Ever since the Celtics jettisoned Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets it seems as though everyone and their mother has been throwing the "T" word around like it's going out of style. Sure, getting rid of two aging franchise legends in exchange for a bunch of spare parts and draft picks is definitely a move one would make if they were interested in starting their team anew. Believe me, I get that. But, in its current form, this Celtics team is much too talented to be considered a team that's ... gulp ... tanking.
Personally, I don't really believe in the whole "tanking" phenomenon and my reasoning is quite simple. As a professional athlete - it doesn't matter what sport you play - you've almost certainly dedicated a majority of your life to perfecting your craft. It took countless hours, blood, sweat, and tears (I don't mean to be corny...) and you're finally at the peak of your profession after all the sacrifice. Now just imagine your head coach, general manager, owner, or what have you approaching you one day and saying, "Hey, man. I need you to lose on purpose so we can get a good draft pick. Oh and hey, tell the others for me." How would you handle that? Not very well I presume.
Being a part of a team that's being accused of tanking probably isn't a very good feeling, especially if it isn't true. That's why at today's practice Celtics forward Jared Sullinger did his best to discourage people from believing that the Cs are planning to purposely lose throughout the 2013-14 campaign.
"Lot of guys expect us to just like tank for [top draft prospects Jabari] Parker or [Andrew] Wiggins," said Sullinger. "Ya'll might as well throw that out the door. I don't know why people keep talking about tanking. We got competitors around here, we're not really like that. We don't care if Jeff [Green] averages 20 [points per game] or I average eight, we just want to win. And show everybody that they can kiss our butts about that tanking stuff."
If Sullinger's words off the court don't persuade you into thinking that he has no interest in tanking this year, then his play on the court should. The second year pro is averaging career bests in minutes (25.1), points (13.3), rebounds (7.4), and assists (1.4) per game. Not to mention the seven games of at least double digit points and eight rebounds or the plus-44 plus/minus he's accrued to this point in the season. But perhaps what's most impressive is the fact that the Celtics are an otherworldly minus-113 when Sully is on the bench.
Despite the hot start, Sullinger couldn't really care any less about his individual accomplishments.
"Not really happy with the numbers because we're what, 7-12?" asked Sullinger. "I'm not really happy about that. But I can play better. And I will play better."
Personally, I never had any doubt that the Celtics weren't tanking this season. There's too much pride involved as far as being a Boston Celtic is concerned. I think Sullinger not only knows about the history of this franchise, but he believes in it. We'll see if Sully can get the rest of his teammates to buy into exactly what he's trying to sell.
*Hat tip to ESPNBoston.com's Chris Forsberg for the quotes.
**All stats courtesy of NBA.com's statistical databases.