When the Celtics drafted Jared Sullinger with the 21st pick in the 2012 NBA draft, fans everywhere were nervous, yet optimistic about his potential contributions for the upcoming season.
Heading into the draft, Sullinger was projected as a lottery pick before being medically red flagged by doctors. This (thankfully) made teams wary of potentially wasting their top pick on a player whose career could be over before it even began.
As draft night came around, teams were staying away from Sullinger. That is, until the Boston Celtics had their first selection with pick #21. Danny Ainge and the Celtics were more than willing to take the risk with Sullinger. And boy has it paid off!
Definition of hustle:
noun: Energetic activity; drive.
verb: To push or force one’s way.
pronoun: Jared Sullinger
The term hustle is used loosely in the NBA today. Some players show spurts of hustle, but are unable to maintain the intensity required for a whole match.
Enter Jared Sullinger, the epitome of hustle and the real life definition of what it means to truly work. Just watch this video from the win over Indiana if you have forgotten what real hustle looks like.
The moment Sullinger became a Celtic, it seemed a perfect match. He was ready to learn and learn from the best with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett around to give him guidance when needed. The Las Vegas Summer League was a great place for Sullinger to prove himself to the Celtic faithful, and he did so by averaging a very solid 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Sullinger has not been blessed with loads of athleticism or speed, but what he does possess over his opponents is his muscle, or “fat” as Doc likes to call it.
“He’s such a smart player. When you watch him, you don’t see rookie, you just see a big fat guy playing basketball.”
A compliment, I think. Somewhat of a surprising fact: Sullinger is the heaviest player on the Celtics roster.
When the real stuff began October 31 in Miami, Sullinger was ready to put up a fight, and fight he did. At one point in the first half he found himself guarding LeBron James, the NBA’s resident force of nature. A scary task for most players in their first NBA game, but not Sully. He did not back down in the least from the challenge and took it in his stride.
Since that game, Sullinger has gone from strength to strength. In just his third NBA game, he was thrust into the starting line up, and impressed Doc enough to remain as a starter for two more games.
Sullinger had a breakout game in the blowout win against Toronto in mid-November. In that match, he recorded his career first double double, pulling down 11 rebounds and posting 12 points. KG also happily introduced Sully to his first ever ‘Gino Time’.
He followed that great game up with a career high 16 points and 5 rebounds in a disappointing loss to the Pistons.
In numerous games when the Celtics looked to be out of it, Sullinger was the one player who fought hard for rebounds, especially of the offensive variety. This was most apparent in a tight win over Orlando, when Sullinger had six rebounds, all coming on the offensive end.
Who can forget the Christmas Day (Boxing Day for us Aussies) match against Brooklyn? Sullinger was a vital cog in the smoothly running Green Machine that day. He out-hustled Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace beyond the point of frustration, and recorded a very healthy 16 points and 7 rebounds in the process.
During that horrendous three-game road trip out West, which saw the Celtics
lose get smashed into unrecognisable bits by the Clippers, Warriors and then the Kings, Sullinger was the only shining light. Although he had a disappointing match against the L.A (like everyone else), he quickly bounced back against Golden State and Sacramento, averaging 11 points and 7 rebounds (3.5 offensive) over those two games.
In the recent victory against the Suns, Sullinger had his best game of his short NBA career so far. With a stellar showing of 16 amazing rebounds along with 12 points and 3 assists, Kevin Garnett had to take notice and give props to the rookie.
In the post-game interview, KG had this to say:
“He (Sullinger) can take the pounding and bump a little bit and he has great anticipation when it comes to the ball, and he has great hands. Put all that in the pot, you got Jared Sullinger, that’s what makes him great.”
Following up from the best game of his career, Sullinger played even more impressively against the Houston Rockets. Six minutes of game time in the first quarter was all he needed to stamp his authority all over the match. Sullinger was at his hustling best, showing great moves in the post and finishing with 6 points and 3 rebounds.
Sullinger clearly was not done just yet – he still had three quarters to dominate, and that he did. His focus and intensity clearly energised the rest of the team, making the Celtics look like an entirely different team when Sully was on the court. Without him they were giving up offensive rebounds, which in turn led to second chance points. Sullinger finished the game with his third career double double posting 14 points, 11 rebounds and an assist. The only people who stopped Sully were the dreaded refs, who made him foul out with a minute remaining in the game.
What a great start Sullinger has had to 2013. In just six games of the new year, he has averaged 8.8 points and whopping 9.3 rebounds. Not bad for a rookie who was supposed to have a bad back!
Sully is quickly becoming a fan favourite. It will remain that way for a long time if he is able to keep up his 100% effort every time he hits the court. Sullinger has continued to show that the more minutes he gets, the better he plays and improves the team at the same time.
What makes Sully so likeable is that he reminds the Celtic faithful of what a ‘True Celtic‘ should be like. He epitomises the Celtic brand of play and what it means to be a Celtic. Don’t forget: this man is still only 20 years of age!
Finally, I would just like to personally thank the doctors that gave Jared Sullinger a medical red flag in the lead up to the 2012 NBA draft. Without your words of caution, we the Celtics fans would have been deprived of the opportunity to watch the continual growth of the player simply known as Sully.
Who else can’t wait to see what Sullinger can produce in the future? I can hardly wait.
Jared Sullinger, The Hustler #TheHustler7