Sullinger looks to get plenty of burn early on for Celtics

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Sullinger looks to get plenty of burn early on for Celtics

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."

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

WALTHAM, Mass. – As the final horn blew in Boston’s 108-98 win over Charlotte on Monday night, the game was a win-win kind of night for Avery Bradley.

The Celtics (26-15) continue rolling over opponents at the TD Garden, and he played a relatively pain-free 33 minutes in the win.

It was Bradley’s first game back after missing the previous four with a strained right Achilles injury.

And the fact that he was back on the practice floor on Tuesday (be it a light practice, mind you), bodes well for his injury being a thing of the past now.

“I felt good. It wasn’t sore at all in the game,” Bradley said. “I felt I was moving good. After the game I was a little sore and this morning, but otherwise I felt good.”

Despite Boston being 4-1 this season when Bradley doesn’t play, he has immense value to this Celtics team at both ends of the floor.

Offensively he has been Boston’s second-leading scorer most of this season and currently averages a career-high 17.7 points per game along with 6.9 rebounds which is also a career high.

And defensively, Bradley is coming off a season in which he was named to the NBA’s all-Defensive First Team for the first time.

Any questions or concerns about the Achilles affecting his play defensively were put to rest Monday night when he put the defensive clamps on Nicolas Batum who missed nine of his 11 shots from the field while primarily being guarded by Bradley.

Now his offense, that’s another story.

Bradley failed to reach double digits scoring for the first time this season as he missed seven of his nine shots on Monday to finish with just five points.

But part of that had to do with Bradley passing up shots he normally takes, as well as him missing some he normally knocks down.

Considering his lay-off and the rhythm his teammates have been in shooting the ball in his absence, Bradley wisely decided to get his defensive bearings on track and gradually bring his offensive game around. 

“I have to get my (shooting) rhythm back,” said Bradley who is making a career-best 40.9 percent of his 3-pointers this season. “I’m fine. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game.”