Earlier this week, we learned that Jared Sullinger had been passed over for a spot in the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend. And upon hearing the news, the city of Boston's general reaction fell somewhere in the middle of anger and shock.
No Sully? NO SULLY?!
And then everyone got over it. After all, we were talking about the Rising Stars Challenge, a game with no meaning whatsoever, and one that we'll all declare a joke after five minutes of fast break dunks. Still, it hurt to see Sullinger get snubbed (he should have made it over Tyler Zeller). It was the principle. It was the knowledge that if anyone on this Celtics team deserved any recognition, it was the rookie out of Ohio State. He'd worked so hard. He was so ready and willing to learn. He was a sponge. He was improving by the game, and already more than capable of holding his own. He had the NBA's most devastating ass since Rick Mahorn.
Even if it didn't really matter, Sullinger deserved a spot in that game
And I just assumed he'd get there:
"But here's the good news," I wrote on Wednesday. "He'll probably make it anyways. I mean what would All-Star weekend be without at least a handful of players dropping out with injuries? We already saw it with Rondo, and it won't end there. Chances are that at least one of these nine rookies will turn an ankle or bang a knee over the next two and a half weeks."
At this point, we'd all more than welcome a sprained ankle or bruised knee for Sullinger. We'd prefer to hear that he's going to miss a few weeks after being attacked by a pack of wild dogs. Anything but his back. Anything but the only reason that a player with his talent dropped so far in the draft. Anything but the worst-case scenario.
But that's where we are. Exactly one week after Rajon Rondo became the first player in NBA history to tear his ACL without anyone noticing, we learn courtesy of the arch angel of basketball death that Sullinger needs surgery on his once-again ailing back, and will miss the rest of the year.
What's this mean for the Celtics?
Well, Brandon Bass will likely see a bump in minutes. Jeff Green might have to play a little more power forward. They've called up Fab Melo, so maybe he'll see some run? If there was ever a time to bite the bullet and extend an offer to Kenyon Martin, you'd have to think that time is now. (UPDATE: I somehow forgot to mention Chris Wilcox. Then again, Doc has forgotten about him a bunch this year, too.)
But for right now, concerns over who will fill in for Sullinger pale in comparison to the emotions surrounding the fact that they need a fill-in at all. That it's his back. That it's going to be a long time before he is back. And the other questions: Does it stop here? Is one surgery and eight months on the shelf the only thing standing between Sullinger and a happy, healthy career? Or is this just the beginning?
It's too early to speculate. Especially since, at this very moment, optimism is hard to come by, and common sense suggests a future that no one wants to accept. Either way, life was a whole lot easier when a meaningless Rising Stars snub actually meant something.
And when all those teams who passed on Sullinger were still overly cautious suckers.