Garnett finds attentive pupil in Sullinger


Garnett finds attentive pupil in Sullinger

BOSTON Kevin Garnett reached out and patted Jared Sullinger on the head. Amid thousands of people at the TD Garden for the Boston Celtics preseason home opener, the interaction -- as brief as it was -- between the two stood out.

A rookies relationship with Garnett can set the tone for his career. Those who choose not to listen dont usually last long. The veteran leader commands respect, and if first-year players listen, ask questions, and express a genuine desire to learn, he is more than willing to open his anthology of basketball knowledge and share.

Less than a month into training camp, the youngest player on the Celtics has made a positive impression on the teams elder statesman.

I feel like sometimes young guys come in and have the whole entitlement displayed across their chest, said Garnett. This kid is coming in, working his butt off, and he's trying to be better. I'm giving him the book, teaching him everything I know.

Sullinger could have come to Boston with an ego. At only 20 years old, the former Ohio State University standout had garnered lottery buzz before slipping to the 21st pick in this years draft due to concerns by many teams over a back issue. The Celtics were thrilled to land Sullinger, who averaged 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds in his sophomore (and final) college season. Sullinger was excited to go to a veteran team.

The youngest of three talented brothers, he has spent his entire life going up against older, bigger, stronger competition. He thrived on the intensity of the hoops battles and eventually became the victor. Coming into his first season in the NBA, Sullinger knew learning from and respecting Garnett was imperative, but he also didnt want to back down. Being aggressive got him to the pros and he wasnt about to change his approach now that he had made it there.

I understood that I cant be afraid because hes Kevin Garnett, Sullinger told Hes my teammate and Ive got to attack him every day in practice. Thats what I did and earned his respect like that . . . It was day one since practice. If I got the ball, Id attack it. Most people would say, Oh my god, Kevin Garnetts guarding me. Get it out of my hands. No, not me. I just always try to attack and play my game.

Behind this attack-mode attitude on the court is a young player who simply wants to learn from the veterans around him. Sullinger's teammates describe him as humble. Garnett even called him gullible -- "And I mean that in a good way," he clarified. There is a difference between ego and eagerness, and Sullinger possesses the latter.

It wasn't far into training camp before Garnett and Sullinger began talking more frequently.

When Sullinger missteps in practice, Garnett pulls him aside to go over the play. The rookie pays close attention and retains every ounce of advice, which has included developing a consistent pregame routine.

If there is an empty seat next to Garnett on the Celtics bench, Sullinger grabs it. He carefully listens to Garnett's analysis of the game being played in front of them, discovering how to watch the action from the future Hall of Famer's point of view.

"Hes not really worried about offense," Sullinger explained. "Hes all about defense."

And when they are both done playing for the night, Garnett and Sullinger sport similar sideline attire -- a towel wrapped around their heads tucked into their warm up shirts.

"I always did that," Sullinger said. "I was doing that at Ohio State. The only thing different is I didnt have a shirt, so I tucked it into my jersey."

Sullinger has started in three of the Celtics first five preseason games, averaging 10.8 points and 7.2 rebounds in 24.6 minutes. He has received more praise than rookies in past years, yet he's not letting it go to his head.

With a shortage of seats on the bench during Tuesday's game, Sullinger directed Micah Downs and Kris Joseph to the chairs, volunteering to take a spot on the floor during the second quarter. If Sullinger, who started that night, were to pull rank, he could have claimed a chair ahead of 51st overall pick Joseph and the undrafted Downs. But he didn't.

Sullinger said his former nickname, "Smokey the Swag Bear," was given to him by summer league teammate Craig Brackins, went overseas with its creator. Now he goes by "Youngin" or -- an upgrade from Garnett's usual rookie nickname -- "Sully."

Besides, it is nearly impossible for him to forget his place among the veterans.

"Hell yeah I feel 20," he said with a laugh. "The stories you hear - KG goes to talk about Terry Porter and all those guys and its like, 'Whoa. I was like eight or nine when that happened.' When he (Garnett) came into the league, I was four in 1996. So yeah, I feel young."

With every passing game and practice with his older teammates, Sullinger will continue to become wiser beyond his years. Garnett sees Sullinger's potential, and the rookie sees it in himself, too.

"I always say, young guys come off sometimes as entitled," Garnett said, continuing, "But he works very hard. He's very attentive, he wants to be better."

Magic Johnson named Lakers president of basketball ops, Kupchak fired

Magic Johnson named Lakers president of basketball ops, Kupchak fired

Magic Johnson was named the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations after longtime Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and vice president of basketball ops Jim Buss were fired, the team announced.

"Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights [late owner] Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect,” Jeanie Buss, Jerry Buss' daughter, Jim Buss' brother and Lakers president and co-owner, said in a statement. “Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me. Our search for a new General Manager to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

Johnson, the Hall of Famer guard who led L.A. to five NBA titles, said in the same statement: “It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family. Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”

Johnson, part of a group that owns MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers, returned to the organization as an adviser earlier this month. Johnson coached the Lakers briefly in the 1993-94 season, going 5-11. 

Johnson's new job with the Lakers won't change his role with the Dodgers, according to the L.A. Times.

The current Lakers have the third-worst record in the NBA at 19-39 after finishing with the second-worst mark in the league (17-65) last season. Kupchak was named an assistant GM under Jerry West in 1986 and in 2000 took over for West as GM. 


Drummond to Boston? Pistons big man's tweets fuel speculation

Drummond to Boston? Pistons big man's tweets fuel speculation

BOSTON -- Two of the NBA’s biggest names on the trade market, Serge Ibaka and DeMarcus Cousins, changed zip codes (Ibaka to Toronto from Orlando, Cousins to New Orleans from Sacramento) without the Celtics showing much interest in swinging a deal for either player.


Could it be because they had their sights set on Detroit’s Andre Drummond all along?
Pistons general manager/head coach Stan Van Gundy has made no secret about talking with lots of teams about his players leading up to the trade deadline, well aware that his team has been one of the league’s biggest underachievers.

Detroit (27-30) is eighth in the Eastern Conference, trailing first-place Cleveland by 13 games.
Drummond was reportedly offered to Sacramento as part of a deal for Cousins, so it should not come as a surprise that his name has found its way into the rumor mill.
Still, Drummond only added fuel to the rumor mill fire by re-tweeting the eyeball emojis posted by the Celtics' Isaiah Thomas, something Thomas did shortly before Boston added Al Horford to the mix last summer.

And then Drummond followed that up by posting his own set of eyeball emojis on Tuesday, which adds to the speculative nature of a trade-deadline season that ends Thursday at 3 p.m.

Drummond, a former UConn standout, is an easy-going, fun-loving guy, so the emoji stuff isn’t all that out of character for him. But he also changed his Twitter profile picture to him waving goodbye. after removing Pistons information from his bio.

Is he pulling our leg, or giving a heads-up that the Celtics are close to pulling off a trade?
A league source tells that while no deal is imminent, Boston is a possible landing spot for Drummond if the Pistons are, in fact, planning on trading him. That, says the source,"is not a definite. [Van Gundy] knows he has to do something significant with that team, if not at the deadline [then] definitely this summer.

"So he’s looking to find out the value for all his guys, Drummond included.”