It was only a matter of time before Brad Stevens started Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk together. The fact that he felt comfortable enough doing it against the San Antonio Spurs is saying something as well. Other coaches might have relied more heavily on their veterans in such a situation.
But when you've got talented young players that need to be developed, situations like this can go a long way toward giving them confidence and scooting up that learning curve. They were coming off a dreadful wire-to-wire blowout loss and it must have felt good just to get on the court again and wash some of the taste of that game out of their mouths.
Sully and Kelly stepped up and showed us a nice sneak peak into the future.
Sullinger, a second-year forward matched up on Tim Duncan, registered team highs with 19 points and 17 rebounds over 31 minutes, 24 seconds of floor time in Wednesday's 104-93 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Rookie Olynyk, still learning to play at the center position, chipped in eight points, eight rebounds and three assists over 37:29. As Stevens told reporters in San Antonio after the game, "The team that played tonight could be a real fun group to build with. That's what you take from here."
Picked in consecutive years as first rounders, it is only natural to think of them as part of the future. Sullinger slipped down to the 21st pick in the draft but would have been a high lottery pick if not for his back issues that are hopefully (pun intended) behind him. Olynyk was technically a lottery pick (via draft night trade) and is one of the most offensively ready rookies in the league. (I'm going to give Danny credit for finding Vitor Faverani as a replacement for the wasted pick on Fab Melo.)
Avery Bradley and Jeff Green both have the potential to be excellent players for the Celtics for a long time and on the flipside any or all of these young players could be traded at any point in the next few years. But Sullinger and Olynyk both seem to be the foundation being laid down around Rajon Rondo's feet.
Sullinger has shown he can be featured in the offense but he's also just so good at making plays even when they aren't called for him. He grabs rebounds and loose balls with keen court awareness and smart boxing out. He finds seems in the defense even among the long athletes that he was supposed to have trouble getting his shot off against.
Olynyk has struggled with his shooting thus far, but obviously the coach must see something he likes in the kid. He's averaging 23 minutes a game and just played 37 minutes against the Spurs (second most on the team). Stevens has said before that he's valuable on the court because he's so smart and sees the court so well.
That's a common theme with both guys, their basketball IQ. Which makes me think that Rajon Rondo is going to really love playing with them once he returns from his injury. Smart players, smart coach, ...seems like a smart plan.
I'm looking forward to watching these guys grow and develop as Celtics.