|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.’
|Celtics captain Rajon Rondo on Valentine’s Day, trade rumors, Mexico and snowboarding (seriously)||at 1:45 am ET|
As Kris Humphries left on Wednesday night to begin a six-day NBA All-Star break leading up the Feb. 20 trade deadline, he gave his best to some of the team’s locker room attendants “in case I don’t see you again.”
Likewise, rookie Kelly Olynyk wanted to make sure Phil Pressey didn’t leave Chris Johnson hanging on a high five because “you never know what day will be your last.” (Pressey left him hanging anyway.)
But Rajon Rondo — the subject of so many trade rumors surrounding this team — kept a poker face. As if Rondo has another face. “I don’t watch TV,” he said of handling the uncertainty of his team’s future and his future with the team. “It’s been like that my last eight years as a Celtic. Until the trade gets pulled, I’ll play as a Celtic.”
Still, while Rondo hears the rumblings — Jeff Green to the Hawks and Brandon Bass to the Warriors, Bobcats or Suns — he knows not to trust a word, because he’s seen every other member of the 2008 championship team leave that locker room and never come back with little warning (see: Perkins, Kendrick).
The ever entertaining Jimmy Toscano wandered the locker room asking various Celtics which Winter Olympics event they’d most like to enter, and Kris Humphries offered the best response (Rajon Rondo a distance second).
“It’s kind of weird. I don’t know if I’d want to play it, but I always grew up watching figure skating with my mom. It’s pretty impressive. I don’t think I could ever do that, but I’ve got a lot of respect for them. I grew up with the Tonya Harding “Tonya Tapper” and that whole deal, so I’m waiting for some action in that sport. It hasn’t come in a while.”
While he could easily be screaming “Why me?” crumpled on the floor somewhere in the depths of the Garden, Humphries isn’t taking the Nancy Kerrigan approach to this 19-35 Celtics season just yet.
“I didn’t come here thinking that we were going to be struggling like this,” he said. “I think you’re a loser if you come in and say this is where we’re going to be at, so I can’t really comment further than that.”
Since he arrived in Boston before training camp, Humphries has said all the right things about joining a rebuilding team 10 years into his NBA career, and his willingness to accept the various roles Brad Stevens has given him throughout the season may have made him more than just a $12 million expiring contract on the trade market. Not that he would know anything about that after another productive night (15 points, 6 rebounds in 23 minutes).
“I think you guys are more in touch with what’s going on than we are, so I’ll look and see what you guys are writing later. You just enjoy the break. If you get that call, you get that call. Otherwise, we’ll see you Wednesday in Phoenix.”
|Chris Mannix on D&C: Rajon Rondo will ‘be with this team through the offseason’||02.12.14 at 11:21 am ET|
Sports Illustrated NBA writer Chris Mannix talked with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday about Rajon Rondo, trade rumors, the NBA draft and more. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Mannix predicts that Rondo will remain with the Celtics this year, and Danny Ainge will look to keep him on board for the long term if he shows an ability to work with the team’s new coach.
“I think he’s a guy that Danny wants to build around if he gets along with Brad Stevens. … It’s still very much a wait-and-see situation with Rondo,” Mannix said. “You’ve got to see what you get from him next year. He’s not going to get traded before this year’s trade deadline, he’s going to be with this team through the offseason.”
Mannix didn’t guarantee Rondo would be in Boston after the season, saying Ainge would always listen to offers.
“If Danny gets a monster offer for Rondo, I don’t think he’s attached to him in the sense that he’s untradeable,” Mannix said. “But I think it’s going to take a huge, All-Star level Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen type of offer.”
Jeff Green, who has been part of recent trade rumors, might be writing his ticket out of town due to his inconsistency, following a strong start to the season.
“He was off the table in the Omer Asik trade about a month ago,” Mannix said. “I remember talking to people in the organization and there was no way they were going to trade Jeff Green in an Omer Asik deal. They thought Green was too valuable in the short term and the long term. Now, a month and a half later, and we’re now realizing that Jeff Green is kind of this Jekyll and Hyde type of guy where some nights he can go for 30, other nights 2-for-12 from the floor and totally vanish.”
|Fast Break: Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger help Celtics stop Bucks||02.10.14 at 10:23 pm ET|
Behind 11 points from Green, the Celtics outscored Milwaukee 32-18 in the fourth quarter to improve to 19-34 on the season. While the Bucks remained atop the tank rankings at 9-42, the C’s now own the league’s eighth-worst record — four games out of a playoff spot.
