Sullinger eager to get back on the court

Sullinger eager to get back on the court
October 7, 2013, 2:00 am
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WALTHAM -- For those who played in the NBA last season, the Boston Celtics first preseason matchup on Monday will be their first game action since April or May. For Jared Sullinger, the wait has been longer. Much longer.

It has been eight months since Jared Sullinger's rookie year was cut short by season-ending back surgery to repair a lumbar disk. He last played in a game on January 30, just four minutes against the Sacramento Kings before leaving the court for the final time that season. On October 7 he will return to the parquet, not yet where he wants to be with his conditioning but just as eager to keep improving.

"Every day, (I am) getting in better shape," he said following practice on Sunday. "I can tell throughout practice. I'm starting to survive a little bit more as time goes, so I've just got to keep working."

Last season Sullinger, 21, earned minutes on a veteran-heavy team, a feat few rookies have achieved over the years. He averaged 6.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 19.8 minutes per game and received praise from teammates, including the hard-to-impress Kevin Garnett.

The 6-9, 260-pound power forward knows how hard he has to work to get back to where he was prior to his surgery.

"Everything feels great, but conditioning, I've got to get in better shape," he said. "Being six to seven months off and just coming right back in and trying to play with these guys that've been working out all summer, played the whole NBA season last year, I'm just a tier under everybody right now as far as conditioning."

In addition to getting himself back into game shape, Sullinger has had to get himself into a rhythm with his new teammates. While many of the veterans he learned from are no longer in Boston, he has already found another experienced player to gain knowledge from on the court.

"Honestly, Kris (Humphries) is a strong defender and he can also move his feet," said Sullinger. "He just picks and chooses when he wants to be strong and when he wants to be quick. Going against Kris every day has really helped me out."

Just as he made a mark as a rookie, a first-year player has also made an impression on Sullinger. Vitor Faverani, who came to the Celtics with international playing experience, has quickly shown noteworthy aspects of his game.

"He's a really good shooter," said Sullinger. "Vitor can shoot the ball and he likes to be physical. I remember on Media Day he said he likes to fight. That's part of his fighting, being physical, rebounding, changing shots and trying to get the bigs out the paint."

Sullinger didn't plan for his rookie season to end early. Eight months later, he will return to the game he never wanted to stop playing.

"No nerves this way," he said. "I'm happy to be out there and finally get to bang against somebody else besides Kelly (Olynyk) or Vitor or Kris or (Brandon) Bass, even Jeff (Green). It's going to be a lot of fun."