For Sullinger, it's just a start

For Sullinger, it's just a start
November 4, 2012, 3:54 am
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WASHINGTON - Doc Rivers has vowed to mix and match his starting lineup this season.

The first switcheroo came Saturday night when he decided to put Jared Sullinger in the starting lineup in place of Brandon Bass.

Rivers' decision had nothing to do with Bass' play.

Coming into the game, Bass averaged a team-high 8.5 rebounds per game.

Still, there's no denying the impact that Sullinger, a 6-9, 260-pound rookie, has when he's on the floor.

His play was one of the keys to Boston escaping with an 89-86 win over Washington.

Sullinger had four points and a team-high tying seven rebounds.

"He understands his role," C's Paul Pierce told Comcast SportsNet following the game. "We don't give him a lot of touches, but he's a great rebounder. And the touches he's given, he has to be able to take advantage of it. He really fills that middle up. That's what we need."

Having such a precise role - rebounder - is something Sullinger is getting accustomed to.

Sullinger has usually been the biggest player on his teams while growing up. And with his soft hands and ability to finish around the basket, teams have called upon him to be a scorer.

In Boston, he understands that he has to be patient.

"I understand I've got to pay my dues," Sullinger said. "You've got Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce so they're all pretty much legit scorers. When they're in the game, you've got to understand you're trying to get them open. You play off them, and that's just when I try to rebound."

Garnett has been singing the praises of Sullinger throughout the season, something you seldom see him do when it comes to rookies.

"He knows how to play, without the ball," Garnett, who lauded Sullinger for having a high basketball IQ. "He blends well in with our strong group."

Garnett added, "Sully knows how to play the game. He's been in the different rotations, preseason. He's very comfortable with our starting group."

Rivers isn't going to commit to this being his starting lineup moving forward - or whether it will even be the starting lineup he'll use on Wednesday when the Celtics host the same Washington Wizards team.

But Sullinger gives them yet another option to work into the lineup, and another potential headache for opponents to worry about.