1 rebounds in 27.6 minutes per game last season. Coming off season ending back surgery in his rookie season, he played 74 games, starting 44.
Of course, there is the possibility that the Celtics deal him. If they do, they want to get maximum return. Sullinger isn’t worried about what the front office does or doesn’t do. He’s focused on improving a team that suffered through 25 wins, the worst season of his college or pro career.
“I’m not a [general manager]; I’m a player,” Sullinger said. “But regardless of what [president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge], [director of player personnel] Austin [Ainge] or [assistant general manager Mike] Zarren do, I’m full support. My job is to play, their job is to manage. As long as I don’t try to manage and play, I think the Boston Celtics  will be a pretty [good] team in the East.”
He may not be in the front office but there is one role he feels he can serve if he sticks around in Boston, and it provided another reason beyond conditioning for him to be in attendance Wednesday – leadership. One of those looking up to Sullinger while working out with him Wednesday was Kelly Olynyk.
“Honestly, yes, there’s things I can help Kelly out with, if I see something he’s not doing well,” said Sullinger, who will not be making the trip to Orlando for the Summer League. “We kind of police ourselves so he helps me out at the same time I help him out. It’s kind of two-way street. It gives me an opportunity to kind of help out the younger guys and kind of test my IQ and see if I really know basketball the way I say I do.”
As for any trade rumors involving Minnesota’s Kevin Love , Sullinger said it just comes with the territory.
“Danny is just doing his job,” said Sullinger. “You’ve got to understand that. Danny is doing his job. We had a down year last year and he’s just trying to be as competitive as possible in the east. He’s just doing his job.”
Sullinger said he wasn’t aware of teammate Avery Bradley  re-signing for four years and $32 million, adding, “if that’s true, I’m happy he’s back.” Neither Danny Ainge or Brad Stevens  are permitted to speak about any player transactions during a moratorium that continues through July 10.
Sullinger did get a chance to see first-round draft pick Marcus Smart up close and personal on Wednesday.
“Marcus’ last name pretty much says it all about him on the basketball court. He’s smart. He plays well,” said Sullinger. “He’s a very, very tough defender. That was real shocking to me. I really didn’t watch a lot of college basketball , but you see a lot of highlights on SportsCenter. He was always up there, but they never said anything about his defensive ability. That’s one thing about him. And James, watching him in the national championship in the tournament, he was one of the key guys for the Kentucky team. He’s really long and really athletic. That really helps us out.”