No more Mr. Nice Guy: Sullinger shows nasty side on court

No more Mr. Nice Guy: Sullinger shows nasty side on court
January 10, 2013, 10:18 pm
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WALTHAM Jared Sullinger is one of the more happy-go-lucky guys you'll find in the NBA.

He answers reporters' questions. He makes sure his veteran teammates have whatever it is they need. He takes Doc Rivers' chiding him to play better with the same level-headed demeanor when Rivers is praising him.

But beyond the nice-guy demeanor is a fiesty, physical banger that doesn't mind showing his nasty side on the floor.

"You don't bring the nice guy on to the floor," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "That's not going to get you anywhere. He understands that."

The nasty side of Sullinger has led to some pretty nice play for the Celtics who come into Friday's game against Houston riding a four-game winning streak.

And Sullinger's play has been instrumental in that run, a run that includes him tallying a career-high 16 rebounds in Boston's win over Phoenix on Wednesday.

"I always had that," Sullinger said. "I'm always aggressive especially when it comes to rebounding. That's just been me since an early age."

He added, "in between the lines I'm a little nasty."

And his teammates absolutely love the balancing act, one that many of them - Garnett included - can relate to.

Like Sullinger, those close to Garnett say the intense, menacing figure you see in games isn't anything like the eloquent, jovial, fun-loving Garnett they see off the court.

"A lot of things he wants to be in the league, I've attained some of them," Garnett said. "So I just try to give him that experience. He asks a lot of questions about ... various topics to be honest; and I share them. A lot of guys don't really open up themselves or share those experiences or stories, etc. And I try to do that."

Garnett added, "Jared's a good guy. He's a guy you want your daughter to bring home. Not saying he doesn't have a mean streak in him. We have a connection and it works."

Especially when you consider that Sullinger (plus-68) and Garnett (plus-43) have the two highest plus-minus ratios on the C's roster this season.

Sullinger attributes some of his nastiness to getting roughed up at times by older siblings.

The 6-foot-9 forward recalled a time when he was much younger and he was playing with his siblings and went up for a lay-up.

"I went up for a lay-up and Julian just pushed me into a pole," Sullinger said.

Bleeding at the time, Jared said he ran home.

"I'm crying to my mom and she said go see your father," Sullinger recalled.

After a brief conversation, Sullinger said his mom cleaned him up, patted him on the back and told him to go back out and play.

It was a tough love moment, one that Sullinger cherishes.

He learned first-hand the value in pulling yourself back up when you literally get knocked down, and keep playing.

That has translated into him being a tireless worker on the boards for the Celtics this season, a player who seems to make those around him better whenever he's on the floor.

As much as Avery Bradley has been credited with Boston's turnaround, there's no way to ignore the fact that Sullinger is seeing more playing time during this current run, either.

This season, Sullinger is averaging 5.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while playing 18.7 minutes per game. During the C's current four-game winning streak he's up to 9.3 points, 12.5 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field in 26.8 minutes per game.

"He's very poised," Garnett said of Sullinger. "You're not going to get under his skin; you're not going to rush him. And just when you think he's backing down, he's in your face."