Back Injury Sidetracks Sullinger’s Impressive Rookie Campaign
By Brandon Castel
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jared Sullinger will miss the remainder of his rookie season with a back injury, according to multiple reports out of Boston on Friday.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that Sullinger will undergo surgery on his injured back and miss the rest of the season just days after being moved into the Celtics’ starting lineup.
The former Ohio State All-American had emerged as one of the top young players on a Boston team that has gotten very long in the tooth this season, especially with the recent season-ending injury to point guard Rajon Rondo.
Sullinger, who suffered back spasms during his sophomore year with the Buckeyes, had to leave Wednesday night's 99-81 victory over Sacramento in the first quarter because of pain in his back.
He missed practice on Thursday after the back pain worsened and was listed at “50-50” to play Friday against the Orlando Magic by Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. That was before news broke that the injury would require season-ending surgery.
The 6-9 forward out of Columbus Northland High School was averaging six points and six rebounds per game in 20 minutes off the bench for Boston this season. He had come on strong as of late, posting five double-digit rebound games in the month of January.
Sullinger had his first double-double of the season (12 points, 11 rebounds) back in November against the Toronto Raptors. He had three more in January, including a 12 points, 16-rebound effort in a win over Phoenix.
He also posted a double-double against the Cleveland Cavaliers in his return to Ohio, but the Celtics had lost six in a row before they picked up back-to-back victories over Miami and Sacramento this past week.
Sullinger was a +50 over the last 17 games, while the Celtics were -18 as a team. He was leading Boston in +/- this season before the injury, causing many to question why the two-time All-American slipped all the way to No. 21 in the 2012 NBA Draft.
It was Sullinger’s back that caused many to question his status for the draft after he decided to return for his sophomore season at Ohio State. Sullinger experienced back spasms during Ohio State’s 85-62 blowout victory over Duke in Nov., 2011.
He would miss the next two games because of the injury, and had to leave Ohio State’s 74-66 win over South Carolina because of another lower body injury. Sullinger played out the rest of the season, averaging 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
He helped the Buckeyes reach the Final Four in New Orleans before declaring himself eligible for the NBA Draft.
BCast’s Take: This news is pretty deflating for those who have met Jared Sullinger and understand how hard he has worked to get where he is. As someone who covered him for two years at Ohio State, it was good to see a kid like Jared make teams pay for passing on him the NBA Draft.
Now we know their concerns over his injury problems were legitimate, but maybe this surgery will be a blessing in disguise. Sullinger hasn’t really been 100 percent healthy since that Duke game. He tried to shake it off, and obviously the people in his camp wanted to downplay any injury concerns heading into the draft, but Jared even told me during the NCAA Tournament that he wasn’t quite himself after that.
He admitted to having some issues with plantar fasciitis that probably caused a lot of the issues with his lower back. Maybe this will finally get some of that corrected to he can go back to being the Jared Sullinger we saw during his freshman season at Ohio State.
The injury is clearly a setback for Sullinger, who was off to a great start to his NBA career. He was just starting to become more of a factor in Boston, and probably would have seen more and more minutes in the second half of the year.
He will have to regain some of that momentum next year, but the most important thing is that Sullinger already showed he can play at the next level. Maybe he will never become an all-star or a league MVP, but he can be a nice complimentary piece for the Celtics to rebuild around.
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