Jared Sullinger just can't seem to stay healthy in his stead with the Celtics. He admitted this week, and Ainge confirmed (see Weighty Issue), that his conditioning and weight are a problem. His back was miraculously fixed via lumbar disk surgery more than a year ago. His hand was healed from a fracture last Spring. Now has encountered a stress fracture in a metatarsal on his left foot. He also revealed this week that he broke a metatarsal in his right foot in high school playing "too much basketball".
So this week, the fingers have been pointing. How could he get hurt again for the third time in three seasons? He's not motivated enough to meet conditions goals and transcend injuries! Too fat and out-of-shape!
Sullinger fluctuates from being the bargain draft pick of 2012, and this year's Celtics leading rebounder and scorer to a flotsum/jetsam that Celtics need to release for a more reliable fixture in the C's quest for No. 18. I think we all understand the health connection, i.e., see the road Glenn Davis NBA career has taken. However, as a warning, everyone should know that even if he slims down and does everything right, he likely will still have his dings, it's just how many.
The Weight of the Matter
Sullinger is a big boy. Is he overweight? Accusations are flying from everywhere that he didn't lose the 15 or the 30 pounds that he promised to lose last summer when he was getting himself back into shape. The Celtics list him as 260 pounds for the last three years in the Media Guide, which doesn't meet the straight face test. So why don't those media guides publish honest information anyway??
Back in September, Celticsblog's Kevin O'Connor voiced his opinion that Sullinger didn't achieve the necessary weight loss, "there is no friggin' way he's 260". Danny Ainge kind of confirmed that yesterday, but we still don't know what Sully actually weighs.
Jared's Mea Culpa
In his press interview this week, Jared yielded to the GM and coaching staff about his conditioning. It is conventional wisdom that better conditioned athletes get hurt less . . . but there are genetic tendencies with regard to how bodies are built - not everyone has a perfect back and not everyone has perfect skeletal alignment and joints, etc. Losing weight is a general prescription to better health, but it doesn't eliminate the type of injuries that Sullinger has encountered.
So I'm sounding like Jared's chiropractor, but I'm just saying that he has other things going on that may make him predisposed to injury. Dr. Tony Wanich, a professor of orthopedics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, also came to Sullinger's defense and said this stress fracture is more likely due to a slight misalignment in the foot (see Globe article).
Improved conditioning will give him a fighting chance for a longer career in the NBA, but he's got an uphill battle whether he's skinny or fat. There are injury prone players out there regardless of conditioning. Recent examples include Dwayne Wade, Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams, Kyle Lowry, Bradley Beal, Anderson Varejao, Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrew Bynum, and Greg Oden.
Jared's In-Game Decline - Fact or Fiction?
Take away the injury, and you would be hard pressed to say that Jared fades at the end of games due to poor conditioning. He generally finishes strong as evidenced by his per quarter stats below - see how his defensive field goal percentage (DFG%) gets nasty in the 2nd half?
But then another admission was made by Sully. During his interview this week, Sullinger said that former Celtics player/current broadcaster Brian Scalabrine noted his uneven performance over the course of games, and then admitted that "I'm pacing myself" during games. So much for statistics bearing that out! But here's a GIF that suggest that Sully turns it on in the 2nd half. He was a monster in the January 25th game against the Warriors, scoring 26 in the game. The 1st half he had zero falls after the shot - pacing himself? The 2nd half, he's more aggressive creates contact and falls down three times on his way to the line.
As a reminder, here's some thoughts on just how special a healthy Jared Sullinger is for the Celtics.
One-Handed Round Mound of Rebounds
Just a reminder. You can be overweight and still be an impossible rebounder. That is what Sullinger is. His booty is large, the better to clear room like a bull in a china shop. His hands enormous, large enough to grab signature one-handed rebounds as if they were nerf balls. And he has a nose for cleaning the glass. When it comes to the janitorial work of picking up rebounds on the offensive or defensive end, Sully knows rebounds. Here's an excellent video from Tomasz Kordylewski:
Jared Can Shoot
The Celtics Big Man can stretch the floor and has no problem connecting from deep, mid-range and in the paint. Brad Stevens complimented his shooting earlier this month:
"I think he's got touch. That's what makes him tough. . . . The best thing you can say from a natural standpoint is how beautiful his touch is. When the ball hits the net, it looks like it's supposed to."
He had a rough beginning when he started taking NBA threes in his rookie season, but last Fall he blossomed. Kelly Olynyk was already one stretch four that the C's could rely on, and Coach Brad Stevens simply told Sully to keep shooting to best help the Celtic's offense.
Embrace the Dietician's directives Sully, godspeed on that stress fracture, and see you next season.