Sullinger eager to return, but not rushing back

Sullinger eager to return, but not rushing back
July 6, 2013, 4:00 pm
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WINTER PARK, Fla. — While the Boston Celtics' summer league participants sprint up and down the court, launching jumpers and lay-ups to their heart's content, Jared Sullinger can only watch.

He says he's feeling better after undergoing back surgery in February, but has not been cleared to do anything but work on his conditioning which he says, definitely needs some work.

"I have to drop a couple of LBs (pounds), just get my body in shape," Sullinger said. " Get my wind back; it's been a minute since I ran up and down the floor."

Most of what Sullinger does now is designed to improve his stamina as well as get him re-acclimated to the kind of conditioning required to be an effective NBA player.

Sullinger said team doctors have not told him when he can begin having contact in practice.

"It's a secret," quipped Sullinger.

While he's anxious to resume playing, Sullinger said he will not rush back just to start playing again quickly.

The return of Sullinger - a healthy Sullinger - can only enhance the Celtics' rebuilding plans.

Although his rookie season was cut short by season-ending back surgery in February, Sullinger saw enough action for all to realize he can be a difference-maker on any given night for Boston.

Taken by the Celtics with the No. 21 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, concerns about his back being a long-term problem led to him dropping from a likely lottery-pick (top-14),  to a player that fell into the C's laps much later than most anticipated.

While healthy, it didn't take long for Sullinger to deliver in a variety of ways.

He finished the season appearing in 45 games with five starts. For the season, he averaged six points and 5.9 rebounds while playing 19.8 minutes per game.

Knowing his absence hurt the Celtics during the latter stages of the regular season as well as into the playoffs, Sullinger understands how important his health is to both his future and that of the C's.

And that's among the reasons why he's being so patient in his return to the court.

"I know it's going to be a long season," Sullinger said. "Might as well not rush it."