|Jared Sullinger has chip on his shoulder as he heads into All-Star break||02.13.14 at 12:28 pm ET|
An athlete can take anything and use it as motivation.
Sometimes it’s just for a game or a season but listening to Jared Sullinger after the final game before the All-Star break Wednesday night, being snubbed in the 2012 NBA draft is having a lingering effect.
With concerns over his back, which required surgery in his rookie year, Sullinger fell to No. 21 on draft night, just weeks after leading his Ohio State Buckeyes to the Final Four.
Usually for younger players selected to All-Star activities – like Friday’s “Rising Stars Challenge” – the weekend provides a chance to chill and show off their skills. But to Sullinger, this weekend means more, much more.
‘To me, it means everything,’ Sullinger said. ‘All the hard work. And also on top of that, being picked where I was picked, it was kind of a slap in the face towards me even though I had the back injury. But it’s a blessing.’
The slap in the face has apparently lit a fire under the big man. Only sickness (which required IVs earlier) Wednesday night could bring an end to his career-best string of six straight games with a double-double. He was named the Eastern Conference player of the week last week as he averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds. Sully had just four points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes in the 104-92 loss to the Spurs.
“I was a little sick. Still feel it a little bit, but I’m all right,” said Sullinger. “I missed a lot of shots, but I don’t really think [the illness] affected me. I think it was just that I was a little bit off in my routine, came in a little bit later because (team trainer) Eddie [Lacerte] wanted me to stay in bed. Just off my routine a little bit. As a result, I missed a lot of shots that I normally make.”
Just how long does Sullinger plan on using the motivation?
‘A long time? For the rest of my career,’ Sullinger answered.
Sullinger isn’t the first Celtics star to use a chip on his shoulder as motivation. Rajon Rondo does it every time people bring up his career at Kentucky with Tubby Smith. Paul Pierce, like Sullinger was projected by some as a “Top-5″ pick. He fell to 10th in the 1998 NBA Draft.
Now Sullinger, like Pierce and Rondo, are busy proving NBA executives wrong for passing on him. Sullinger is averaging 13.2 points and 8.2 rebounds in his second season in the NBA, earning a spot on the “Rising Stars” squad this weekend.
‘I don’t want to get satisfied,’ Sullinger said. ‘I never will get satisfied. I’ve got a lot more work to do.’
|On a milestone night, Rajon Rondo getting closer to where he wants to be||02.09.14 at 10:53 pm ET|
On his second of 12 assists of the night, Rajon Rondo became the 101st player in NBA history to amass 4,000 assists and just the sixth player in the storied history of the Celtics to reach the plateau. Bill Russell is next with 4,100. Bob Cousy is the all-time franchise leader with 6,945.
But that milestone was just one significant milestone for Rondo Sunday in a 102-91 loss to the Mavericks at TD Garden.
“It’s definitely an honor, especially to have so many in this organization,” Rondo said. “It’s right up there. It’s definitely an honor to get that many assists. I’ve played with a lot of great players. Give them credit. They have to make the basket.”
The Celtics point guard played a season-high 36 minutes and looked good doing so.
“I played 36 tonight and I’m a little sore but I’ll be fine,” Rondo said. “I try to listen to my body as much as possible.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the game that he spoke with Rondo and believes the time restrictions are all but gone after his return from ACL surgery.
‘Time limit’s off, yeah,” Stevens said after the game. “Not playing in the back-to-back. Probably will be cleared to play in back-to-backs again very soon. I asked the question right after we met prior to the game and it sounds like, again, that’s sooner rather than later but no time issues.’
Rondo clarified that position when he spoke post-game, about 45 minutes after Stevens made his initial proclamation.
“I wouldn’t say [limit] is completely off. I won’t be playing 40. When I’m out there and my adrenaline is going, I’m fine,” Rondo said.
Rondo will not be playing in Milwaukee on Monday night. Rondo would not say whether he would travel with the team or not on Sunday.
|Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter too much for Rajon Rondo, Celtics||02.09.14 at 8:17 pm ET|
Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points and Vince Carter added 14 off the bench to help the Mavericks pull away for a 102-91 win Sunday night at TD Garden. The loss snapped Boston’s three-game win streak, which was one shy of the four straight at the beginning of the season.
That win streak in November put the Celtics at 4-4. Sunday’s loss dropped Boston to 18-34.
