We can thank the red flags surrounding Jared Sullinger's back for the chance to snatch him up at the 21st pick in the draft. However, now we have to be at least a little concerned about how that back is going to hold up. Word coming out of the Celtics camp as well as Sullinger's family is that the back issues have been overblown.
First, a review of what we're dealing with here.
Since I'm no more of a doctor than Doc Rivers is, here's a blurb from WebMD
A herniated disc occurs when the spongy, soft material that cushions the bones of the spine (vertebrae) slips out of place or becomes damaged. You can have a herniated disc in any part of your spine. When a herniated disc presses on a nerve, it can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the area of the body where the nerve travels.
That sounds lovely. From everything I've heard, a back is nothing to mess with. You can't fight through back injuries like you might with an ankle issue for example. When the back goes, you don't. That said, having a condition and being injured are slightly different things.
Sullinger missed just two games at Ohio State (due to back spasms). His father is quick to point out that the issues that can be coped with if treated properly.
Satch Sullinger believes the back issues became overblown. Satch said the problem stems from tightness in Jared’s hamstrings, quadriceps and hip flexors, and believes it can be alleviated with treatment. "With the Boston Celtics organization, he’s going to be around the best trainers, the best medical staff that you can offer," Satch said. "If he can survive through Ohio State, he’ll survive through that. They’re going to take care of him and Jared understands flexibility now and how important stretching is and he understands the weight is something he can control."
For his part, Ainge obviously believes the kid's talent was worth the risk.
We got wind that the back issues, he was slipping a little bit in the draft. He was projected much higher last week, and so we're fortunate to get him. We were concerned and we did our research on the back issues and felt comfortable. But there are some issues there, and our medical staff thinks that short term and long term there may be some maintenance issues with the back. Doc Rivers played with a herniated disk for 13 years, so it may need surgery at some point, it may not."
Hopefully it doesn't need surgery but if it does, here's hoping that that resolves the issues and that he'll have a long, productive career ahead of him. As we've discussed before, based on his talent and draft position, this was certainly a risk worth taking.
"Jared is one of the better rebounders in the country. He has a great feel for where the ball’s going to come off, he has terrific hands, his rebound rate for per minute is very good. "He’s also able to move away from the basket and make shots and that’s an area he’s improved in, I think, over the past few years. He was a back-to-the-basket player in high school, he was always the biggest, strongest guy around — and he’s developed a nice face-up game, he shot about 40 percent from ‘3’ this year, although that was on limited attempts."
Maybe the back will be an issue. It certainly will have to be monitored closely. That said, he very well could be the steal of the draft. Seems like pick number 21 could be a lucky number for the Cetlics (that's where they grabbed Rondo a few years back).