The Celtics are barely two weeks into the preseason, but the accolades are already coming fast and furious for rookie Jared Sullinger. Most recently, the focus has been on Sullinger's basketball IQ, with Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett both pointing out how well the rookie knows the game, and yesterday at practice, Rajon Rondo taking it to another level, saying that Sullinger is "probably the smartest rookie we've had since I've been here."
Before we get too carried away, let's take a second to remember the rookies who have played on the Celtics since Rondo joined the team: Gabe Pruitt, Glen Davis, J.R. Giddens, Billy Walker, Semih Erden, Lester Hudson, Luke Harandogy, Avery Bradley (smart, but was a nervous wreck as a rookie), E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson.
Right. So it's not like Sullinger has much competition. But more important than comparing him to past rookies, is the fact that Rondo thinks Sullinger has a strong IQ at all; strong enough to give his public blessing.
With guys as smart as Rondo or who fancy themselves as smart sometimes the hardest thing to do is give someone else credit for being smart. Guys like Rondo aren't easily impressed by other people's intelligence. And the fact that he felt the need to speak on the issue is an unbelievable sign. Because let's face it, with rookies, the game is just as much mental as it physical. Without the mental aspect, physical skills don't mean a thing. So at the very least, it's nice to know that Sullinger has that going for him. That after a mere two weeks, he's already earned the respect of the three most important guys in that locker room.
As for the physical? Sure looks like the kid can play the game as well as he understands it, but we'll find out more on Saturday in Hartford, when he gets his first taste of NBA competition.