|Posted by Morena on January 12, 2014 at 7:45 AM|
It’s no secret that my second favorite player on the Celtics roster is Sullinger.
I didn’t know what to expect from Sully at the beginning of the season, after his rookie season ended brutally with a back surgery. He was clearly out of shape during the preseason, but he was still the best player on the roster, and even when the season started, he kept playing at a high level, scoring the ball and rebounding at an impressive level.
What you can really appreciate about Sullinger, as we said more than once, is the fact that no matter what, you know he’s going to try hard: there will be nights where the results won’t be pretty good or whatever, but you can be sure that he still tried at the best of his possibilities.
I was really glad that during the first months, he seemed to have solved his foul problem: last year, even if he didn’t play a lot of minutes, his foul number was high, and the refs didn’t lose a chance to blow their whistle every time Sully was involved.
Lately, this problem came back to haunt him once again: by now Sully picked up a total of 5 flagrant foul, and with another one, he’ll have to face a suspension.
Sully started to really struggle after a hand injury that affected him, but I also think that the problem is not only physical: I remembered today that during the last months, I said more than once that we needed someone to step up, and that Sully was doing that. He’s been the one that carried the team on his shoulders, that had to be the physical presence in the paint and the team’s enforcer. Wallace said basically the same thing yesterday talking about Sully:
“You don’t want to give up layups and our team is kind of soft and has a reputation for giving up layups”
Translation: there’s no one that is willing to throw in some muscles when we need it other than Sullinger, and as someone has to do that, he is the designated enforcer, even if he puts himself in a difficult situation at times.
I think everyone forgets that he is just 21 years old and that he’s basically a rookie.
This puts really a lot of pressure on him. Honestly, I underestimated this problem. I started to think about this when Sully said yesterday “you have to be smart. I’m known for my IQ. I just have to learn to think more about it”.
Our leader is out, and he’s doing everything he can to help our team from the bench, but it’s not the same thing as he was on the field. Green is a good player but he’s inconsistent, Bass is a solid player but not someone who can drag the team, many guys on the roster arrived over the summer, and there hasn’t been someone able to establish his presence on the field as a temporary leader. So, as he was playing like the best player, this responsibility fell on Sully’s shoulders, and this young man is embracing fully his role, taking the blame when he should and stepping up when he’s needed.
But right now, I think he was starting to pay a little bit for this. Probably the fact that he was injured and he couldn’t help the team like he wanted to had a big part in this, but I think that Sully needed a break, because the pressure built too much lately.
In the last couple of games, Stevens let him come off the bench, and Sully started to play better once again. I think that the return of Rondo, who will take a lot of pressure on his shoulders, will really free Sullinger. The good news is, this young man is not someone afraid to take responsibility, and he will be a great support for Rondo moving forward.
Meanwhile, let’s just let him grow.