The Celtics were led by Jeff Green with 18 points while Rajon Rondo returned from a night off Friday and scored 15 with 12 assists. Green was rumored to be trade talks between Atlanta and Celtics vice president of basketball operations Danny Ainge while Rondo’s name was again in trade rumors involving the Knicks.
The Celtics could not overcome dreadful shooting Sunday night. They were down just six at the half, 44-38, despite shooting just 27.1 percent (13-of-48) from the floor.
The Mavericks pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring Boston 28-18 to take a 72-56 lead into the fourth. Avery Bradley (2-for-13), Jared Sullinger (4-for-13) and Green (6-for-15) highlighted the struggles of the Celtics. Sullinger extended his string of double-doubles to five games with 12 rebounds and 11 points, scoring a basket late in the fourth quarter to keep the streak alive.
Chris Johnson, signed to a multi-year deal on Friday, had a career high 14 off the bench for the Celtics.
Nowitizki had been averaging 28 points a game in his last six games entering Sunday’s contest but Dallas didn’t need him to be spectacular against a Celtics team that couldn’t find its offensive rhythm all night. Nowitzki was 7-for-16 from the field and his his three with 9:23 left in the fourth quarter put Dallas up, 81-58.
Dallas would build the lead to 24 in the fourth before a late Celtics run, sparked by the bench, cut the Mavs’ advantage down to nine, 98-89, with just over a minute left.
The Mavericks, who entered Sunday in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, are making a push in the highly competitive conference. Sunday’s win on the parquet was their fourth straight and six in their last seven as they improved to 31-21.
The Celtics return to action Monday night in Milwaukee against a Bucks team that is currently leading the NBA Lottery race with a league-worst 9-41 record.
|Report: Danny Ainge shopping Jeff Green to Atlanta Hawks in possible trade||02.09.14 at 7:16 pm ET|
The New York Daily News reported Sunday that the Celtics vice president of basketball operations is shopping the forward around and the Atlanta Hawks reportedly have serious interest in acquiring him before the Feb. 20 deadline.
Green has $18.4 million left in guaranteed money after this season, including a player option for $9.2 million for 2015-16. He is leading the Celtics in scoring this season at 16.3 while playing in all 52 games through Sunday.
Sam Amick of USA Today reported Sunday that the Knicks might be willing to take on Green’s contract or that of Gerald Wallace in order to entice Ainge to trade Rondo to the Knicks in exchange for a package that could include Amar’e Stoudemire and several young players.
The Hawks are clearly looking to add pieces to a roster they think can make a move in the underwhelming Eastern Conference this season. They stood 25-24 entering Sunday’s action, in fourth place in the East, just a half-game ahead of Chicago Bulls.
— Mitch Lawrence (@Mitch_Lawrence) February 9, 2014
|Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley return for Celtics against Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas Mavericks||02.09.14 at 6:01 pm ET|
Rondo and Bradley both missed Friday’s win over the Kings, which ran Boston’s winning streak to three games, one shy of their season high.
Rondo sat out with general soreness after returning from ACL surgery while Bradley missed the game after twisting his right ankle against the Sixers last Wednesday. With the team traveling to Milwaukee for Monday night’s game, it’s unlikely Rondo will play in back-to-back games for the first time this season.
“That’s an above-me question,” Brad Stevens answered when asked when Rondo might be cleared for such activity. “Our trainers and medical staff and [Rondo will] get together. I would think it would be sooner rather than later, but I don’t know want to project a timeline.”
As for Bradley, he turned his right ankle in only his second game back from a five-game absence due to a sprain of the same ankle.
“I think he just twisted it again on Wednesday,” said Stevens before Sunday’s game. “He was 100 percent when he was playing Sunday and Wednesday, then twisted it or whatever, so it’s almost like, instead of a reoccurring injury, he just injured it again. I don’t think it’s a lingering thing by any means.”
Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 23 points in three games in February and has led Dallas to five wins in their last six games. He scored 38 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the team’s only loss (vs. Houston) in that stretch. How do the Celtics or anyone go about slowing him down?
“Nobody can answer that question with a straight face,” said Stevens. “Don’t know that anybody has, don’t know that anybody can. You have to mix up your matchups. You have to have different people guard him. You have to guard his pick-and-rolls differently. He presents a problem if you guard it in a traditional way, just because he’s a great shooter.
“He’s a great pull-up shooter and he’s probably one of the best two-point long-range shooters in the league — one of the very few guys that’s probably a great great shot for. Yeah, he’s a tough one to guard and he’s really playing at a great level right now, at whatever old he is, what is he 35 years old? He’s not showing signs of that right now.”
