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Chris Wilcox: ‘This is a blessing for me even to be here’ 07.14.12 at 2:29 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Among teammates, coaches and even owner Stephen Pagliuca, Chris Wilcox is known to be a fun-loving man.

So, it was with great humor and appreciation that Pagliuca listened to Wilcox tell him recently that if only he had been able to play against Miami, things might have turned out differently for the Celtics.

“It’ll be even more special to have all these guys on board and we’ll win that seventh game against Miami this year,” Pagliuca said with a smile and chuckle. “Chris said he would’ve made the difference and I think he was right.”

It was no laughing matter in March when Wilcox became the second Celtics player in three months to undergo heart surgery after being diagnosed with a heart irregularity.

He was officially waived by the Celtics on March 23, but like with Jeff Green, who had heart valve surgery two months earlier, there was an unwritten agreement that the team would offer him a contract once he was medically cleared to resume basketball activity. Saturday was that time, as Wilcox, a much-needed veteran big man in the C’s front court, was formally re-introduced in a press conference at the team’s practice facility.

“I’m good. I’m back now. I’m full contact,” Wilcox said. “I can do everything, lifting weights, just to a minimum though, lifting weights. Everything else, I’m back and I’m ready.

“By training camp, I’ll definitely be full-go. I’ve been working hard all summer, trying to get back right, being prepared and it’s going along well.”

What’s been the biggest challenge of training since heart surgery?

“Cardio. Your cardio, your wind,” Wilcox said. “You have to re-train your whole body over again after surgery like that. So, I think the main thing for me is the my cardio so I’ve just been running, trying to get my wind up. That’s the main thing right now.

“This is a blessing,” Wilcox continued. “This is a blessing for me even to be here right now. So, I’m just going to take full advantage of all my situations and all the opportunities that have been coming my way. And it’s a blessing to come back to a team and be able to pick up where I left off. Read the rest of this entry »

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Summer league truths and questions 07.11.12 at 3:36 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger has impressed during summer league. (AP)

ORLANDO — The well-worn maxim of summer league play is this: It’s not possible to tell who can play for real in the NBA, but it is possible to tell who can’t. Through three games, there have been few surprise for the Celtics and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Jared Sullinger is a good basketball player, who will compensate for his lack of athleticism with smart play and strong skills. E’Twaun Moore is confidently taking the reins of the team. Fab Melo is active, but raw. Kris Joseph has good skills across the board. JaJuan Johnson has remained an enigma, but he started to hit his stride in the second half of their third game on Wednesday, an 85-77 win over the Pacers.

The good news thus far is that each of them has flashed an NBA skill, but obvious questions remain. Here’s a thumbnail look at each prospect:

JARED SULLINGER

The raw numbers are decent — 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 11-for-12 from the free throw line — but what has really stood about Sullinger’s game is his feel for rebounding and his ability to pass out of double teams. While concerns about his less-than-ideal physique are legitimate, he’s been able to compensate with his skills, which are numerous.

“He’s a great passer, good rebounder, always in the right position as far as rebounding the ball,” C’s coach Ty Lue said. “He’s going to be good for us.”

Sullinger went 7-for-12 from the floor against the Pacers, operating mostly out of the low post where he is clearly comfortable. The Celtics have not had back-to-the-basket presence like Sullinger since the glory days of Leon Powe, but where Powe was intent on bulling his way to the basket, Sullinger has been able to read the play and make the appropriate pass.

“Getting double-teamed for the majority of your life, you’ve got to learn how to pass,” Sullinger said. “If you didn’t know how to pass, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

He has also shown a knack for getting to rebounds, something that is a major need for the Celtics. At the moment, he’s clearly the most NBA-ready of their roster players this summer.

The question: How much will his lack of athleticism hinder him against NBA competition?

