Sullinger Strong in Celtics Summer League Debut
By Brandon Castel
Jared Sullinger has had plenty of detractors during his path to the NBA, but that criticism got a little quieter after Monday’s Summer League debut with the Boston Celtics.
Photo by Jim Davidson
It took a little while for Sullinger to get himself going in the Celtics’ matchup with reigning Western Conference champion Oklahoma City—he came off the bench and started 2-of-7 from the floor.
Once he found his groove, there was no stopping the former Ohio State All-American.
In his first real basketball game as a professional athlete, Sullinger led all scorers with 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting Monday in Orlando. He was a perfect 7-of-7 from the free throw line with six rebounds in a 73-65 win over the Thunder.
“I can play,” Sullinger said on NBA TV, when asked what he wanted to prove during these summer league games.
“I can handle the ball. I can pass the ball. I can shoot the ball. A lot of people don’t understand that. Everybody thinks I’m overweight, so I’m just trying to prove everybody wrong.”
NBA TV’s color commentator Dennis Scott—a former lottery pick of the Orlando Magic—was openly critical of Sullinger’s weight during the broadcast. He made it a point to mention that Sullinger needed to lose 10 more pounds, despite the fact he’s already lost weight from his playing days at Ohio State.
“I’ve been working out and changing my diet,” said Sullinger, who went from playing at 280 pounds as a freshman with the Buckeyes to 265 pounds last season as a sophomore.
“I hired a personal chef and I’m just trying to get my body weight down so I can play at this level at a high pace.”
Sullinger certainly didn’t look like he was out of place on the court Monday, as he and Perry Jones—Oklahoma City’s first round pick—dominated the game. Like Jones, Sullinger was a potential lottery pick who fell into the 20’s of the 2012 NBA Draft.
Both players ended up on championship contenders with a chance to contribute to a possible title run early in their respective careers. Sullinger called slipping to Boston at pick 21 a “blessing in disguise” because he gets to work with a coach like Doc Rivers and veterans like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
“At the time it was coach Rivers. Great coach,” Sullinger said of what stuck out to him first.
“Then we signed back Kevin Garnett and it was a blessing because I get to learn under one of the best. I’m ready to learn and compete.”
In true Sullinger fashion, his first basket as a Celtic—albeit a summer league basket—came on an offensive rebound. Sullinger went back up with the ball, scoring off the glass over his left shoulder like he did about a thousand times at Ohio State.
Sullinger also showed he could step out and hit his jumper. He knocked down an 18-foot midrange shot over 6-11 center Cole Aldrich in the first half and drained a three off a nice dish from for Purdue guard E’Twaun Moore in the second half.
Despite coming off the bench, Sullinger played the majority of the second half. He led the way for Boston with 14 points in the second half, including a fancy, running hook shot he learned from one of his coaches in Columbus.
“That was all Chris Jent,” Sullinger said with a huge smile.
“We’ve been working on that forever. He told me just to elevate and put some air under it. I put a little bit too much air under it and it went off the glass. I have to thank Chris Jent for that one.”
That shot accounted for two of his game-high 20 points in just over 24 minutes, as NBA Summer League games are only 10 minute quarters instead of 12. It was a nice way to start off the professional career, but Sullinger knows what lies ahead in Boston is far more significant.
“Second place means nothing in that city,” he said.
“You got to win. The fans are great, but you have to win. If you come in second, that doesn’t mean nothing.”
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