|Jared Sullinger takes over and other observations from first day of summer league||07.09.12 at 6:48 pm ET|
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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