|Posted on August 19, 2012 at 8:50 AM|
Recent comments from Jared Sullinger, suggesting that he plans to foreswear shooting, so that he can concentrate primarily on rebounding, were welcomed ecstatically by the Celtics Commentariat. In a way, this response was understandable; Sullinger's comments in general have indicated that he has, or at least aspires to, the unselfish team-oriented approach that is essential to the 'Celtics Way'. But I wonder if folks are obsessing too much over the way Sullinger's shooting percentage decreased over the course of Summer League, and assuming on that basis that he cannot be an effective NBA post player. Such an attitude strikes me as frighteningly wrong.
As I see it, this Celtics team has a disturbing record, in recent years, of under-appreciating post play and post players. I think that part of Glen Davis' frustration in Boston was that he seemed to have a natural affinity for post play that he was not really allowed to develop. When Dwight Howard went down this season in Orlando, Davis seemed to blossom . I worry that Sullinger's talents will similarly get buried under Doc's regime. I don't particularly like hearing Sullinger say that he won't look to shoot the ball. The way I see it, Summer League (and Sullinger's Ohio State career) showed that he IS capable of scoring in the low post. It also demonstrated that if he really wants to be a strong low post scorer in the NBA, he will have to continue to develope his footwork and a variety of moves. Only time will tell what Sullinger's level of motivation and determination is.
But I think the indications are good. In summer league, Sullinger showed what looked to me like a tremendous appetite for low post play, a rare appetite for it, and a determination to claim and hold post position. I think this bodes very well. Also, I think it's very important to consider that he seems to show very unusual situation awareness for an NBA rookie, to go with a gift for drawing fouls, and an ability to pass. Quality and impact of low post play can't be measured just by shooting percentage. A player who is very aware of what is going on around him, who can pass effectively, and who can draw fouls, can facilitate good things consistently for his team.
We finally have a player who seems to love the low post, and who seems to have an excellent grasp on how to establish position, how to improve position, and what to do with the ball to help his team. Can we please not waste all this? Of course we don't want Sullinger to act like he's the second coming of Kareem. But he seems to love the low post, and he seems to know how to make it work for his team, and I think we should be thrilled to death about this, and that we should encourage him as much as we can, within the context of our larger team game.
If we could take Kevin Garnett's height and moves and scoring touch, and give it to Sullinger, we might just be looking at an all-time great center. Obviously we can't do that. But when we look at Sully, let's not get so caught up in what he's not that we forget to see what he is.