Blakely: Tougher to replace Sullinger than Rondo

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Blakely: Tougher to replace Sullinger than Rondo

BOSTON Losing Rajon Rondo for the season was a major blow to the Boston Celtics.

Losing Jared Sullinger?

In many ways, even bigger.

"He's been our best rebounder," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "He's a complete player and he'll be tough to replace."

The Celtics had a pretty good idea of what it would take to ease the loss of Rondo, who is out for the season following a torn right ACL injury.

But replicating what Sullinger brought to the floor, isn't quite that simple.

"He (Sullinger) does so many of the intangibles for us, the dirty work," C's guard Courtney Lee told CSNNE.com. "It's going to be tough filling that void. But if we want to win, we don't have a choice, really."

The 6-foot-9 rookie is out for the remainder of the season after having lumbar disc surgery performed on Friday at the New England Baptist Hospital.

While Lee is confident that the C's can manage without Sullinger, he admits that the challenge is different - and some ways tougher to overcome - than the loss of Rondo.

"We changed the system up a little bit with me and Avery (Bradley) out there playing," said Lee. "But without Jared, that's really tough. He's one of our best rebounders, and that's one area we've struggled with all year; limiting teams to second chance points. But we have to find a way, man. Find a way."

Celtics forward Jeff Green told CSNNE.com that Sullinger's ability to impact the game by doing the "little things" is why losing a player of his stature is so difficult to replace.

When asked what Sullinger brings to the floor that doesn't necessarily show up in the final stats sheet, Green said, "toughness, smarts; his basketball IQ is off the charts. Everything in a big you want, he has. We'll miss him a lot."

But the C's took a major step in the right direction on Friday, their first game without Sullinger.

Not only did they win the rebounding battle (48-47), but they did it with a strong across-the-board effort that had seven different Boston players grab at least three rebounds.

"We're a committee; we have to be a team by committee," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "I'm asking guys to play different spots. That's how we're going to have to play."

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to NBA standings, no Celtic pays closer attention to it than Isaiah Thomas.
 
But the 5-foot-9 All-Star is quick to say that while he’s aware of what’s happening with other teams record-wise, Thomas, like his teammates, isn’t obsessed with it, even with the Celtics (48-26) now in first place in the East following Cleveland’s loss at San Antonio on Monday.
 
“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s still not the end of the year; anything can happen. It’s a nice feeling to be the number one seed for once, but we just have to continue to control what we can control.”

The fact that Boston is even in position to finish with the best record in the East is amazing when you consider injuries and illnesses have forced them to use 13 different starting lineups this season.
 
And the preferred starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson has played together 31 times and posted an impressive 24-7 record.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his message that while having the best record in the East is nice, he’s more consumed with the team continuing to improve.
 
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Stevens said of being in first place. “The whole idea is to make progress, get better every day and stay in the moment. You do that if you’re in last place trying to build up or whether you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seeding. Ultimately, we’ve been able to grow and get a little bit better. But I still think we can play a lot better. That’s where my focus is.”
 
And the same holds true for his players. Thomas knows how unusual this season has been for the Celtics, who continue finding ways to win despite frequently being short-handed.
 
The latest example of that involves forward Jonas Jerebko, who is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a sore left knee that limited him in Tuesday’s practice.
 
“It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen whether they be good or bad and we know that,” Thomas said. “We just try to withstand the storm we’ve had a few times this year, and continue to try and stay as positive as possible and we’ve done that. We’re in a good position right now. We just have to continue to take care of business.”
  
And that means steadily improving while piling up the wins, particularly against teams such as the Bucks (37-36), who are among a handful of teams that could potentially be Boston’s first-round opponent.
 
Milwaukee comes in having won 11 of its past 14 games.

“It makes the game that much more important,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “Just like the Miami game. We want to let the teams know now, they go up against us in the playoffs, it’s no mercy. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to bring it every single night. We’re going to play Celtics basketball every single night. Them knowing that, we can scare a lot of teams if we’re playing the right way.”

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have spent most of this season playing short-handed and Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee will potentially be another one of those games.
 
Veteran forward Jonas Jerebko has a sore left knee and is considered questionable for the Bucks’ game.
 
“Jonas went through about half of [Tuesday’s] practice,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
 
Jerebko has missed two games this season due to illness.
 
Because of Milwaukee’s length at seemingly every position, Jerebko’s ability to play both forward positions will be something the Celtics will surely miss if he’s unable to play.
 
This season, Jerebko has appeared in 69 games while averaging 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent on 3’s.