Sullinger out to prove his worth for Celtics


Sullinger out to prove his worth for Celtics

ORLANDO, Fla. It's just a summer league game, the kind that in the grand scheme of things will mean little to the career of Jared Sullinger.

For Sullinger, today's summer league game against Oklahoma City was his first game as a member of the Boston Celtics, an unlikely destination for a player many expected to be long gone by the time Boston was on the clock at No. 21 in last month's NBA draft.

But having something to prove is nothing new to Sullinger, a burly big man who has had his game questioned throughout his career.

"Too slow, too big, too everything. I've heard it all about my game," he said. "All I can do is go out, play my game and help my team win. That's all I really care about."

Part of Sullinger's adjustment to the NBA will be playing the center position, something he says he's looking forward to doing.

"The only thing different is, the guy you're guarding (in the NBA) is a little bit more on the perimeter," Sullinger said. "In college, most of the fives (centers) are post players. Coming here, you got some fives that can shoot from the perimeter and you got some fives who all they do is roll. You just have to know the personnel."

In time, Sullinger said he plans to show that he is a more complete player than many believe.

"I can shoot from the perimeter some, but that wasn't something the teams I played for needed from me," he said. "Here, it's a part of my game that I'll probably use more of."

But his strength has always been his ability to make plays around the basket.

Moments after entering the game on Monday, Sullinger had a put-back basket following a Celtics miss.

And the questions about his ability to defend at this level, didn't materialize against the Thunder.

Of course, Oklahoma City's Ryan Reid is a lot different matching up against then say, Serge Ibaka or former Celtic Kendrick Perkins.

But Reid is a tweener size-wise, which forced Sullinger to rely more on his quickness defensively.

The bigger issue seemed to be Sullinger's ability to rebound the basketball.

He's not one to jump out of the gym and swoop in for rebounds, but he is smart enough to get the necessary position and force opponents to either give up the rebound or foul him.

Sullinger was indeed successful with that in the first quarter, nailing a pair of free throws after an Oklahoma City big man came over his back and fouled him.

He made both free throws to give the C's a 25-8 lead.

Even though Sullinger doesn't have to worry about his spot with the Celtics next season -- unlike many of his summer league teammates -- he understands the value of playing well right now.

"All these guys are fighting for jobs pretty much," Sullinger said. "Like I said earlier, I just want to play my game and compete every chance I get to play. That's all that I'm trying to really do, just play hard and compete."