Vitor Faverani (knee) will miss his fifth straight game.
|Those pesky Rajon Rondo to New York Knicks trade rumors won’t go away||02.09.14 at 1:10 pm ET|
Apparently the New York Knicks don’t want to believe Danny Ainge.
A report in the USA Today indicates that the Knicks, who stand 20-30 heading into Sunday, still believe they can pry away superstar point guard Rajon Rondo for the right package.
Part of their desperation, Sam Amick’s report suggests, has to do with the desire to keep another superstar – Carmelo Anthony – from bolting Broadway.
“The Knicks have a strong belief that he can be had,” Amick writes.
Amick points out the Knicks can offer Amar’e Stoudemire, who has one season remaining after this one, at $23.4 million, while also taking future money back, i.e. Gerald Wallace (two years/$20 million) and/or Jeff Green (two years/$18.4 million). This would help Ainge clear the way for the summer of 2015 when he can add free agents to a possibly lottery pick or two.
The Knicks can’t offer any first round draft picks until 2018 but they could include point guard Raymond Felton, promising young swingman Iman Shumpert and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr.
Earlier this season it was reported that Anthony was trying to lure Rondo, a former teammate at Oak Hill Academy, to the Knicks.
|How good can Jared Sullinger be? ‘He’s not there, he can get better’||02.08.14 at 3:29 pm ET|
There’s not a big man hotter than Jared Sullinger, at least three games into February.
He is averaging 23.7 points and 12.7 rebounds in registering a double-double in his first three games of the month. Not coincidentally, the Celtics have followed up their worst month in history with a 3-0 start to February.
Friday night, he had a career high 31 points and 16 rebounds in posting his fourth straight double-double overall in a 99-89 win over the Kings. Perhaps just as impressive is the fact that he accomplished those numbers against another power big in DeMarcus Cousins.
“I think we’re doing a better job looking for him,” Brad Stevens said. “He feels a little bit better even though that dislocated finger’s still wrapped up. I think he feels better every day, and you know, it’s like we talked about last week: fair or unfair, that’s who we need him to be. And so that’s the opportunity in front of him. He’s capable and I’m not saying that you have to get a double-double every day but he’s darn near capable of doing that. And so I think that the more that we can continue to build off that, the better.
“[Sullinger] is a 6-foot-7 [big man]. That’s the one thing. And that’s what makes Jared unique is he’s a big, strong guy that can score over bigger guys in the post. But then, that’s why it’s so critical, and we’ve talked about it, that he continues to work and refine his perimeter game, which he’s obviously doing well with. But it’s not where it will be someday.”
What is Sullinger’s ceiling?
“How high does he reach?” Stevens deadpanned. “He’s not there. That’s the good news. He’s not there; he can get better. And I think, obviously, 31 and 16 is great; can you do that every night? No one in the league is doing that every night. But the bottom line is, as he continues to improve, as he continues to get more games underneath his belt, as he continues to get further away from the surgery and gets another more freshness and another summer of work and all of those things, I just think that the sky’s the limit. He’s playing at a nice level, there’s no question about it, but I really believe that he can be a consistent double-double guy.’
Sullinger is averaging 13.4 points and a team leading 8.1 rebounds in a season where he easily could be considered the team MVP. His scoring is up nearly four points from his rookie season and his rebounds are up one per game over last season.
“It is just more space, in college I was double all the time so I had to find ways to score,” Sullinger said. “That’s why my offensive rebounding has been the way it has been, I had to find other ways to score in college.”
Something else that’s been better in the last three games is Sullinger’s demeanor on the court.
“I just went out and played my game I have been doing it for the last couple of games and just have been letting go. I am showing better body language according to my father,” Sullinger said with a sheepish grin.
While the winning may be hurting the team’s draft position, Stevens is just happy that there are clear signs that the right pieces are in place.
“I think the nice part about it is at the end of the day, you had Phil Pressey out on the floor at 22 or 23 years old, you had Kelly Olynyk on the floor, you had Jared Sullinger on the floor, you had a lot of young guys on the floor but it was also we had a lot of real savvy basketball players out there,” Stevens said. “And I think this team is really figuring out what they do best individually and playing off of that. I thought the guy who really lifted us in a lot of ways was Gerald (Wallace). I thought his physicality and toughness all over the court was great.”
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