Everyone with eyes could tell that Jared Sullinger needed to get in better shape this summer. Danny Ainge specifically challenged him to work on his conditioning between the end of the season and training camp. It sounds like his agent and family decided to step in and give Jared yet another boost. They staged an intervention and they brought along John Lucas II to help.
"(Lucas) personally came down and he told me, ‘You’ve got all the talent in the world, but you’ve forgotten what working hard is,’ " Sullinger said yesterday. "For somebody to come all the way from Houston to Colombus, Ohio, to stop whatever he was doing, he was there for me, and that’s what made me go and work out for John."
So for two weeks in June, two weeks in July, much of August, and the past three weeks in September, Sullinger trekked to Houston where he submitted to Lucas' demands, including a regimented diet. His workouts included a two-week stretch in which he never picked up a basketball, but engaged in other sports with the goal of moving him outside his comfort zone.
"What [workouts] didn’t I do?" Sullinger said with a laugh when asked about his activities. "I mean, I went from boxing to swimming to on-the-court basketball to on the track. I did so many sports other than basketball. There was one point where I was down there in August for two weeks and I didn’t touch a basketball. He wouldn’t let me. We just got in shape other ways. It was a lot of fun."
On the one hand, I'm very happy to hear that Jared got some help to focus him on his conditioning and got some great advice on what his priorities should be both off the court and on it (Lucas also told him to get his butt on the block and take fewer 3 pointers).
On the other hand, it is troublesome that starting his 4th year in the NBA Jared needed someone to straighten him out. He played (briefly) with Kevin Garnett and several other veterans. He's played for Doc Rivers and Brad Stevens and several assistant coaches. Surely he's gotten some guidance in the past about what it takes to be a professional athlete. It is mystifying why he hasn't gotten the message before now.
Furthermore, if it has taken him this long to get the message, how sure are we that the lessons will finally stick? If he's "forgotten what working hard is" what's to say that he won't forget again?
Of course that's why the Celtics aren't likely to extend his contract this summer. The better idea is to let him play out the season and earn his next payday the old fashioned way. He has to prove that he has indeed gotten into good shape and will stay that way.
By the way, I don't really think it matters too much what the numbers on the scale say. He could have lost fat weight and gained muscle weight and it would even out to nothing. And as he says, it wouldn't be good for him as a low post player to lose too much weight. Especially when he lacks the length that a lot of NBA bigs have. All that really matters is that he can go full speed for most of the game and bang down low effectively during the minutes that he's on the floor.
If he takes a few 3 pointers in the flow of the offense, that's all fine and dandy. But if he's trailing behind the break and lazily hoisting up 3's instead of working down on the block, that will be a problem and won't spell good things for his future in Boston.
Here's hoping that he's finally gotten the message and we will see a new and improved Jared Sullinger this season. He's certainly got the talent and potential to be a difference maker. He just needs to keep working at it.