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Rondo stole the show early in Milan, but it was the role players that came up BIG. Jared Sullinger and Darko Milicic turned the paint of the Mediolanum Forum and strutted their stuff with solid rebounding and defense. Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green both finished with 17 points.
Darko Milicic His blocked shots number is great, but it's bigger than that. It's 7'1, 300 pounds bigger than that. It's that Darko got that big body in position as the anchor of the defense. In Turkey, he was getting killed in high picks and moving his feet to get back to the baseline to challenge shots. Today, he was much better at anticipating the roll and getting to his spot. This is a skill that Fab Melo hasn't mastered yet. He's always looking for the highlight rejection rather than just the solid contest.
On offense, his passing ability is going to be another weapon from the bench. Whenever he's on the floor, he's going to be surrounded by guys that can hit the open jumper or slash to the rim. At the high post, he'll act as a lighthouse looking for guys to score. He's also becoming a pretty good pick setter. How do I know that? Because he got called for an offensive foul on one of his picks and Doc got a technical foul for defending him. Classic Kendrick Perkins right there, right?
Jared Sullinger Like Darko, Sullinger is going to be working off of playmakers. I think Doc put him in the starting lineup today to see how he'd work off the A-team and he was great as a complementary piece. Sullinger could not have gone to a better team in this year's draft; sure, with his talent and more importantly, his willingness and work ethic to do the dirty work, he's going to be a huge asset. Whether it's Garnett drawing defenders in the high post or playing pick-and-pop with Rondo or The Jet, Jared's going to get fed off the ball. At Ohio State, the Buckeyes could dump the ball into the post and rely on him as their primary scorer/passer but in Boston, Doc will rarely use him as the #1 option. He doesn't have the size or athleticism (right now) to back guys down and be a mismatch.
But with that said, the kid's murder on the offensive rebounds. Scal pointed it out again on the broadcast: he does his work on the offensive glass even before a shot goes up and he's always ready for a pass if the opposing team decides to double. Think of him as the big man version of Avery Bradley. He's got really soft hands and has a knack of finding the ball on the baseline. As long as he can finish quickly and not let the defense collapse on him (a problem that Glen Davis had), he'll be a perfect role player this season.
What happened to Dionte Christmas? He scored some in extended garbage time, but a lot of it was going one-on-one and coast-to-coast. What does it say that Jamar Smith got some back up point guard minutes with some of the rotation players rather than Christmas? Dionte worked in tandem with E`Twaun Moore as a ball handlers in summer league but we haven't seen that in the first two preseason games. He's shown flashes as instant offense (like his mentor, Jason Terry), but I'm worried that if Doc doesn't find a more specific role for him, the guy we fell in love with this summer will struggle to even make the team.