Celtics Quesiton of the Day: Which rookie will have the biggest impact?

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Celtics Quesiton of the Day: Which rookie will have the biggest impact?

For most of Doc Rivers' tenure as Celtics head coach, rookies have been no more than glorified spectators with front row seats. Like most coaches, Rivers needs to see more than just talent.

He has to see trust; specifically, trust among teammates.

For first-year players on veteran, championship-focused teams like the Celtics, that's not something that comes about automatically. It takes time which is why the rookies that ultimately contribute in their first year for the C's, usually begin the season at or near the end of the bench before working their way up into a meaningful role.

Last year at this time, nobody knew who Greg Stiemsma was other than the Celtics' brass who were simply looking for another warm body to get them through training camp.

Injuries and opportunity collided, which paved the way for the then-26-year-old rookie to play and parlay that chance into a two-year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

There will be at least five rookies in the C's training camp later this month looking to have their own Stiemsma experience. That includes first-round picks Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, along with second-round selection Kris Joseph who played at Syracuse University with Melo.

They will be joined by a couple of summer league standouts in Jamar Smith and Dionte Christmas.

While it's pretty clear that all of them will start off buried deep on the depth chart, it's not a stretch to think that at least one will emerge and help the Celtics some this season.

Who will it be?

As much as this Syracuse grad would love to toss out Joseph or Melo as the rookie to see the most action this season, that scenario is unlikely to happen.

The best rookie for the C's this season will be Jared Sullinger.

His play in summer league got many in Celtics Nation excited about his potential with the Green Team.

The most impressive thing about Sullinger never made its way on to the stats sheet. His court awareness maybe more than anything else, is why he has the best chance of any of the Celtics rookies of playing right away.

Despite questions about his size (6-foot-9, 265), one thing that's not an issue is his high basketball IQ. It is an intangible quality, but one that's pretty apparent in Sullinger when you watch him play.

At times, he'll draw contact on plays when he doesn't really have much of a chance at making the shot.

He's able to position himself for tip-out rebounds when he can't get good enough position to corral it himself.

There will be possessions when he'll ask for the ball on the post, get it, and recognize a double team before it comes and find an open teammate. He understands how to set opponents up for him to score, and he's wise enough to recognize when the pass is there to be made.

Those are the kind of plays that Sullinger is capable of making when given an opportunity, but seldom seen while at Ohio State because that wasn't necessarily the role they needed him to play.

"I can pass the ball," Sullinger said. "Score, rebound, pass, defend, whatever the team needs me to do, that's what I'll do. That's how I've always played."

From the days of Red Auerbach roaming the sidelines to the "Ubunto" era, doing "whatever the team needs" has been part of the foundation of all the great Celtics teams.

While that alone gives Sullinger a shot at playing early, he will also be motivated by the fact that so many teams passed on him on draft night in part because of concerns about his back.

Considered a lottery (top-14) talent, Sullinger fell to the C's who snatched him up with the No. 21 pick.

"I preach to the players it's not where you go, but being in the right fit," said Sullinger's agent, David Falk. "You wouldn't expect a player of his caliber to go 21. I think he's in a great situation. I'm thrilled that he's here. A lot of teams will regret they were intimidated by a lot of the information that was floating around about not drafting him."

For Sullinger, ultimately his play will come down to being ready when opportunity presents itself.

If you play for the Celtics and you are a big man, sooner or later a shot at playing time will come your way.

In recent years, the C's have seen their share of setbacks and injuries to post players that has ranged from a player missing a game here and there, to others being out for extended periods of time.

When those times roll around, players like Sullinger will be called upon -- and expected -- to contribute.

For a rookie, that's all you can ask.

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

BOSTON -- On more than one occasion Monday night, the Boston Celtics were a discombobulated bunch with some players thinking they were running one play, while others were thinking the play called was something totally different.
 
You see that stuff in the preseason and to a certain extent in the regular season for a lot of teams. It is in those moments that we’re reminded that this Boston Celtics team is a work in progress on so many levels.
 
Because of that, we all need to hit the pause button when talking about them as a team inching closer towards Eastern Conference supremacy.
 
After the first month of the season, they have yet to show that they are going to be better than last season’s 48-win ball club.
 
The big problem a year ago was the offense bogging down and for the most part, not making shots. This year, it’s the team’s defense that has let them down on many nights.
 
And with that comes a sobering reminder this crew is good, but at best are maybe top-five in the East.
 
As a team on the rise, beating teams you’re not supposed to has to happen with some semblance of regularity.
 
There were only three teams on the Celtics’ docket this season thus far that they should have been beaten by without there being any argument: Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland.
 
They were beaten in all three, two of which (Golden State and Cleveland) had final scores that did not indicate the level of dominance they had over the Celtics.
 
The average margin of defeat in the three games was 9.3 points, but two of them (San Antonio and Golden State) were at the TD Garden, which is supposed to be the equalizer for upset-minded teams.
 
But in each game, Boston put up a decent fight only to fail to emerge victorious.
 
The struggles against the upper echelon teams of the NBA has nothing to do with not having a superstar or a great rebounder or any of the kazillion reasons/excuses offered up as to why they’re not better.
 
It’s hunger.
 
It’s effort.
 
It’s about being blinded by the internet clicks that tout them as one of the best teams in the East, and them not seeing the danger that comes with embracing all that patting on the back.
 
It makes you soft.
 
It makes you fat and happy.
 
And maybe most significant, it creates a false sense of arrival before you’ve left the tarmac.
 
That’s where the Boston Celtics are right now: a team that seems to have forgotten why they were the team nobody wanted to play last year.
 
It wasn’t that teams feared playing them. It was the fact that they knew playing the Celtics would be tough, and it would force them to play a lot closer to their full potential than they were used to if they wanted to win.
 
It was because everyone knew that to beat the Celtics, you don’t have a choice but to play hard because you damn well knew they would.
 
Not anymore.
 
They bring that toughness to the game in small doses, like an intra-venous drip full of hope and promise, providing just enough to life to keep their fans optimistic but not nearly enough to kill the noise of their haters and critics.
 
And while the season is still young, the Celtics need to start racking up some quality wins.
 
Right now, their most impressive win is a toss-up between beating Charlotte 104-98 on Oct. 29, or a 94-92 win at Detroit on Nov. 19.
 
Boston plays at Orlando on Wednesday, a team that’s likely to be back in the lottery again. But after that, they travel back to Boston where they’ll host Toronto -- a game that they desperately need to not only to pad their win total but also provide a much-needed boost of energy and confidence going forward.

The Celtics have to find that hunger, that collective desire that we’ve seen in the past which has propelled them to greater heights than we’ve seen thus far.
 
Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford… you can go down the roster and the mission for all of them has to be the same: play harder, for longer, and be smarter about it, because this team has too much collective talent to be just three games above .500.
 
At 12-9, Boston is third in the East and trail conference-leading Cleveland by three games for the best record in the conference. But then you look at the teams behind the Celtics and realize that they’re only two games out of having the ninth-best record in the East.
 
It speaks in part to the season still being in its infancy stage. But it’s also telling as to how Boston does not have a huge margin of error when it comes to losing winnable games.
 
And as we’ve seen thus far, the Celtics can play with any team in the NBA and hold their own.
 
But beating them is a totally different narrative that this squad has yet to write.