Sullinger has proven he can play at a high level in high school, college and now here in summer league. The larger test awaits. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: E'Twaun Moore, Fab Melo, JaJuan Johnson, Jared Sullinger Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Jared Sullinger takes over and other observations from first day of summer league 07.09.12 at 6:48 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger scored 20 points in his first summer league game. (AP)

ORLANDO — Jared Sullinger has always been the focal point of the teams he’s played on, but this was his first taste of life in the NBA and he didn’t want to seem presumptuous.

“I didn’t want to come into the game thinking like, ‘It’s all about me, it’s all about me,’” he said. “Playing all my life, where everything goes through you, I didn’t want to be like that today because I got some teammates that can really play. So I was just trying to feel it out in the first half and the second half, we were falling behind, so I decided to step up and try to score the basketball.”

That’s exactly what he did as he scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half of the Celtics’ 73-65 win over Oklahoma City in their first summer league game. Sullinger worked down low and it’s clear that he’s comfortable on the block. He also stepped out and made a couple of mid-range jump shots. He even put the ball on the floor, spun into the lane and completed a three-point play.

“He’s just a gamer,” said C’s summer league coach,  Ty Lue. “He knows how to play the game. Guys can be taller and more athletic, but he just knows how to play. He’s very skilled and he knows how to play the game. We wouldn’t have won the game without him today.”

Ever since the Celtics were able to select Sullinger in the first-round of the draft, his ability to play has been a constant theme. He’s not the most athletic player and there are obvious concerns about his back, but his basketball IQ is high and it’s evident watching him operate on the block that he has put in work over the years.

Summer league games are what they are. They can run anywhere from highly entertaining to long, drawn-out slogs and this game ranked more toward the latter end of the scale. Points were tough to come by, but the Thunder also had four first-round picks in their starting five, including center Cole Aldrich and Sullinger more than held his own.

This raises an interesting question as to whether the power forward can slide over and play some center minutes with the Celtics. Team president Danny Ainge raised the possibility during the rookies’ introductory press conference and while it wouldn’t be wise to throw him out there against the likes of Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum, Sullinger said he welcomes the phsyical pounding that comes from playing with the big guys underneath.

“That’s fun. That’s always fun,” he said. “Get to bang around in the post, back to the basket. You get to guard someone taller than you, it’s a challenge. It’s always fun doing that. At the same time, it’s always fun guarding quicker basketball players. It was fun today.”

Growing up in Ohio, he was tested early by his brothers Julian and J.J. who made sure their little brother learned how take punishment, and more importantly, how to overcome it and still play your game.

“When you go through the air on concrete and they throw you to the ground and you’ve got scrapes all over your arms, you learn to concentrate on making the shots, instead of just scraping your arm,” he said. “Every time I’d cry, they’d yell at me because I’m always worried about the scab or something, instead of worrying about making the shot. When you’ve got two brothers like that, it’s not choice but to make the shots.”

All in all, it was a positive first step in Sullinger’s transition to the NBA. Here are some other observations: Read the rest of this entry »

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The boulder on Jared Sullinger’s shoulder 07.02.12 at 2:37 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger is ready to show the Celtics, and the NBA, what he can do on the court. (AP)

ALLSTON — For most, if not all of his basketball life, people have doubted Jared Sullinger. They told him he was too big. They told him college would be too fast. They looked at his 6-foot-9 frame carrying 268 pounds and wondered how he’d keep up with faster, sleeker and taller opponents.

Sullinger can point to the 17 points and 10 rebounds he put up in each of his two seasons at Ohio State. He can tell them how he led the Buckeyes to the Final Four, the Big 10 championship as a freshman and the 65 games he won in his two seasons there. But he also knows that none of that really matters to his critics.

“If you consider me [going] to the Boston Celtics a drop then I’ll do it all over again, without a hesitation,” Sullinger said. “It’s been like that all my life. When I was younger, everybody said I was too big. Going into high school they said I wouldn’t be able to play that fast. Going into college I wouldn’t be able to keep up. So, it’s just the way I live my life. I’m just ready to get started.”

