Is anybody else curious why we haven't heard about the pick up game tales of lore about Jared Sullinger? Courtney Lee tweeted a video of him dunking on Fab Melo and Kris Joseph bragged about throwing it down on the big fella as well, but we haven't heard anything about the 21st pick out of Ohio State. He's been pretty active on Twitter about his diet with TeamSully.myvi.net and killing teammates on XBox, but really nothing about his on court game. My hope is that what he's concentrating on in these informal workouts isn't scoring the ball or even dishing out assists from the low post. I want his post game tweets to be, "drew a charge from @RealKrisJo" or "another day at the office with @Fabpmelo battling for boards."
Last season for the Buckeyes, Jared Sullinger pulled down 116 offensive rebounds, 3 less than the more athletic #1 draft pick Anthony Davis (in three fewer games, no less). He was a honey badger for the glass and he proved that again in summer league play. In Columbus, he averaged 3.1 offensive rebounds (9.2 RPG). In nine games in Orlando and Las Vegas, his college game translated to 2.2 offensive rebounds (8.5 RPG).
For rookies to even get a sniff of playing time for Doc Rivers, they have to be able to do the dirty work. Case in point: before Sullinger can even think of becoming the next Kevin Love, he has to be Glen Davis first. Sullinger has more natural talent as a scorer and as a passer than Big Baby did coming out of LSU, but he's going to have to prove to Doc that he's a lunch pail carrying, hard hat wearing worker before Doc inserts him into the rotation. By the end of Davis' second year in Boston, he had become an expert with the big man rotations on D and had made a name for himself by sacrificing his body and drawing charges.
Sullinger's summer league rebounding numbers are impressive and coupled with the fact that he averaged nearly 6 attempts at the free throw line are great signs, but he's going to have to be better on defense. Although he showed a willingness to give up his body for a charge, his footwork in hedging pick-and-rolls was sloppy at times and it put him out of position under the glass. Celtics defense is predicated on help and recover and if you can't recover quick enough or you shade too far on your show, you'll find yourself on the bench, in street clothes, or with the Red Claws.
Kevin Garnett recently returned from a promotional tour in China and as far as I know, hasn't checked into Waltham yet. The rookies have had their taste of Terry, Wilcox, Green, and even Rondo, but it won't really be training camp until KG gets there, especially for the big guys. The importance of re-signing KG can not be overstated; not only does it keep the Celtics relevant for the foreseeable future, but it solidifies a guiding force as the team transitions to a youth movement. It's no secret that if you are a willing pupil, KG will mold you into a winner. His two prized prodigies, Davis and Kendrick Perkins, are now starting front court players in Orlando and Oklahoma City and you can argue that Greg Stiemsma parlayed his time with Garnett into his opportunity in Minnesota.
Sullinger's (and Melo's) team option coincide with the final year of KG's extension (and Brandon Bass' three-year deal) and I'm sure it's in Danny's plans for them to be major contributors by then and hopefully sooner. Not since selecting Al Jefferson with the 15th pick in 2004 has Danny selected big men so high in the draft, let alone two. Thankfully, they're in good hands. Doc is very good about instilling that blue collar mentality with his young players and KG is even better at lighting their fire. Because of his relative inexperience, Melo is a bit more of a gamble and may take a little longer to develop, but if Sullinger can live up to his potential, he could be a Celtic for life.
As a Michigan man, it pains me to say this, put I'm rooting for the Buckeye.