While Sullinger (13 points, 10 rebounds) logged his sixth straight double-double, Olynyk (14, 11) had the first of his NBA career.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bass kicking: If not for Bass, the Celtics would have been in serious trouble early against the Bucks. While the rest of his teammates shot a combined 6-of-17 from the floor (35 percent) in the opening 12 minutes, Bass finished 5-of-8 for 12 points to go along with four rebounds, and the Celtics led 26-24 after one.
Crash course: Perhaps motivated by the few Milwaukee fans in attendance who constantly chanted his first name, Gerald Wallace filled the stat sheet in the opening half. Starting in place of the injured Avery Bradley, he compiled eight points on three shots, three boards, three steals and two assists by halftime, helping the C’s take a 49-46 lead into the locker room. His production halted after the break, but …
Green thumbs up: After scoring just two points on four shots in the first quarter, Green progressively improved throughout the night, saving his best for the last quarter. He scored eight points on five shots in both the second and third quarters, and then erupted for another 11 on eight attempts in the fourth to close out the win.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Tank top: The Bucks sat Larry Sanders (eye), Ersan Ilyasova (back), O.J. Mayo (illness) and Caron Butler (ankle), and the Celtics countered with Rajon Rondo (knee), Bradley (ankle) and Vitor Faverani (knee) on the bench. If a February game against the NBA’s worst team in Milwaukee could get any uglier, it just did.
Oh, shoot: Midway through the third quarter, the Bucks were shooting exactly 50 percent from the floor (22-44 FG), taking a 61-59 lead after consecutive buckets by Khris Middleton (a 3) and Zaza Pachulia (a bunny). Milwaukee entered the game shooting a league-worst 42.1 percent from the field.
Zaza’s elbows: Pretty much everybody felt the wrath of Zaza Pachulia‘s errant elbows, but Bass got the worst of it, reportedly suffering a corneal abrasion to his left eye that kept him out of the fourth quarter.
Phantom Phil? This late Phil Pressey foul call had Jackie Mac doing her best Tommy impression, but alas it appears Rondo’s replacement may have tripped up Gary Neal well before the whistle.
The NBA named Jared Sullinger the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
Sullinger averaged 23.7 points (60.0 FG%), 12.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 blocks in three victories against the Magic, 76ers and Kings last week, recording three of his five straight double-doubles. Jordan Crawford (Dec. 2-8) is the only other Celtics player to earn the honor this season.
Here are Sullinger’s performances last week:
- Celtics 96, Magic 89: 21 PTS (10-15 FG), 12 REB
- Celtics 114, 76ers 108: 19 PTS (6-11 FG), 10 REB, 5 AST, 4 BLK
- Celtics 99, Kings 89: 31 PTS (14-24 FG), 16 REB
Sullinger has cemented himself as either a building block for the Celtics future or one heck of a trade chip (a la Al Jefferson in 2007). Not bad for an undersized big who fell to No. 21 and missed much of his rookie season due to back surgery.
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant took home the Western Conference Player of the Week honor.
The Warriors, Bobcats and Suns are reportedly the most likely destinations for Bass, who is owed $6.9 million next season — the going rate for a player with his production (10.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, 54.1 TS%, 15.0 PER, 1,425 minutes).
‘He is a good fit in a lot of places,’ a league executive told the Sporting News. ‘He can start, he can come off the bench, he can make shots, he can play center against small lineups. A lot of teams need a guy like that.”
Golden State’s best offer? Something like Marreese Speights (owed $3.7 million next season), injured center Festus Ezeli, Jermaine O’Neal‘s expiring contract (bought out before he ever returned to Boston) and a future pick (the Warriors don’t have a No. 1 this season). But does that really upgrade their roster?
The Bobcats could package either of their protected first-round picks (Blazers, Pistons) along with expiring contracts (Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions) or recent lottery disappointments (Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo). Bass and Keith Bogans‘ expiring contract for Gordon’s expiring deal and Portland’s No. 1 pick is an intriguing possibility that would save the Celtics $6.9 million next season and another pick in the loaded 2014 draft.
Likewise, the Suns’ best trade chips are Emeka Okafor‘s $14.5 million expiring contract and any number of four protected 2014 first-round picks (Timberwolves, Wizards, Pacers and their own). Given Suns general manager Ryan McDonough‘s prior work under Celtics president Danny Ainge, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the two sides hammer out a deal should their pursuit of Pau Gasol fall through. Bass and Jeff Green for Okafor’s expiring contract and the Pacers pick would save the Celtics $25.3 million over the next two seasons, for example.
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