The only reason Sullinger was available with the 21st pick in the draft was because he was red-flagged at the Chicago scouting combine in May due to a bulging disk in his back. The Celtics say they have done their due diligence and will take steps to help him. It’s a concern, but in terms of risks/rewards, they feel the latter far outweighs the former.

“I don’t have any back problems, but it is what it is and I’m just playing basketball now,” he said. “I finally have a job and now it’s time to take the next step and get ready to play.”

This is how it is for Sullinger now. He will always have to prove himself, but now he knows where he will be and for his agent, David Falk, he’s in a perfect place.

“I’m not worried about the number, I’m worried about being in the right environment to grow and develop,” Falk said. “I’m thrilled that he’s here. Playing for Doc Rivers, who is a great motivator, a great coach. Having a chance to play with people like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce who are Hall of Famers. He’ll get a post-graduate education as a rookie.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Ric Bucher on M&M: Tyler Hansbrough is ‘best-case scenario for Jared Sullinger’ at 1:10 pm ET
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Ric Bucher

ESPN’s Ric Bucher joined Mut & Merloni Monday morning to discuss Kevin Garnett’s contract, what the future holds for Ray Allen, what the Celtics’ expectations should be for Jared Sullinger, and more. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

While he didn’t think it was a surprise that Garnett would return to Boston, Bucher said Garnett’s reported three-year, $34 million contract offer was far more than expected.

The deal was “pretty surprising considering the length and the size of it,” Bucher said. “We all know that KG has been battling through a number of things the last few years, and while I thought that [the Celtics] might make him a healthy offer, I never expected that it would be that long.”

Bucher said he felt that Garnett’s effectiveness away from the basket, with his height and shooting ability, was a major factor in the Celtics’ decision to offer the 36-year-old a three-year deal.

“KG has demonstrated with his length and with that silky jumper that he can still be effective,” Bucher said. “And with that size and ability to space the floor, it doesn’t really come down to athleticism. He can probably make that shot over guys when he is 40 years old, and now we may get the chance to see him prove it.”

As for his prediction regarding the Ray Allen sweepstakes, Bucher said he’s come full circle since Garnett agreed to come back, at first believing Allen would definitely return, then wondering whether the Suns would lure him away with a huge contract. However, Bucher said he ultimately he made up his mind when he heard Celtics coach Doc Rivers’ comments.

“Doc coming out and saying, ‘Hey, I feel like Ray’s going to be here,’ and knowing Doc usually doesn’t talk empty-handed in those sorts of tones, and knowing just the general relationship between KG, Ray, Doc and Paul [Pierce], I’m back around to finding it hard to believe that with KG in the fold for that period of time that they’re going to let Ray Allen walk.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Ohio State PF Jared Sullinger 06.22.12 at 1:33 pm ET
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As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2012 NBA draft, we are profiling all players considered likely candidates to be drafted June 28. The Celtics own three picks: 21, 22 (from the Thunder in the Kendrick Perkins trade) and 51.

Concerns about his back have dropped Jared Sullinger's stock, making it a possibility that he'll still be around when the Celtics select in Round 1. (AP)

JARED SULLINGER

Position: Power forward

School: Ohio State

Age: 20

Height: 6-foot-9

Weight: 268 pounds

Achievements: 2012 All-America first team (Sporting News), 2012 All-Big Ten first team, 2011 All-America first team (Sporting News), 2011 All-Big Ten first team, 2011 USBWA National Freshman of the Year

Key 2011-12 stats: 17.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 51.9 FG%, 40.0 3P%

What he brings: Sullinger is slightly undersized as an NBA post player but should be able to use his strength and length to have success at the next level. He not only is a very good rebounder but a good finesse shooter in the paint, which makes him the type of forward who can record double-doubles consistently in the NBA.

Sullinger also surprised many as a 3-point shooter in his sophomore year at Ohio State, recording a .400 3-point field goal percentage on the season (16-for-40). While he may need to adjust to NBA 3-point range, he has the ability to knock down mid-range shots consistently.

