|Posted by shawn cassidy on November 27, 2013 at 8:20 AM|
Sullinger may not seem like guy who can lead a defense. He's not long and he's unable to block shots at a high rate with 0.6 blocks per game, and he's not barking at players like KG. But his effort, and his bulk has become his way on the defensive end. Sullinger's defensive approach comes from fear of looking like a fool on the court. Sullinger learned something about defense during his rookie year, and it wasn't from Garnett.
Sullinger was playing well in his freshman campaign and on the verge of ascending to Boston's starting lineup. But this wasn't his finest night. He battled foul trouble, struggled defensively and was held scoreless as the Celtics kicked away a big lead only to lose in the extra sessions.
In that second overtime, Kevin Garnett fouled out and Sullinger was inserted with the game hanging in the balance. Walking on to the floor, Sullinger got a glimpse of what the rest of the league thought of his defense.
"Al Horford kind of had it going and Larry Drew, who was the coach for the Hawks at the time, he pointed down and was like, 'Yo, go at him!'" said Sullinger, who had battled rookie whistles throughout his first season. "He kind of pointed at me and Al Horford came down and charged two fouls on me. And from there, it kind of clicked for me.
"I take pride in my defense. Even though some people don't think I play defense, I do. It's a challenge and I love it. I love taking that challenge and trying to stop [the opponent's] best player."
Sullinger has guarded Duncan, Hibbert, Hordford, and Big Al during the last four games, and he's had a little help from his friends, but Sullinger put in the most time and most effort on those guys. Sullinger faced a big test and he passed with flying colors.
Duncan connected on his first two shots with ease, but then finished 1-for-his-last-11.Duncan was irritated, and Sully should take pride in that. Hibbert's size should make for a rough matchup for Sullinger, and it did but he was up for the task and he helped with holding Hibbert to 3-of-11 shooting for six points. Sullinger blocked Horford twice near the rim, and the big man needed 19 field goal attempts to score 18 points. Jefferson got free a couple of times on ball fakes, and various moves but he still needed 14 shots to score 14 points.
Sullinger has made it clear that he's the top big on this team, and even prospect. Sullinger is one of those examples as to why you don't need to tank. Rondo and Sully were both picked 21st, and in a recent redo draft at ESPN Sully was picked 4th in the 2012 draft. Despite his past with back injuries. I feel confident in Sully for the long haul.
Sullinger has impressed us, but what about his coach?
Coach Brad Stevens believes Sullinger can find another level on the defensive end.
"He does a good job of using his strength to defend one-on-one in the post. There's no question about that," Stevens said. "The good news is that I think he can get a lot better. I think he can get a lot better defensively.
"I think he's getting better just from a conditioning standpoint. Every game he looks like he's moving and feeling better, even though he's battled a little bit of injuries, some minor dings, and then also being sick last week."
Sullinger downplays the idea that these have been measuring-stick games, but admits this stretch has helped his confidence, especially coming back from injury.
"I think I've done pretty well with some of the 5s I've played against so far this year. It's more like a confidence booster," Sullinger said. "It's the NBA, so you're always playing against somebody great."
Sullinger's goal appears simple: Get to the point where he can hang with any 5 in the league despite the size he gives up. And maybe then opposing coaches will direct their offense away from him.
Sullinger's conditioning has improved throughout this season, and even though he looks over weight. He was returning from back surgery so everything was going to be off. Jared continues to get better and better with his continued growth this season. Danny has stolen another late in the draft.