Sullinger remains humble amid early success

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Sullinger remains humble amid early success

WALTHAM, Ma. - The praise has been coming in almost daily for Boston Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger.

Players love his ability to finish around the basket. C's coach Doc Rivers loves his high basketball IQ. Fans love the fact that he rebounds.

All that gushing is enough to make the most level-headed rookie become more like a walking bobble head.

"I'm definitely a rookie," Sullinger said. "I have a lot to learn around here."

Although he has fared well thus far, his first real test will come on Tuesday when the Celtics open at Miami.

Sullinger will likely come off the bench in the season opener, an unusual starting point for the 20-year-old.

"It's different," he said. "Coming from being the man, the go-to guy all these years and now coming here and taking a backseat to some greats, it's a humbling experience. At the same time, I have to get better."

Experience will certainly benefit Sullinger moving forward.

In the meantime, Sullinger will manage to get by with his basketball smarts and a knack for creating space both as a scorer and as a rebounder.

"The best thing about me is using my body. That's my rear end," Sullinger said. "That's what my momma gave me. I was blessed with a healthy mom."

As well as a healthy appetite for success dating back to his days as an AAU star in Ohio.

C's coach Doc Rivers recalls his son Austin's AAU team facing the "Ohio Red" AAU Team which was led by Sullinger.

Rivers recalls seeing Sullinger exposed to an assortment of defensive strategies by opponents, most of which he was able to master his way out of or find a teammate who could be effective.

"He's been trapped his entire life, so he knows coverages, he knows how to use his body," Rivers said. "He is well ahead of the game as far as using his body, playing through double teams. He's just a smart basketball player."

Smart enough to avoid the temptation of trying to do more than the C's need from now.

"I'm an unselfish basketball player, so there's no temptation," Sullinger said. "The main goal for me is to win. I love to win. That's what I pride myself on, is winning."

Bennett: 'Put my pants on the same way' for preseason or regular-season games

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Bennett: 'Put my pants on the same way' for preseason or regular-season games

FOXBORO -- There seem to be some differing opinions inside Gillette Stadium as to the feel of the third preseason game. Is it a good dress rehearsal for the regular season, or is it just as vanilla as any other preseason matchup?

Example No. 1 comes from coach Bill Belichick's WEEI interview earlier this week: 

"In terms of playing time it might be a little different, but in terms of game-planning and strategy, what we see in the regular season compared to what we see the in third preseason game, I don’t even think you’re in the same universe," he said. "We’re still running our basic plays and we’d expect our opponents would run their basic plays.

"You get to the opener and start to get to game-planning and scheme, I mean you’re in a totally different ballpark, in my opinion. I don’t see any comparison at all. It’s too far away, I don’t see how you could compare them, from that standpoint. One-on-one matchups, letting the players play, yeah, I would say you have a better matchup of guys like that, but it’s nothing compared to what we’re going to see in the regular season from a total scheme situation standpoint."

Example No. 2 comes from Martellus Bennett, who opted not to meet with reporters last week when the Bears, his former club, came to town for joint practices. 

"All my snaps are full speed," Bennett said when asked about this week's game with the Panthers. "I don't slow down. I just go full speed the whole time so it's just a regular game for me . . . It's always the same whether it's the regular season or preseason. Put my pants on the same way. Put my shoes on the same way. Tie them the same way. Same gloves, same face mask."

Truth is, both can be right.

For players who are given plays and asked to execute assignments, a preseason game played at full speed may very well feel like a regular-season game. For coaches who are coming up with the plays and assignments for said players to execute, the difference between the regular season and preseason is vast. 

The third preseason game might then be the closest thing teams experience to a regular-season game this month, but it's still not close.