NBA: Jared Sullinger ready to be leader
Jared Sullinger (7) was limited to 45 games in his rookie NBA season because of back surgery.
Jared Sullinger knows he will need to grow up quickly.
One season removed from being one of the youngest players on the Boston Celtics’ roster, the 21-year-old Sullinger suddenly qualifies as a team veteran despite entering only his second season in the NBA.
This offseason, the Celtics traded veterans Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for three first-round draft picks to give a looming rebuilding effort a quick jump-start. Team president Danny Ainge also traded coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for another first-round pick.
The moves left the Celtics with a roster full of youth, and suddenly Sullinger, with all of 45 NBA games under his belt, becomes an increasingly important factor. But the former Ohio State player said the moves were in the best interest of the franchise.
“I thought what we did was big,” said Sullinger, who was in Columbus yesterday for the Provost Academy Ohio’s inaugural Family Festival. “When we traded Kevin, Paul and J.T., it kind of helped us out because we got nine draft picks at the end of the day. Those are big-time draft picks, especially with this class coming up and the next following year.”
The Celtics also have a new coach, former Butler coach Brad Stevens, whom Sullinger met at Northland High School when Stevens was recruiting in the Columbus area.
“He’s a great guy,” Sullinger said. “I always respected him for what he did and how he handled situations. Also for his coaching style, going to two Final Fours with what he had.”
Last season in Boston, Sullinger averaged 6.0 points and 5.9 rebounds before a back injury required surgery and caused him to miss the rest of the season. He said he’s “fully healthy” now and has been cleared for full contact. He has been scrimmaging with teammates and will participate in training camp next month.
Over the offseason, Sullinger also has been taking online classes at Ohio State to finish his degree in sports management, to fulfill a promise he made to his mother, a math teacher at South High School.
He declared for the draft after his sophomore season with the Buckeyes. And as a rookie in Boston, he got a crash course in NBA life.
“When you have someone like (Garnett), he’s someone who really sorts things out for you,” Sullinger said.
It will be his turn to play a leading role now.