Sullinger proving worthy of Celtics starting job

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Sullinger proving worthy of Celtics starting job

BROOKLYN, NY When Jared Sullinger slipped down to the Boston Celtics on draft night, there was a sense that the C's were stealing a top-10 talent.

Not only has Sullinger proven himself worthy of being a regular in the starting rotation, but he's taken a step further and has positioned himself to be a starter.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has not decided whether to start Brandon Bass or Sullinger at power forward.

But the more Rivers talks about that position, the more he sounds like a man who at the very least is leaning towards giving the starting nod to Sullinger.

When asked whether he likes Sullinger with the starters, Rivers said, "I do. I don't know if that's the way I'm going to go, but I do like that.

Rivers added, "and I like Brandon with the second unit because he gives us another scorer, a guy who can play."

The evolution of Sullinger from the disappointment of draft night into a potential starter for a title contender as a rookie, speaks volumes about how he has taken all the criticism and questions about his health and responded with the only thing he can to silence them - play great basketball.

"He still has a lot of work, but he does a lot of good things," Rivers said. "He has a veteran mind; does not play like a young guy, except he makes rookie fouls, he does things. But he's just a good spirit. It's good to have him in the locker room."

And it's even better having him on the floor.

As much as his success during the preseason can be attributed to shear talent, Sullinger is quick to say that his willingness to embrace the teachings of all of the team's veterans - and not just the big men like Kevin Garnett - has been vital to his early success.

"You have to come in, you have to learn," said Sullinger, who then rattled off the name of just about every Celtic player older than 25 years of age as someone who has helped him thus far. "You got so many things you are hearing, so many things you are soaking up, you have no choice but to be better everyday."

But as impressive as Sullinger has been, Rivers is still noncommittal on him or Bass as the team's regular starting power forward.

"Having said that, I don't know what type of team we have," Rivers said. "And I'm not sure we'll have a set lineup this year. I think there will be nights where they will have a quick four (power forward) and we'll start Brandon. And there will be nights when they don't, and you start Sully."

Starting or coming off the bench, it doesn't matter to Sullinger.

He's just happy to help anyway he can for a Celtics team that was quick to dismiss the questions surrounding his health and selected the two-time All-American with the No. 21 overall pick.

"It was a blessing in disguise," Sullinger said of being passed over by more than half of the league. "The way this team is made up, how close knit we are, it's helping me out tremendously."

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

BOSTON -- There was a bomb threat to the Boston Celtics’ team plane to Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon, but no one was injured.

The incident will be investigated by NBA security which will work in conjunction with the FBI on this matter which was one of several hoaxes called into airports across the country on Saturday.

News of the bomb threat was first known when Celtics forward Jae Crowder posted an Instagram photo showing players departing the plane with the caption, “BOMB THREAT ON US”.

Celtics officials declined to comment on the matter and instead referred all bomb threat-related questions to the league office.

Messages to the league office were not immediately returned.

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season. 
 
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
 
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
 
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup. 
 
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup. 

And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics. 
 
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1). 
 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
 
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time. 
 
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time. 
 
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
 
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing. 
 
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater. 
 
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
 
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league. 
 
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup. 
 
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
 
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”