Sullinger ‘Ready to Win’ in Boston
By Brandon Castel
Russell. Cousy. Havlicek. McHale. Bird. Pierce. Sullinger?
The Boston Celtics are anything but lacking when it comes to history and tradition. Possibly the NBA’s most storied franchise, the “Celts” have won 17 championships and have retired 21 numbers, including many of those named above.
Jared Sullinger is just hoping to be a part of the tradition.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“It’s great. You couldn’t go to a better place than Boston,” Sullinger told reporters Thursday evening after the Celtics made him the 21st pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
“Great fans. I experienced a little bit of Boston when I was there for the tournament. I think it’s a blessing in disguise.”
This blessing comes in disguise because Sullinger had to watch 20 other college players hear their names called on draft night before the two-time first-team All-American came off the board.
Questions about his athleticism and concerns about his recent injuries caused Sullinger to slide out of the lottery—where he was expected to be a top 10 pick a year ago. He wasn’t even invited to New Jersey for the draft, despite leading the Buckeyes to a Final Four in his second season at Ohio State.
Being back home in Columbus turned out just fine for Sullinger and his family.
“It’s a blessing to be here,” Sullinger said as he was surrounded by family and friends, including a number of his former Ohio State teammates.
“Some guys complain about being in the green room, I was actually excited when I didn’t get invited. That way I could celebrate with all of my family, and not just some.”
Under head coach Doc Rivers, the Celtics were one win away from reaching the NBA Finals again this year, but they have an aging roster that needed a jolt of youthful energy. Along with Sullinger, the Celts also grabbed Syracuse big man Fab Melo in the first round, along with his teammate Kris Joseph in the second.
“When you go to a team that took Miami to seven games and they still have the majority of their corps back, it’s only a blessing,” Sullinger told reporters.
“With guys like Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, and to learn under Kevin Garnett for a year or two years, it’s a blessing.”
After 17 years in the league, Garnett is a free agent this off-season. There has been some talk that he may decide simply to retire, despite posting excellent numbers in the playoffs, but NBA insider Chris Broussard expects Garnett to be back with the Celtics next season.
Broussard also believes there is a chance Ray Allen could return to Boston, despite rumors he has interest in signing with the Miami Heat. The team also has a trio of youngsters in JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore and Greg Stiemsma—all guys from the Big Ten—along with two-guard Avery Bradley, who missed the Heat series with a shoulder injury.
Former Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jeff Green could also return to the Celtics, if he is cleared from the aortic aneurysm which would cause him to miss the 2011-2012 season.
The additions of Sullinger, Melo and Joseph would give the Celtics much-needed depth and energy off the bench, but it’s a little early to predict what the men in green will look like next season.
“It’s only getting started,” Sullinger said.
“We have a lot of work to do. This is just one part of the step. Next is summer league then you go to training camp.”
According to Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, Sullinger actually may have a “disk issue” in his back, which explains the red flag that kept many teams from taking Sullinger higher than 21.
Ainge said the disk issue may or may not require surgery, but either way it won’t change the way Sullinger is approaching his new opportunity in the unofficial ‘Capital of New England.’
“I’m ready to dominate,” he said.
“Ready to play as hard as I can. Ready to learn as fast as I can, and ready to win. That’s what it’s all about, is winning. I’m ready to win.”
Related Story: Sullinger Lands Softly in Boston after Falling Out of Lottery - By Patrick Maks
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