What the heck happened to Jared Sullinger?
In the minds of many Boston Celtics fans, he is long gone. A steal in the draft for Boston, the power forward Sullinger proved that his red flags were justified when he was forced out for the season following a relapse with his longest-running problem: a back injury.
Before Sullinger’s injury, he was proving himself to be worth all of the hype. He quickly flew through the ranks to be the no. 2 PF in Doc Rivers’ rotation. The fact a rookie was the next best thing to Kevin Garnett would usually be the sign of a bad team, but Sullinger proved he was there simply because he was just that good.
Don’t get me wrong, Sullinger sans back injury wouldn’t have been an All-Star. He was known to occasionally make a rookie mistake, but was becoming quite the contributor for the Celtics overall. At times, it seemed as though Sullinger got all of his college credit at Ohio State taking classes in rebounding. He was tenacious, young, hopeful and then gone.
And that was the end of it.
As fast as Sullinger-mania swept Boston, it left. He did not deliver a huge press conference. He was not tweeting about his mighty return. He did not channel his inner Kobe Bryant and go on a Facebook rant about hard work and fortune. ESPN didn’t even show shots of him sitting on the bench.
For the most part, Sullinger was little more than an afterthought for the rest of the season. That is a shame seeing as how he could be a real and valuable part to the Celtics’ long-term future. If he can progress at the rate he was poised to, the Ohio product lovingly dubbed “Sully” can do some serious damage for the Celtics this season.
Assuming Boston hangs on to the likes of Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace, a very effective rebounding machine could be formed with the addition of a healthy Sullinger. For the first time in years, fans could be seeing a version of the Celtics that involves rebounding rather than just getting back on defense after every shot.
Aside from that, Sullinger is fast for his size, and as basketball evolves more and more in favor of teams with running big men, a mixture of Rajon Rondo and Sullinger could be quite avant garde.
Sullinger is a very talented player with a surprisingly high basketball IQ. His aggressiveness can lead him into foul trouble, but his incredible rebounding ability and decent paint presence make him worth the occasional odd fouls. Combine that with his professional attitude and willingness to learn the game, and Sullinger is already miles ahead of his draft class.
This season, you can be sure Sullinger will be far from forgettable.