BOSTON Losing Rajon Rondo for the season was a major blow to the Boston Celtics.
Losing Jared Sullinger?
In many ways, even bigger.
"He's been our best rebounder," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "He's a complete player and he'll be tough to replace."
The Celtics had a pretty good idea of what it would take to ease the loss of Rondo, who is out for the season following a torn right ACL injury.
But replicating what Sullinger brought to the floor, isn't quite that simple.
"He (Sullinger) does so many of the intangibles for us, the dirty work," C's guard Courtney Lee told CSNNE.com. "It's going to be tough filling that void. But if we want to win, we don't have a choice, really."
The 6-foot-9 rookie is out for the remainder of the season after having lumbar disc surgery performed on Friday at the New England Baptist Hospital.
While Lee is confident that the C's can manage without Sullinger, he admits that the challenge is different - and some ways tougher to overcome - than the loss of Rondo.
"We changed the system up a little bit with me and Avery (Bradley) out there playing," said Lee. "But without Jared, that's really tough. He's one of our best rebounders, and that's one area we've struggled with all year; limiting teams to second chance points. But we have to find a way, man. Find a way."
Celtics forward Jeff Green told CSNNE.com that Sullinger's ability to impact the game by doing the "little things" is why losing a player of his stature is so difficult to replace.
When asked what Sullinger brings to the floor that doesn't necessarily show up in the final stats sheet, Green said, "toughness, smarts; his basketball IQ is off the charts. Everything in a big you want, he has. We'll miss him a lot."
But the C's took a major step in the right direction on Friday, their first game without Sullinger.
Not only did they win the rebounding battle (48-47), but they did it with a strong across-the-board effort that had seven different Boston players grab at least three rebounds.
"We're a committee; we have to be a team by committee," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "I'm asking guys to play different spots. That's how we're going to have to play."