He is a little undersized and is not the best athlete, but Sullinger has the skill and work ethic to be a starter in the NBA after two years at Ohio State.

Where the Celtics could get him: Many experts had Sullinger being taken by the Warriors at No. 7 overall. However, recent concerns about Sullinger’s back plus unimpressive pre-draft tests have him falling down draft boards in the 15-25 range, so the Celtics might have a shot at him.

Notes: In his senior year of high school in Columbus, Ohio, Sullinger led his Northland High School team to a 21-0 record, averaging 24.5 points and 11.7 rebounds on the season. In the 2010 McDonald’s All-American game, he was named co-MVP along with Harrison Barnes.

Recent articles:

ESPN: Jared Sullinger’s back a concern

Sports Illustrated: Sullinger measures up as prospects face the tape at pre-draft combine

Video: Here are highlights from Sullinger’s 2011-12 season.

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Why Celtics fans should pay close attention to Cincy’s Yancy Gates 03.22.12 at 10:51 am ET
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Size, power and quickness. Toughness, fearlessness and the ability to rebound.

All of those are qualities the Celtics could use. It’s a commodity they’ve been desperately seeking since Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O’Neal were lost for the season.

The Celtics won’t be in the lottery this season so scouts like Ryan McDonough will be searching long and hard in the college and amateur ranks for someone who might fall through the cracks and be available in the NBA Draft this June.

Meet Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates.

At 6-9, 260 pounds, he’s certainly powerful. He can rebound, currently ranked ninth all-time on Cincinnati’s all-time rebound list with 911. He is one of only six players in the school’s illustrious history with at least 1,400 points and 900 rebounds.

He’s a senior who’s been through the wars.

Oh yeah, about that last line. Arguably the ugliest moment in Cincinnati’s basketball history came on Dec. 10 at the Cintas Center against the archrival Xavier Musketeers.

With just 9.4 seconds remaining in a 23-point loss, Gates was in the middle of college basketball’s ugliest chapter of the season. He threw a right cross that landed flush on the left eye brow of Xavier big man Kenny Frease. It opened a gash and dropped him to the ground. Frease was then stomped on by Cheikh Mbodj and blood started flowing from above Frease’s eye.

To his credit, he served a six-game suspension handed down by the school and expressed remorse. It was a complete loss of self-control and judgment. But in saying that, he has showed something else in the following three months – competitive fire.

While inconsistent at times, Gates has been the backbone of the interior game for the Bearcats, rebounding and playing defense, as coach Mick Cronin directed the team not to rely on his offense but the other things he brings to the table, like nine rebounds a game in the Big East, still considered the toughest in college basketball.

“Defense and rebounding,” Cronin said Wednesday. “We lost Ibrahima Thomas and Yancy really had to change his basketball personality from an offensive player to an all-around player. He needed to be our defensive anchor this year because we’re small in the other areas. It took him time. When he came back [from suspension] he realized here’s what I have to do to help this team win – I have to be an anchor on defense.

“These guys are scoring, they’re running around, hitting shots, beating their man off the dribble. ‘I have to finish plays around the rim, fit in and give these guys an anchor inside.’ And he’s done that. Maybe I should’ve been using him more in that capacity. So, sometimes as a coach, you stumble on to some things.”

With his presence in the middle, he led the team to road wins over Pittsburgh, Georgetown and Connecticut and home wins over Louisville and Marquette. Then, in the Big East, the Bearcats did it again to Georgetown and sent No. 2 Syracuse packing before their offense was a no-show against Louisville in the Big East championship.

Fast-forward to the tournament, they handled Texas and eliminated No. 10 Florida State, the team that beat North Carolina in the ACC title game.

This is a Bearcats team tournament-tested, and ready to take on Jared Sullinger and the Buckeyes. This is a great chance for NBA scouts to see how Gates does against a big-man who projects as a potential lottery pick. And the Celtics will be watching Gates very closely. You can count on it.

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