BOSTON -- Jared Sullinger knew his role from being the centerpiece of the Ohio State University basketball team would change once he entered the NBA.
From the moment the Boston Celtics drafted him with the 21st pick this summer, he emphasized the importance of rebounding and chipping in wherever the team needed help. Ten games into his first season, he is practicing what he preached.
On Saturday, the rookie recorded his first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds off the bench during the Celtics 107-89 win over the Toronto Raptors. Rebounding came first, scoring was secondary. He grabbed three boards in his first three minutes on the court
"Sully does small things like rebound the ball, the way he gets guys open," said Kevin Garnett. "Small things that you're probably looking for stat-wise, when you're playing with him and you're his teammate, his dives, his rolls, getting JT (Jason Terry) open looks, little small things that aren't going to show up on your yellow pad, the small things which he does makes us better. In order for us to be better and in this process in getting better, everybody has to do those things.
"So you know what? On your yellow pad he's not that big of a deal, tonight obviously for your yellow pad he did a great job, but overall Sully's doing small things along with Chris (Wilcox) and all the other guys that are making us come out of this funk that we were in."
Sullinger played over 26 minutes on Saturday, an increase of from the eight he played against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday. Head coach Doc Rivers had outlined the consequences of giving up offensive rebounds and Sullinger had to oblige. Rivers sensed unhappiness from the 20-year-old forward, but appreciated that he put it out of his mind two days later.
"He wasn't happy about not playing against Brooklyn," said Rivers. "And I just told all the guys, 'Guys got offensive rebounds on you, you're coming out.' And he was the first. I thought he really did a great job overall (against the Raptors). They got a couple but I thought he was aggressive. He just knows how to play. He's a calming effect at times when you put him in, and I don't think I've ever said that about a rookie. It's nice to have that."
Said Sullinger, "I just had to channel my energy towards the next game, understand that even though I don't play a lot, there's still a lot of things I can do to help the basketball team. I wasn't upset that I didn't play a lot, I was just upset that we lost. That's my main priority, to win."
Sullinger's first double-double is a glimpse into his potential. Since coming into the league, he has working on improving his consistency, shooting abilities, lateral quickness, and conditioning. He has always understood his role on the veteran team, and he is making an impact by embracing it.
"What I came here to do is just to rebound," he said. "Then everything else just falls into place."