BOSTON As an NBA rookie, gaining the trust of the coaching staff and teammates is essential to growth.
That growth is followed by opportunity.
And opportunity leads to success, struggles or for most talented rookies, a little bit of both.
But one thing is clear with the Celtics finishing off the preseason portion of their schedule on Sunday: Sullinger is going to play, possibly as a starter.
For a player who has never lacked confidence, the idea of even being in the discussion to start as a rookie this soon is a bit of a shock.
"We got a lot of guys that have been in the league for a long time; couple dinosaurs but I ain't gonna point them out," quipped Sullinger. "I'm surprised. I'm very surprised. But that comes with hard work and dedication to the game and just never cheating yourself."
And basketball smarts, which is what most of his teammates believe separates him from other rookies in past years with the C's.
"(Sullinger is) probably the smartest rookie we've had since I've been here," said Boston's Rajon Rondo. "He's very intelligent, high basketball IQ, and he's very unselfish."
Added Pierce: "He's definitely beyond his years as far as basketball IQ and what he's capable of doing."
And his impact has come without too many plays being called for him.
"He doesn't need a play called for him," Rondo said.
But he's still a rookie, prone to making rookie mistakes such as fouling too much.
During a recent preseason game, Rivers elected to keep him on the floor even after he got into foul trouble.
"He can't play enough minutes," Rivers said.
And there's a chance the minutes he does get will come with the starting lineup.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers had him and Brandon Bass both spend time with the starting unit, with both playing well. However, Sullinger's play generated more interest due to him being a rookie while Bass' game is a known commodity.
"I'm not looking for one thing," Rivers said. "I want to try different lineups. Eventually, one we'll like a lot."
And that lineup may indeed include Sullinger, who was chosen by a panel of NBA general managers as the "rookie to most likely be a 'sleeper' success" this season.
"I could care less," said Sullinger about the possibility of starting. "I just want to win. That's my main objective. For everybody who thinks I'm gonna start or come off the bench, as long as we win I'm fine."